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A note from Ashkari

 

Edit: I don't know what happened to the mid-chapter spoiler. For some reason, for me it starts 'open' rather than closed. Sorry about that. No idea how to fix it, I've tried. If you don't care to read Jason's full sheet changes, just close it - you won't have missed anything other than specific ranks.

 

 


 

A 1000-word Behind-The-Scenes look at writing this chapter. Doesn’t contain spoilers, it’s just long.

On a completely separate note, I'm hoping I figured out a way to paste my chapters in that doesn't totally screw up all the italics and bolds while not repeating the old issue of text color or wierd font issues. Lemme know if you spot any of that, as it looks fine on my end.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Jason and the girls gathered around the stone table he’d used to transmute the earth shard into a fire one. Kera leaned down and scratched at the circle with one fingernail.

“Whoa, this thing is complicated,” she commented. “Even I cant tell what it does, and I’m the one with all points in ritual magic. How did you manage it?”

Jason shrugged. “I couldn’t really say. I had just finished making the earth shard, and got thinking about whether there might be ways to use [Synthesize] to use one type of shard to make other types so I could have whatever elemental traits I need. My skill just sort of… took over. I don’t really remember what I was doing; its all a bit hazy.”

Lumi frowned. “Took over? What do you mean?”

“It was like…I don’t know, like a spurt of mania or something, Jason replied. “I just sort of went on autopilot. I don’t mean like I felt like I was being mind controlled or anything, it was more like… I just knew, instinctually, what needed be done and I wanted to do it, so I did.”

He frowned. “It does sound a bit concerning when I put it like that, doesn’t it?”

“More than a bit,” Lumi replied.

Jason considered for a moment. Then he gave a short, wry laugh. “Heh. Well, I suppose things like that are exactly why I wanted to try and stay away from the all the mad science discoveries.”

“Sounds a bit like Tinker Syndrome,” Kera commented.

“Tinker Syndrome?” Lumi asked.

“You know…” Jason replied with a thoughtful look on his face, “You might not be too far off there.”

He turned to Lumi.

“Tinker Syndrome is superhero trope that comes up from time to time, but it applies in fantasy too,” he explained. “It appears fairly often in characters with… I guess you’d call them builder powers. They go by various names… Tinkers, Gadgeteers, Techies… all sorts of names. Sometimes the way their power works is that they go into a sort of hyper-tunnel-vision-slash-mania, at the end of which they discover they’ve invented something nobody understands, often even themselves, but it works and does something incredible.”

Lumi hmm’d to herself a moment in consideration. “I’ve never thought about it that way before, but that sort of thing happens all the time in fantasy, doesn’t it? Someone picks up a creepy old schematic covered in runes, starts reading, goes into a trance, and suddenly they find they’ve spent the last two days unconsciously building some kind of eldritch artifact of unknown purpose.”

“That’s… not exactly what I was getting at,” Jason replied, “but essentially, yes. I’ve actually had this... impulse more than once now. I’m pretty sure it’s just a side-effect of having a lot of skills that require me to do certain things in certain orders. I felt it when I made the Elixirs of Rebirth, actually. I just knew partway through the process that extra stuff was needed if I wanted it to work, so I just did it.”

Kera nodded in agreement. “My first ritual for enlarging Echo was the same. Once I actually had the components, all I needed to do was just sort of… prompt my brain as to what I wanted and start drawing the circle, and my skill just took over. I don’t actually know any runes, but I can sort of glimpse what ones I need, so I was able to ask Jason.”

She poked at the circle on the tabletop again. “How did you even manage to do this, anyway? It’s carved into the stone.”

Jason scanned about on the floor, looking for wherever the serpent fang had ended up. He spotted it under a nearby chair, and stooped to pick it up.

“I used this, actually,” he said, holding up the razor-sharp crystal fang. “It’s practically as hard as diamond, and well, made for piercing. If you remember, Aria kept several for her and Belman. I think they wanted to make harvesting knives out of them. I took this one for the same reason.”

“Oooh, yeah,” Kera said, nodding. “That would definitely do the trick. My monster lore book mentioned that those fangs can pierce just about anything, even steel plates.”

“So… how are we doing this?” Lumi asked as a lull in the conversation descended. “The respec, I mean. Also, what if… I dunno, you fall asleep for a day while it works?”

Jason scratched his head. “Uh… I guess I hadn’t thought about it. We’d have to reschedule the meeting, I guess. Maybe we just wing it?”

“What did I say about recklessness?” Lumi asked with a raised eyebrow.

Kera snickered at him.

