For the next week, Randidly isolated himself, turning his attention inward. The actual administration was being taken care of by others, and during that time, he could finally focus and work on the problems that loomed most prominently in Donnyton’s future.
Randidly had not been idle for the week; instead, he had taken advantage of Mrs. Hamilton’s generous offer to move a bunch of her Class based experiments a bit ahead of schedule. Therefore, he had been able to see dozens of individuals receive Classes. Very carefully, he observed their changes, and the structures of Aether that were erected within them, and conducted interviews to determine what sort of Class they received.
The results were basically what he had expected. A more powerful, more specific Class were better, with more well defined Aether as a base for them. With Lucretia’s help, and the reference of the encyclopedia of Mana Engraving, they were even able to determine the critical mechanisms of the Class structure within these individuals.
Within a person’s Soul Space, the Class was basically a small tree that was transplanted into an individual, with a belt spreading out to surround the Soul Space. These “belts” functioned as a limiter on the ability of the Soul space to grow, but it did provide focus and support for those Skills that were within its purview. Which explained why, when Randidly returned to Earth, his Skill level lead over most people wasn’t as monstrous as he expected. Those people who had classes received some benefit from them that improve the speed of leveling certain Skills.
In addition to limiting the space, those base belts appeared to also contain within them the Skills that Classes obtained as well. A sort of balance to the Skill limit imposed upon the person. It then appeared that when a person gathered experience and their level increased, the ‘trunk’ of the tree began to grow slowly upward, guiding the absorption of the energy. Then, the trunk consumption was what was important to understand in order to have level up gains. Although they weren’t exactly the same, studying the Mana Engraving runes did a lot to allow Randidly to recognize different parts of the trunk in the people who obtained Classes, giving him a fraction of insight into what level up gains they would have.
Of course this was only a week’s worth of experience, and although he had become passable at identifying what stats would be emphasized, Randidly had no ability to actually predict which of the different stats would be emphasized, which was slightly concerning. They didn’t appear to shift based on an intricate weaving pattern that could be found in the core of the trunk, partially hidden from his view. Other than that… he was unable to think of any ideas where the pattern might be coming from.
More positively, he was becoming increasingly adept at examining the Classes of others.The higher his Aether Skills went, the more he could see, but it was far from enough to actually parse it apart.
This face gave Randidly a headache, but there was nothing really to do. The only way to see what was occurring within the Skill would be to… effectively dissect someone. And not just themselves, but also the Aether construct within them. Sure, Randidly was training in order to create that sort of Aether construct, but by its nature, the farther it grew, the more difficult it would be to weave it back together once it was pulled apart. Even if Randidly were to dissect someone who was level 1, there was always the chance that his interference would reduce their Class to a shabby alternative of what it had once been, which filled him with too much guilt to ignore.
Still, Lucretia poured over the information that they did have, conferring with Neveah, trying to figure out how it could work together in such a simple way, when the energies arrayed within were so volatile.
Hopefully they would be able to reach a conclusion within another week…
Which meant that whoever won the contest would probably be the guinea pig by which they judged the success of their research. They really didn’t have any other methods. Already, there was guilty creeping into the edges of his awareness, crusting and settling.
Shaking his head, Randidly breathed in, and then breathed out, allowing his mind to turn away from the issues of Aether. Carefully, he stopped channeling his Mana, controlling the 16 Root Avatars to fight each other. Although it had started slow, he was really starting to feel an improvement in his Skills with the strange training method. It was hard to split his mind, and then allow it to flow into a very reactive, unconscious state. Honestly, it took him several tries every day, to get the right sort of balance for what he was attempting. But once he had it, it would progressively eating away at his Mana, his Spear Mastery creeping upwards, but his Root Control going up in surprising spurts of motion.
It was a welcome change of pace, a strange mental/physical hybrid that he enjoyed, but he would prefer if he could participate in a more thorough improvement of his spells. There just wasn’t enough time. Deciphering the encyclopedias took long enough, but then he also had to participate in physical training designed by Mrs. Hamilton, in order to reestablish his physical limits once more, and then he needed to take the information provided to him by Sam’s Engraving experiments, Neveah’s intimidating intuition, and Lucretia carefully couched hypotheses.
