Razor didn’t think this man would murder him in the public like this, but surely there was something hidden here. With a sick sensation in Razor’s stomach, he examined the pile of meat, which seemed to suddenly take on a sinister color. With a man of ill repute like this, it was hard to know what sort of sources this meat could have come from…
Perhaps… even a low level sheep…
Shivering, Razor crossed himself, hoping against hope that the meat that this man was peddling was at least Level 20 while alive. There was no way that Razor’s delicate and refined palette could handle anything less. And based on the evidence…
Although the smell was extremely appetizing, the wood of the small shop was of poor quality, and the level of the counter part of the stall was slightly tilted. Razor wrinkled his nose in distaste, but that heavenly smell filled it again, lifting him off the ground and pulling him a step closer.
“Uh…” Two sides of him were at war, his eyes and his nose. But ultimately… a true chef lived through the nose, so Razor could only close his eyes in defeat. “I would like one of the burgers, as well as a serving of the veggies.”
“Sure, sure.” The man said, nodding, and moving to the task. To the man’s credit, he moved with an obvious grace, as he adroitly separated out a patty’s worth of meat and threw it over the fire. In addition, Razor didn’t miss the small amount of spices mixed into the meat. Immediately the smell intensified, and Razor raised his eyebrows.
Who was this man…? This level of spice mastery was unheard of in Donnyton. Not that the small restaurants here were bad, but… it was mostly just a side thing run by people with the brewing Skill. Food went well with beer and spirits. Meanwhile, this man was on the level of opening his own shop, just based on the smell…
…if the taste could match it, then…
Razor shivered, unwilling to be done in so easily by this man. There was still the chance that the subpar ingredients would destroy him, but for now, Razor had to grudgingly admit that he was intrigued by what was happening in front of him.
After a few minutes, the man expertly placed the patty on a toasted bun, added a soft, melty cheese, and put in on a wooden bowl with a couple of the potatoes and carrots. After paying, Razor moved a small amount of distance away. A few more customers were lining up behind him, whispering and gazing at Razor.
Immediately, Razor felt regret. He shouldn’t have been so quick to go up to the stand. His honor and reputation were on the line, and to be seen going to such a shoddy stall…
“Thanks, by the way,” The shady man said, scratching the back of his head. “Seems like you brought a lot of people over. I mean I didn’t take much time to make this, but to waste it would be a bit..”
As Razor was raising the burger to his mouth, he choked back a sob. Didn’t take much time to make this…? And around him, the whispers began.
“Oh… this man knows Razor Foodfoot…?”
“Indeed, even though this man looks a bit…”
“Perhaps this is the equivalent of a dive bar…?”
Razor hid his tears and ran away as fast as he could, hoping that not too many people would hear about this blunder. As he ran, he cursed his nose, which had lead him astray. For so long he had relied on that, and this dirty and shady man had used that same reliance to take advantage of him…!
And the prices the man was charging was relatively expansive for this sort of stand at the market. He would make a killing through this…
After reaching the edge of the market, Razor staggered, still holding the plate. His hands trembled with rage as he gripped the edge. This damn swindler…! He took a deep breath, ready to toss the food on the ground, but the smell hit his nostrils again, and instantly a dopey smile took over.
But truly, this smell…
Well, better find out how angry people would be.
Razor gripped the burger and raised it to his mouth. He sniffed it again. Still delicious seeming… With a quick bit, Razor scooped the front third of it into his mouth.
Wiping away his tears, Razor collapsed to his knees. This was….!
Stan Culcart carefully had read the rulebook over the past several days, studying the game that would be the Tactics Assessment. It was a relatively simple game, with 10 units, and three different maps that would allow them to compete against each other in a variety of scenarios.
The 10 units were: Sword Adventurer, Axe Warrior, Spearmen, Rogues, Mages, Archers, Knights, Raid Boss, Werewolves, and Workers.