“Well I don’t know!” Jason protested. “It’s not like it comes with instructions, and I can’t very well just go about asking people about it. That’s kind of the point of experimenting on myself here. It’s kind of how the class works.”

Lumi sighed, while Kera giggled and patted Jason on the shoulder.

“Lighten up Lumi, you know he’s right,” the other girl said. “If we have to reschedule, we have to reschedule. We’re here in case anything goes wrong, anyway.”

“Fine, fine,” Lumi grumbled. “Do we at least have some healing potions around? Or mana for that matter?”

Jason paused. “Uh… no. I suppose that’s a good idea. I had been planning on refining before I replenished our stock, but… yeah let’s make some now. Actually.. that does remind me of a sort of side experiment. Why don’t you two help me, and let’s see if you earn anything?”

Jason conjured three sets of mortar and pestles, and they got to work grinding up ingredients for both mana and health potions. On a whim, Jason decided to combine them for the first potion, taking advantage of the fact that he could now use four different traits in a single batch. He combined two units of restore with both mana and health, then, when his skill prompted him with the information that he could do so, diluted the mixture into two weaker potions to see what he’d get.

Analyze Item,” he commanded, examining the vial of faintly glowing, dark purple fluid that resulted.

Rejuvenation Potion, Least: Provides a weak level of health and mana regeneration that lasts five minutes.

 

“Not bad,” Kera commented after Jason shared the results. “I could definitely use something like that.”

“This should do for now,” he said. “Let’s make a few more with the remaining ingredients we’ve processed, and I’ll see about making the stronger ones later.”

Jason brewed an additional four potions, drinking one of them while he worked so that his mana would be topped up still after the work was finished. He wanted to go into the respec while his reserves were full, just in case.

Once they were done, he he took a quick look at his levelup notification he’d gotten earlier from constructing the shower, sharing it with the girls:

Level Gained: Engineer Level 2. Skill Point acquired. Stat Point acquired.
Level Gained: Engineer Level 3. Skill Point acquired. Class Point acquired. You have acquired a new Class Skill, [Dismantle].
Synergies Detected. Artificer Found. Mending Found. Calculating… 
Alternate Skill Available: Learn [Arcane Deconstruction] in place of Dismantle? Y/N 
New Synergy Skill Available: Would you like to purchase the skill [Arcane Reconstruction] for three skill points? 

 

 “Yes and Yes,” Jason said immediately.

“What, you’re not even going to look first?” Kera asked with amusement.

“Don’t need to in this case,” Jason said with a grin. “I’d bet money I know what they do, and besides… it’s magic-engineering related skills, which is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Watch this.”

Jason fetched the miniature mangonel he’s put together, placed it on the table, and fiddled with his UI a moment to personalize the skill.

He then held out a palm towards the mangonel. “Deconstruction,” he commanded.

With a swirling of light, the mangonel lifted up into the air and began to spin slowly. The nails he’d hammered in popped free, the twine unwound from the axles, and the whole model was pulled apart into it’s component pieces, which fell to the table in neat, organized piles.

Jason reached out and snapped a few of the dowels into pieces. Picking up the serpent fang, he used it to slice one of the lengths of twine in half.

He held his palm out again. 

Reconstruction.”

In a similar flurry of motion, the mangonel re-formed, but this time the broken pieces shifted, melted, and flowed back together first, as if he had also activated [Mending] at the same time. In a way, he had.

Lumi whistled softly.

“Ok, that’s pretty cool to watch, I gotta admit, but how’s something like that help us?”

Jason gave her a grin. “Imagine me applying something like this to say…. a bag full of clockwork turret parts and potion-bomb infused ammo, while we’re in the middle of a fight.” 

Lumi’s eyes widened. “You mean…?”

Kera grinned hugely at Jason as he nodded.

“Yep. That’s been my plan all along,” Jason confirmed. “I’ve been trying to open up some kind of adventuring Arcane Engineer-type class, because it will go fantastically in combination with Alchemist and Artificer. Tersk filled me in about what I was missing. There’s one or two things I still need to do before the right Artificer specialization will pop up, but once it does, I can actually evolve Engineer into a rare class, and Tersk confirmed there are such things as magic-based Machinists, even if they’re only ever seen among dwarves, and rarely at that thanks to the requirements.”

“That’s just… wow,” Lumi said, stunned. “I mean, I know we talked about it before, but I was mostly just kidding around.”

“It’s badass, is what it is,” Kera declared with a grin. “We’ll be a three-person army. Me and my summons as the shock troops, you with your contraptions as the back-line artillery, and Lumi as our battlefield commander and mobile defense!”

Jason grinned back at her. “Exactly.”

“And on that note…. time to respec!” he declared.

