Life in the village became more energetic as the hunters and crafters (formerly builders) began to explore their classes. Most had seen an increase in their Body grade from an F to a D-, with a Trait and a Skill to help them along their craft.
They were now about as twice as strong and fast as the average man. Ed could sense that the most talented ones amongst them would break into the D range with training, which would hopefully put them on an even footing with a small goblin scouting party, and eventually, perhaps even a Duruk.
The Hunters were now able to dedicate more time to training than hunting. A few of them had begun trying to craft bows with the saplings from the city and sinews of the beasts they hunted. Noel was actually pretty terrible at archery. While she had not unlocked any special classes, it seemed that she was actually able to become a dual-class, because her Class as a Berserker was based on the Axe of Enyo. It seemed to act as a miniature Spirit Tower in that sense, and Noel conjectured that she would be able to advance to a higher form of the Berserker class by getting stronger or upgrading her axe somehow.
The Crafters worked to fortify the walls and buildings, and were working on clearing the rubble from the land surrounding the park in addition to building or improving the existing cabins. With their new Traits and Skills, they could build larger infrastructures. Ranga had taken the Crafter class, and used his endurance to carve out two more wooden sculptures. They were both shaped like herons, and also protective. It seemed that Maori had been unable to choose her own class, as her Body, Mind, and Spirit was too under-developed, which Ranga took as a sign to work even more passionately in order to protect the village.
Surprisingly, it was Joe who alone had managed to unlock a special class. Joe did not hide his relief at being a non-combat personnel at first, but the relief was short lived.
Fair increase in Mind.
Trait: Quick Learner
A supple mind, geared towards learning different cultures and languages.
Skill: Mind Palace
A small room within your mind in which you may keep records of your memories. Offers minor protection against mental attacks.
As the villagers and council found that he had a limited form of perfect memory and a class named Scribe, they unanimously declared him the administrative head of the village, resolving minor disputes and coming up with public policies for the village.
Ed, a recent college graduate, Noel, who had never finished high school, and Ranga, a former NFL player, were all perfectly content with this situation. Joe complained a bit, but when Harundal commented that all disputes should be resolved through duels to the death, he quickly threw himself into his work, muttering things about how he would rebuild the human civilization from scratch if he had to in return for a bit of civility.
As for Ed, he had been spending a lot of time meditating, concentrating on circulation of his own blood and pondering the nature of his new Trait and Skill.
He didn’t go out to hunt much, preferring instead to spar with Harundal and Noel in the morning and trying to attune himself to his blood essence. In the afternoons and evenings, he almost constantly used the Dao of True Sight to study the nature of essence and manna, not only within himself but within the villagers and the world around him.
Essence actually seemed to be the source of manna, as Ed noticed that the manna would dissipate slowly and that new strands of manna stripped off from essence.
Every living thing had blood essence, while only a few held essence of different things. The Shadow-cat, for example, had had traces of shadow essence, which now resided in Ed’s body, traveling along his veins alongside his blood essence.
The essence of plants and trees seemed a bit different. It moved more slowly in a slow trawl, while the blood essence seemed to move in pulsing flows along with the beat of the heart.
Ranga and Joe were also holders of different essence.
In lucky moments where Ed could really Ranga’s heart held a deep blue essence that did not flow, but remained in his heart, giving out a soft undulating glow like the light piercing through the depths of the sea. Joe had a prismatic and translucent essence in the center of his head.
It seemed like blood essence could be slightly different between people, as Noel had almost a similar amount of blood essence as him, but it seemed… a lot more aggressive.
The Dao of True Sight let him see the essence and manna of all things, which Ed knew would be an incredible advantage in combat as well as gathering information. It was what had allowed him to defeat the Shadow-Cat with relative ease despite the similarity in their stats.
He had been staring into the fire when a whim or an instinct came over him. Gripping the blade of the Dagger of Hekamuth in his palm, Ed cut open a shallow wound and let the blood flow over the fire. It thrummed with power, but also a bit of essence he had pushed into it with a force of will. He thought of the concepts of sacrifice while he did so, invoking the sense of loss of blood.
The first few drops were enough to quench the raging fire completely, and with a strange hiss, left behind a handful of soot. The soot, though black, had a slight deep red tinge. And when Ed turned his True Sight upon the soot, he found tiny specks of essence within the soot.
Ah. He felt a bit tired. He turned inwards to examine the state of his own blood essence, and found that a portion of it was gone. By sacrificing a piece of his own blood essence, it seemed he was able to imbue other objects with it. Thankfully, he also had a way to recharge and even increase his own blood essence.
And so it seemed his fate became ever more intertwined with the Dagger of Hekamuth and therefore, the god himself.
With a push of will, Ed urged his own manna, which seemed to have a strange affinity or even characteristics of blood, towards the cut on his hand and watched it close with a visible speed.
“First yellow eyes and now red hair. Aren’t you too old to be going through a rebellious punk phase Ed?”, Noel asked with a smile.
"Not that it doesn't look nice." She added as she sat down and joined Ranga and Joe in the tent, along with Harundal.
“It seems my beauty sleeps are really helping.” Ed replied with a grin.
“You were the only one who actually passed out from the class-change, but it seemed that the class-change is draining on everyone. We've all spent the first couple days afterwards recovering.”
Ed nodded. That made sense. Actually, it made a lot of sense. The entire theme of his class seemed to be the fact that things didn’t come without a cost, right? That reminded him.
“Ranga. Will this soot work as ink for tattooing?” Ed asked, as he took out the leather pouch that he’d dumped the handful of soot into.
“Hm? I thought I told you that soot doesn't...” Ranga trailed off as he took the pouch and examined its contents.
"Oh. Oh, this might work."
“Uh… is this a part of your shaman gig?” Noel asked, peeking over Ranga's shoulders and at the pile of reddish-black soot.
“Yes.” Ed replied, and smiled. He knew it'd come off as mysterious.
Shouts from outside the tent interrupted their discussion, and they quickly emerged from the tent to find that the two Hunters who had been acting as sentries had stopped a man from entering the village.
Stragglers had been trickling into the village constantly, ballooning in number from the initial 50 to closer to a 100, but the man at their gate did not seem like the typical straggler.
For one, he was better dressed. Most stragglers were coated in dust and blood, wearing the ragged remains of their clothes from a former life. Most carried daggers literally made from stone. It would be a long while until steel weapons would become common.
This one dressed in sleek black leather and a spear, which while not uncommon, was held by those who had seen a fair bit of combat and proactive hunting.
It seemed he was from another Village, on a mission to visit as many of the villages in the city as he could for a formal meeting.
"Almost all the goblins in the city have been retreating towards their largest tribe, which is in Downtown. While it's a bit worrying, we think it's also the perfect opportunity to wipe them all out before they finish whatever they're doing or get stronger.", the man said.
Though travel between villages was becoming increasingly more difficult, the village that the man was wished to form an alliance between all of the humans to put out an all-out assault on the goblins and reclaim the city.
The idea was popular within the village. They had experienced the power of the Blessds, and their own classes filled them with, if not a confidence, a hope that they'd be able to triumph over the goblins that had overrun the city.
Ed was also inclined to accepting, or at least meeting the leaders of other villages face to face. It would be a perfect chance to eradicate any nearby goblin presence, which would make him considerably safer from Hekamuth's influence in the near future. He also wouldn't have to worry about putting his own village in danger with his very existence.
The man in the dark leather left after talking a bit with Ed and the council, leaving a date and time for the meeting between the villages.