Because while the two women would seem to have a better understanding of the mysteries of Aether, he was the one with the Skill that could manipulate it. And neither Neveah’s nor Lucretia’ influence was enough to ACTUALLY influence him, it would just make clear some of the steps that were the necessary.
Which was reassuring in Lucretia’s case, but also disappointing, considering the stakes to what they were trying to accomplish. Creating a Class, and having the methods to create the Class, would essentially eliminate one of the large differences between what Randidly carried in his chest and a Village. Once that gap narrowed, he would feel much more comfortable breaking away from the System, and having his own interaction with people he could support. A threat, such as the one posed by the Raid Dungeon, would no longer be enough to sway him.
But for now…
After cracking his neck, Randidly left his cabin, and was surprised to find that it was the early morning. Although he hesitated for several seconds, he knew in his heart that he couldn’t stand anymore Aether discussion for the day. His time in Shal’s world had given him the ability to endure almost will crushing levels of adversity, but that had been in terms of physical threats. To these influences, which were enough to give him several levels in Mental Strength over the past several days, Randidly found himself completely exhausted. The mental strain added up, and weighed him down in a way that the physical strain never had.
And since he was looking for a distraction, on just such a day… perhaps he should go see how the Assessment was playing out. It would only be the first day, but it still might be interesting to use his newfound knowledge of Classes to examine all the participants…
Slightly bemused, Randidly put on a cloak, pulled the hood up, and walked out towards Donnyton proper.
Donny didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Today had been a day of almost embarrassing truths. From his prominent seat above the combat assessment, he had witnessed it all, and had to keep his face very controlled in order for his feelings to remain hidden.
First, there was a cloaked individual with bare feet wandering through the combat assessment, which was the assessment that occured the first morning. In order, they would go Combat, System Theory, then the next day Production, and then Tactics. These two days would be busy as hell for Donnyton’s administration, but hopefully they would have a better idea of their Village’s strengths at the end of it.
But there were several problems. A huge problem was that, immediately upon arriving this morning, the cloaked individual captured the attention of everyone. He earned himself a berth of 1 meter almost immediately; as to why, his feet were bare, and there was only one person who had bare feet in Donnyton.
Even more than that, he exuded this absolutely impenetrable vibe, that made him seem mysterious and distant, giving weight to the whispered rumors about him. And yet Randidly, for his part, seemed completely oblivious to the fact that everyone knew who he was and let him pass through. Donny supposed he just assumed that anyone would walk up to the front of the arena stands and get a better view.
There had been one point that the Ghosthound was walking forward, and a particularly rowdy group was in front of him. It almost made Donny smile, and he leaned forward, interested to see how it would be resolved. But a woman from Paolo’s bruiser Squad was there, and saw the issue coming, and single handedly moved 6 men a few meters to either side clearing a path.
It was disappointing, but also illuminating, because it let Donny expand his focus a bit, looking around the grounds. When he did, it became clear that there were several dozen individuals moving in the crowd, maintaining a constant distance from the Ghosthound. They were an amalgamation of people from the first 3 Squads, Paolo, Kayle, and Alana’s, and when the action was at its height, their gaze was always reverently pointed towards the Ghosthound.
Even if he wasn’t actually hidden, it was obvious that when people learned that was him, walking among them, something changed. He wasn’t just some mysterious benefactor. He was a man slowly changing into a god. He was also the person who pushed for this, this Assessment, which was met with some reluctance by some parties, but it was not because they didn’t relish the opportunity to compete, but because they didn’t know what it meant.
Donny knew that deep down, a lot of people felt dissatisfied by the fact that the only way to prestige in Donnyton was through participation in a Squad. But the Ghosthound came and changed that. He sought out everyone who had the ability to kill, and to suppress an opponent. And the enthusiasm for battle could be seen in the fact that the final count of the number of participants was just over 400. Without Daniel and Mrs. Hamilton’s personal helpers who made paperwork evaporate, even holding the tournament in the morning would have been impossible.
It would be an interesting day, Donny mused, somewhat bitter. But it at least was a day without paperwork.