 


 

Having cleared away the potion-making supplies from earlier, the three friends stood around a single [Elixir of Rebirth] now sitting in the center of the tabletop.

Jason took a deep breath, and picked up the flask of dark, swirling, starry liquid.

“Welp, here goes.”

He popped the clasp, lifted it to his mouth, and downed it quickly.

“Tastes a bit like…champagne?” he commented as he waited for the effect to kick in. “I wouldn’t have called that.”

“Well it does sparkle,” Kera grinned. “I wonder if—”

She cut off suddenly, and Jason looked down as a deep, a black mist appeared from nowhere and began to swirl up from the floor, curling around him.

“Uhh, is that normal?” Lumi asked. “It looks kinda creepy.”

“You’re telling me,” Jason said, a slight amount of alarm creeping into his voice. “I feel OK, though.”

The mist grew thicker and thicker, and began to obscure Jason’s sight of the others at is wrapped around him. It was cold, and clung to his skin.

“Now there’s an epitaph.” Kera quipped. She was leaning back away from Jason, but didn’t appear to be too concerned. “Why would you say something like that when downing a strange potion?”

Faster and faster, the black mist swirled around Jason until he could no longer see, and the voices of his companions faded away. He found himself floating weightlessly in an endless void of grey and black mists, suspended in nothingness.

Jason tried to call out, but discovered he had no body with which to do so, and for a moment panic set in.

Then reason prevailed, and he forced himself to relax: if he was able to feel fear, he was probably fine. Panic was a biological response; one could not experience an adrenaline surge if one were dead.

So he waited. Sure enough, he was soon presented with a system message.

 

Initializing Creation Interface. Loading Personal Saved Data. Please wait.

 

He wasn’t sure how much time passed, but it didn’t feel terribly long before he heard a faint chime, and his perspective shifted. Suddenly, he was looking at himself, eyes open and body standing suspended, with an array of status screens floating besides his body.

The interface was slightly different here, though. Various mathematic symbols indicated the ability for Jason to add or subtract elements, on what looked like just about everything. Skills, unlocked Classes, his core ability stats… even his species and gender; it looked like he could change anything he liked.

Alright… stage one. Lets see if I changes are made automatically or if there’s some kind confirmation…

Jason selected [Improvised Weapon Crafting] and mentally tapped at the minus symbol.

He blew a sigh of relief as it responded. The skill disappeared from his list of known skills, his count of available skill points ticked up one point, to a total of eight, and an overly large [Confirm Changes] ‘button’ appeared at the top of… well, he supposed he’d just think of it as the character creation screen. Next to it appeared a second command, [Revert All].

Good.

He added [Improvised Weapon Crafting] back in via the skill purchase menu, and saw the confirmation box vanish again.

Huh. Interesting. So I have to change something before I can leave, and it does remember my default states. Good to know.

He went ahead and removed it again. That, at least, was a skill he no longer needed.

Out of curiosity, Jason looked to see if he could remove a class skill, and discovered he couldn’t. He could however, remove an earned skill, such as [Basic Tailoring], and the system remembered that he’d earned it, allowing him to re-purchase it at the discount.

You know… Jason mused. You could probably get a few refunded points out of skills you outright purchased by writing down some things that might earn it for you, refunding it and confirming, then earning and repurchasing your ranks.

That wasn't an issue Jason had though, so he filed the thought away and continued.

Next, a quick check determined that he could, in fact, remove Outworlder if he wanted, or change his species entirely, which apparently cost those mysterious ‘Character Points’ they hadn’t yet seen, but were listed in the point expenditure section. Different species cost different amounts of points, and you could even use them make something new, which Jason found quite strange. Character Points turned out to be tied to traits as well - Heroic Potential had a cost listed beside it.

Kera is gonna go nuts with this, I just know it, he mused. But I’ll leave playing with that to her. I’d rather not risk locking myself out of ever going home by removing Outworlder, and Heroic Potential has been useful.

Jason brushed away that line of thinking, and moved on.

Enough of that… the big question here is, what exactly happens when I remove a class?

Jason navigated to the class screen, and tried removing [Golemist] first. This way, if there was any unforeseen issues, he wasn’t losing anything that mattered greatly to him.

As soon as he selected [Golemist], he saw [Animate Object] disappear from his skill list. His maximum mana dropped by ten as well, and he lost an available skill point.

He re-unlocked the class, and everything returned to their previous values.

Well thats a good sign, Jason thought.

Next, he assigned two skill points to [Animate Object]. Strangely, he saw that he wasn’t refunded the extra spent skill point when he removed the class a second time, but rather that when Jason added [Golemist] back again, [Animate Object] was still at rank three.