They were arranged in 3 sets of 3. Sword beats axe which beats spear which beats sword. Rogues beat Mages which beat Archers which beat Rogues. Knights beat Raid Boss, which beats Werewolves which beat Knights. The final three were a bit special, in that they each had a special ability. Knights had charge, Raid Boss has taunt, and Werewolves could split their pack into several smaller groups. The Raid Boss was the only singular unit, but had a high power to back it up. A power that was only surpassed by the strength of a full contingent of charging knights.
The only special unit was the worker, which was a relatively weak on in terms of combat strength, but had the special build ability. If given enough time, the worker could create a Wall, a Ditch, a Trap, or a Hiding Spot. With these buildings, the terrain of the map could be shifted, creating scenarios where your particular team could exert is maximum strength.
The three maps were a forest map, a winding ravine, and a grassland with a small lake in the middle. The game itself was played in a rather unorthodox way; two individuals would sit with a view blocker in between them. They were each given a copy of the map. Turns were taking simultaneously, with a third party watching both sides, passing notes at the end of the turn to indicate what had happened after your units carried out their orders. All groups of units, aside from the Raid Boss, consisted of 20 people. Meanwhile, the Raid Boss had 30 Health.
There were explanations for how and why each unit countered the others, and in which way, but Stan was content to take it on faith. In fact, you had to be content to take these things on faith, for all of it, because you would be relying mostly on your imagination for this game.
Most of what happened would run through the third party, but, Stan didn’t worry too much about any sort of partial behavior. Besides, everyone took this strange little game very seriously, even if it was a cross between old school RTS and DND. It would be fun, Stan thought, glad for the numb buzzing in the back of his head. He had taken advantage of the several practice games offered by the hosts of the tournament, and although he received a middling result, Stan wasn’t to worried.
Nothing really worried him, these days.
At the beginning of each round, each person had 7 points to spend purchasing units. For now, the first 6 units each costed two, the Knight, Raid Boss, and Werewolves tier cost 3, and the Worker cost 1. From this, several different combinations could be made.
Well, relatively few, when it came down to it, but it was important to keep a balance, and to anticipate the opponent. Truly, tactics was all about manipulating units in battle, but it was fair that there was an aspect of strategy involved. Preparation and planning could slide very cleanly into tactics, and there really wasn’t any way of predicting the others choices so early.
Stan supposed at some point that trends would emerge in usage, but… that was for down the line. Although the games were extremely fun to play now, it remained to be seen whether there would be any longevity in the game…
More than that, Stan also couldn’t decide whether this would really test for a useful Skill. Well, it would test for something, but likely not what the directors of Donnyton were looking for…
But if those thoughts and dissatisfactions grew too strong, the numbness rose again, blanketing it out. It would leave Stan sighing with relief. He didn’t know where she was, but Raina was here, somewhere during the festival, likely enjoying herself. As she wasn’t performing, she didn’t really inform Stan, her manager, where she had gone, but that was fine.
He hadn’t had dwelled on it for too long; the numbness wiped those feelings away, leaving only a bland sense of enjoyment. Truly, the games were fun and fascinating enough to keep him engaged, in spite of the buzzing.
No, perhaps it was the buzzing, but sometimes Stan had strange inklings of what would happen. He was very careful to not activate his Feeling Skill, so he wasn’t cheating, but it was more than that.
Stan stood with the rest of the 200 or so odd people who had chosen to participate, and listened to the rules. Then, after that, he was matched up, and sat opposite a pretty young woman with red hair, who shook his hand and then ignored him, seating herself.
Shrugging, Stan sat down as well. It wasn’t that he was feeling the opponent. And even if he was, he couldn’t feel the specifics of their choice. All that was conveyed to him were the strong emotions that the other was feeling. No… Sometimes it felt like… he could just feel… a little bit into the future, giving him a bit of an edge.
“Ready? What are your selections for your units?” The referee asked.
Humming tunelessly along with the buzzing in his head, Stan slid the bit of paper with his choices across to the man, and began putting the tiny wooden pieces he had carved last night onto the table. They weren’t very detailed, but he had received the Whittling Skill after several hours of effort, so they would likely improve in the future.
“Let’s have fun.” Stan whispered.