Daniel sat very still as he examined the report in front of him.
Casualties for the night sat at 78 Classers and 112 NCCs. The Raid Boss assault simply came too quickly. The 78 Classers hurt far worse than the NCCs, although Daniel would never say so, especially to Mrs. Hamilton or Regina. That amounted to 10% to their fighting force.
Most of the casualties were from the mid tiered squads, 15-25, and Decklan’s unit, which lost several people. The Numerals, even I and II, who apparently had single handedly defended the Northern approach, hadn’t lost a single person.
Likewise, the Magic Corps suffered no casualties, and apparently made great gains in destructive power over the course of the night. Blasting into ranks of higher leveled monsters apparently had its benefits. Mrs. Hamilton was busy gathering information in regards to new paths and skills, but the initial reports were very promising; this world was a cruel place, but in its way, it was fair.
Surviving the tribulation had brought gains to the village, even aside from the levels that all of the Classers had gained. The steep price they paid was not worth it, but perhaps, if they took the long view, it was a close thing.
There was a knock at the door, and without waiting for an answer, the door slid silently open. Daniel started to frown, but then froze as he recognized the figure at the door: The Ghosthound.
Randidly stepped forward, his powerful emerald gaze seeming to pin Daniel to the spot he was sitting. Walking forward, very slowly, The Ghosthound gazed at each of the tables and reports in front of Daniel in turn. Although Daniel couldn’t know for sure, he would swear that The Ghosthound was reading them and storing them away with his brief gaze.
Then The Ghosthound coughed. “I think this event… proves that there needs to be some changes in the village. Of everyone, I suspect you are the best with schedules and timeframes. Help me whip this place into shape.”
Regina looked up at Mrs. Hamilton, and nodded, then followed the other woman into Daniel’s small cabin. To her surprise, she saw The Ghosthound standing against the far wall, his eyes closed.
“What do you require?” Mrs. Hamilton asked serenely, speaking to Daniel, but her gaze locked onto the Ghosthound. Even now, as he stood still, there was something chilling about his bearing. A coldness that Regina hadn’t noticed before. Whether it was the Tribulation’s coming, or his journey to Franksburg, something had changed within him.
It did not seem to be a positive change.
“We are working out more… intensive training schedules, and trying to determine Skill Level goals for inclusion in squads. I was hoping-” Daniel began, but The Ghosthound interrupted him.
“There is something else.”
His eyes opened, and they burned in the dimly lit room. HIs focused shifted to Mrs. Hamilton, and then further, onto Regina. Almost instinctively, Regina sucked in a breath when he looked at her. There WAS something different. A coldness, and viciousness, that hadn’t been there before. It was calm now, lurking in the backdrop, but if it came out….
“Neither of you have classes, correct?” The Ghosthound spoke slowly. Both nodded.
“I have a gift, for one of you. It will… give you access to a powerful class” He continued. “I figured I would consult you both, see which you believe would be more… suitable.”
“Regina.” Mrs. Hamilton said immediately, a small smile on her face. “Her healing magic is an asset to the village, and if the class could be related to healing…. I don’t think you need me to explain how useful that would be.”
The Ghosthound nodded slowly, “…the class is based on the individual, so it is possible.”
“I agree,” Daniel said, after a moment of thought “Ptolemy is sufficient for most things, but his healing magic, even with a class, is only more useful than Regina’s due to having a higher tiered skill, even though the skill levels are in Regina’s favor. People simply have too much health for a Healing Palm to be sufficient in most cases. Not even 2 sometimes suffice. Obtaining a dedicated healer class-”
“I disagree,” Regina said coolly, surprising herself. Not that this didn’t desire this gift, but at the same time, there was something… that disturbed her about the current Randidly. She assumed it was related to the strange situation with Lyra, but…. It made her hesitate.
And, to be honest, Regina really didn’t believe she was the best choice. “In terms of effect on the village, or importance to Donnyton’s smooth running, I can’t compare to Mrs. Hamilton.”
“In addition,” Regina added, looking at Mrs. Hamilton. “In terms of seniority, she trumps me. I believe that she is better suited for the gift.”
The Ghosthound’s smile was wolfish, his gaze seeming to dig into Regina, searching for…. Something. “I agree.”
Then he walked forward and placed his hand on Mrs. Hamilton’s shoulder. The woman frowned for a while, and then her eyes widened.
Then she shared her notification with the group.
Congratulations! You have received the Blessing of the West. Calculating Blessing…
From Randidly Ghosthound, you have received the Soul Skill “Silk of Entrapment and Manipulation”. You have gained access to the class. “Spider of the Lengthening Shadows”. As you do not possess a class, speak with a Town Spirit to obtain this class. You have gained the skill Patience Lvl 1. You have gained the skill Intuition Lvl 1. You have gained the skill Sense Intrusion Lvl 1.
“Well this certainly seems…. Unexpected,” Mrs. Hamilton said, the corners of her mouth slowly curling up.