Well thats odd, he thought. It remembers what I’ve spent on locked classes but takes away what I’ve earned from leveling the class? I suppose that would be rather broken, otherwise.

Jason paused. I wonder what happens with synergy skills, then? he wondered. Mending was part of the Reconstruction synergy, right?

He tried removing the skill, and found he couldn’t. So he navigated to [Arcane Deconstruction]’s entry instead, and discovered that he could remove the synergy effect if he wanted.

So Jason did so, first confirming that yes he could re-select it afterwards. Then he removed [Arcane Reconstruction] as well, and only then did [Mending] become removable.

Jason was disappointed that he couldn’t get around synergy requirements by retraining the prerequisites, but maybe he could simply play around with purchasing skills to see if he could open up new ones: While he had no way of knowing what class skills he might get out of a given class, he could perhaps try and find more combinations with existing ones, assuming the system offered them while in character creation, and it wasn’t tied to something other than simply possessing the right skills.

So Jason de-ranked [Animate Object] again, and at the same time removed all the points he’d spent on [Engrave] and [Analyze] skills. This left him with a whopping 22 skill points to mess around with.

Since he already had 3 analyze skills, plus synergistic effects in both Item and Spell, he decided to start with that.

He opened up the list of purchasable skills, and began cherry-picking skills that had to do with examination of various targets: Appraise, Analyze Beast, Analyze Monster, Read Magic, Arcane Sight, and other similar skills.

Each one cost him three or more points, with by far the most expensive being [Analyze Weakness], which seemed to be some kind of ultra-wide skill that worked on most things, even buildings, but didn’t give you back any information about offensive or defensive capabilities.

Jason ended up adding and subtracting various skills in different combinations, as he could only afford to purchase four or five at a time, and checking his skill list filter for ‘newest’ periodically.

When Jason combined his two existing skills, [Analyze Spell] and [Analyze Item], along with [Analyze Ritual] and a skill called [Sense Aspect], he got what he was looking for: [Arcane Sight].

Arcane Sight: You have extensively studied the ebb and flow of mana and gained a deeper understanding of how its various shapes and aspect influence the world around you. By properly focusing your will and spending some of your own mana, you can view this process directly, allowing you to directly perceive magical effects of all kinds and gain insight into their function and creation.

 

Jason danced an internal, mental jig.

Now that’s what I’ve been hoping to see, Jason thought with glee. This is huge. A way to explore new options without needing to consult people.

It was too bad he didn’t have the time simply sit here and spend hours playing around with options, he reflected. Lumi and Kera might be getting a bit concerned by now, so Jason moved onto his next test: seeing if he could change specialties.

He could, and in fact he had a new one available for [Alchemist] when he looked: [Promethean Disciple], which apparently was some kind of specific focus on Frankenstein’s Monster -like creations through the combined use of [Golemist] and [Alchemist].

Not something he wanted to get into. Besides, he knew he could remove his cooking evolution now if he changed his mind. He’d check again later, alongside specialties for [Artificer], once he’d actually evolved [Engineer] to [Machinist], and that required an achievement he didn’t yet have, so he couldn’t do it here.

Jason had two other things to check before he was done, and both of them were fairly simple. The first was to see what happened when he removed a class he had levels in, so he removed [Engineer] entirely, and then didn’t replace it. Since he couldn’t be sure that the respec wouldn’t have additional effects after confirmation, Jason would re-unlock it with class points afterward.

The last thing Jason checked was XP penalty on removed classes, which required him to first remove several other things before he could actually remove [Artificer] to check. But sure enough, his XP penalty dropped to 2% once he did so.

Jason grinned madly to himself.

You could use this to avoid multi-class soft cap! he thought. Just level a class to 150, remove it, switch classes, level another one, and then re-equip them all later for a total greater than 500!

Now that might get the Archive off my back, he considered. A dozen respecs with specific instructions to help them train up somone to fight the good fight against whatever the next world-shaking monstrosity they end up facing just might be enough to prove our good will….

He filed the thought away for later.

Anyway… time to finish this.

Jason spent all of his various points, replacing the one’s he’d removed from Engrave, and shifting a few ranks around so he could focus on [Arcane Sight] rather than spreading his ranks around various analysis skills. Then Jason reviewed his current status, sans [Engineer], which he’d re-unlock immediately afterwards.

He double-checked everything, and then mentally selected [Confirm Changes].

Warning: All changes made are permanent. Reverting or making new changes will require the consumption of a new Elixir.
Confirm Changes and Return? Y/N?

 

 Jason let out another relieved, mental sigh. At least he knew for sure, now.

Yes,” he thought.

The black mist enveloped him once again, and then fell away, revealing him standing exactly where he’d been. Lumi and Kera hadn’t moved, either.

“Well, that was enlightening.” Jason said. “Sorry I took so long, there was a lot to look at.

Lumi looked confused. “Huh?”

Kera cocked her head at him.

“It’s only been a few seconds,” she said. “That black mist just wrapped you up in a cocoon and then just… vanished, after about five seconds.”

“Was it different on your end?” Lumi asked.

“Uhhh, yeah.” Jason said. “I didn’t really have anything to use as a reference, but it felt like.. maybe half an hour?”

He ran a hand through hair in frustration. “Dammit, if I’d known time didn’t matter there I would have spent more. I didn’t want you to worry, and I took quite a while trying to work out if I could unlock synergy skills in that state.”

“Which you can, incidentally,” he added after a moment. “Here, check out my status now.”

Jason re-unlocked Engineer, confirmed that he was still level 3 in it, and then shared his full status with the girls:

 


Spoilered Because Not Everyone Cares About Char Sheets: Spoiler

 

Basic Statistics:
Name: Jason Elric Race: Human (Outworlder) Gender: Male
Primary Class: Alchemist 11 Subclass: Engineer 3 MP: 520/520
Secondary Class: Artificer 10 Subclass: Golemist 1 SP: 100/100
     
Might: 10 Agility: 14 Intellect:20
Endurance: 11 Charisma: 10 Spirit: 14
     
Fortitude: 18 Awareness: 15 Appeal: 10
Magic Resistance: 19 Resolve: 16 Luck: 12
Skills and Ranks:

*Advanced Herbalism, Rank 3.
Advanced Mathematics, Rank 1, Class.
*Advanced Survivalist, Rank 3.
Alchemical Infusion, Unranked, Class.
Analyze Ingredient, Rank 5, Class.
Analyze Item, Rank 1, Class.
Analyze Ritual, Rank 1.
Analyze Spell, Rank 1, Class.
Animate Object, Rank 1, Class.
Arcane Sight, Rank 10.
Basic Artifice, Rank 3, Class.
*Basic Carpentry, Rank 1.
*Basic Clockwork, Rank 1.
*Basic Construction, Rank 1.
*Basic Engineering, Rank 1.
*Basic Harvesting, Rank 3.
*Basic Metalworking, Rank 1.
*Basic Physics, Rank 1.
*Basic Tailoring, Rank 1.
*Basic Throwing, Rank 1.
*Basic Transmutation, Unranked.
Brew Potion, Rank 8, Class.
Discovery, Mk 3, Class.
Disenchant, Unranked, Class.
Engrave, Rank 10, Class.
Improvise, Rank 1, Class.
*Mending, Unranked.
Metamagician, Unranked, Class.
*Prepare Legendary Fare, Unranked, Class.
Refinement, Unranked, Class.
Reinforce Structure, Rank 1, Class.
Synthesize, Unranked, Class.

Skill Specialization: Cooking
Skill Specialization: Pending
Titles, Perks, and Achievements:
Titles: Legendary Craftsman
Achiements: A Modern Prometheus, Bottled Flames, True Alchemy
Perks: Heroic Potential


He gave a brief summary of what he’d examined, and of the conclusions he’d come to.

“So… I guess you’re on, Kera,” Jason finished with a grin. “Looks like you can always change back later, provided we can get more cores.”

“Yessssss!” she crowed happily

“Just keep in mind we have a limited supply,” he said. “I plan on giving two to the Aurion if he gets us in, one for him and I guess probably one for whoever the main guild head is. With the four more I can make, that leaves us with only four left after your demo, and I don’t know if we’ll be allowed to keep the third core if we take down this latest dungeon.”

“Eh, we could probably buy some if it came to it,” Lumi shrugged. “Important thing is, we can totally use them to find more synergies.”

Jason nodded.

“Well, experiment successful then, yeah?” he said. “Let’s grab something quick to eat, and then head down to the Lodge.”

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A note from Ashkari

Here’s the cut portion of the scene, for those of you who actually read the pre-chapter note and are interested in seeing it. Its only about 500 words:

Snip: Spoiler 

 


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About the author

Ashkari

  • Novice Ink-Slinger

Bio: I’m a disabled, semi-experienced amateur writer who’s decided to finally get off his bum and make use of all the wonderful self-publishing tools out there. I’ve joined the RoyalRoadL community with an eye to finally get my work out there in the world, hoping that feedback and criticism from real people will lead to people enjoying my work as it evolves, which will help motivate me to try and achieve my dream of becoming a professional writer.

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