Kiersty explained as best she could what Arbor could do, and how he had helped save the village.
“And,” Nathan added hastily, “Kiersty tired herself out casting Blessings on everyone to keep them alive. She’s the real reason the village is safe.”
The Ghosthound’s gaze moved to Nathan, his eyes currently a pale green. Nathan helplessly fell silent, feeling slightly awestruck. After several long seconds, the Ghosthound grunted, and rubbed both of their heads.
Then he walked past them, to Arbor’s main trunk, slightly taller, but still covered in ash. Currently, only a single burning leaf remained on its branches, the rest used during the defense of Donnyton. With careful hands, The Ghousthound reached out and touched the ashy surface, rubbing across Arbor.
The tree shyly wiggled back and forth, seemingly unsure of how to behave next to its maker. But after a while, it timidly reached forward, brushing a twig across The Ghosthound’s face, leaving a long line of grey ash on his cheek.
The Ghosthound didn’t seem to mind. After a long moment, he opened his eyes with a side. “So we are connected still, by this Aether, huh…. Interesting. But good job for you too. Protecting this village is a good thing. But did you really need to give the little girl a Soul Skill…? Explaining this to her mother is a bit…”
Arbor twisted dismissively, expressing its feelings about Kiersty’s mother. Kiersty opened her mouth to explain, but The Ghosthound replied as if he had heard. “I suppose so, but it’s…. Ah, I’m not good at this stuff at all… you inherited some of my bad qualities, it seems. I can’t tell whether I should be happy or sad.”
Kiersty blushed. Of course he could hear Arbor’s voice too. He was the Ghosthound. Arbor swelled, pleased to have been compared to The Ghosthound.
The ground erupted, and dozens of huge vines, as thick as a man’s thigh, rushed forward to grip The Ghosthound. Nathan backpedaled wildly, and Kiersty frowned, but The Ghosthound just laughed.
“Ah, it’s good to see you too. You’ve grown quite a bit, haven’t you, Thorn?”
The vines vibrated, pleased, and began rubbing the Ghosthound, ripping through his clothes. Arbor wiggled back and forth, and the Ghosthound looked at the tree, then frowned down at the vines around him.
“…Thorn, have you been bullying Arbor to have its priestess bless you?”
The vines wiggled helplessly. The Ghosthound sighed. “Okay whatever. Just ask next time, okay? And try not to destroy any of the ground inside Donnyton. You are really, really big.”
With a grunt, Dozer collapsed atop her, spent. Annie pushed him playfully, and then wiggled out from under him. Taking some water from the basin by the door, Annie began to clean herself as best she could.
A soft knocking came at the door, and Dozer just rolled over, already snoring. Frowning, Annie opened the door a crack only to find Randidly standing there.
Not bothering to dress herself, Annie stepped out into the cool night air, naked as the day she was born. “Your previous boo is dead or a pile of goop, and you so quickly make a move on me… not that that I didn’t expect it, but…”
Annie batted her eyelashes at Randidly. He simply snorted, and reached out and placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Accept the gift.” The statement was more command than anything else, and Annie considered refusing. But then she pictured Dozer’s disapproving gaze, if he heard she refused “the Ghosthound”, and accepted with a sigh. Then again, with a frown. Then again, gritting her teeth.
Why was this so difficult…?
Then the notification popped up.
Congratulations! You have received the Blessing of the North. Calculating Blessing…
From Randidly Ghosthound, you have received the Soul Skill “Blessing of the Frozen Expanse”. You have gained access to the class. “The White, Whistling Death”. As you do not possess a class, speak with a Town Spirit to obtain this class.
Your skill Hawkeye has changed to “Eyes of the Grey Eagle Lvl 1”. All benefits have been retained. Your skill Aiming has changed to “Still Air Aiming Lvl 1”. All benefits have been retained. You have gained the skill “White Haste Lvl 1”. You have gained the skill “Chilling Grace Lvl 1.”
Annie blinked very slowly. Then finally, she said. “Why?”
“Because you deserved it.” And then Randidly left, never even glancing at her naked body.
Which left Annie feeling slightly insulted, and also slightly disappointed, but most of all, relieved.
Daniel and Regina sat in silence, working out the schedule. They had considered the different skills they thought were necessary, and were now devising schedules and methods to cause those skills to be learned.
They were also now on the lookout for information when this “Aether Deprivation” might occur. Sam indicated that it had started around when he reached skill level 450, and grew increasingly more prevalent as he approached 500. But before they could ask him more, he refused to speak, and locked himself away, intent on testing the limits of his new skills. In addition, that was just a general guideline. From what Lyra was able to spit out before the rules of her new station bound her to silence, stats also were related. It was possible that some people who took more stats heavy paths would be affected more quickly.
So that project would have to wait, but it was something to monitor in the future. For now, they continued making schedules for, as The Ghosthound insisted the day after tomorrow.
Because, according to the Ghosthound, tomorrow would be dedicated to motivating the Classers of Donnyton, by reminding them an important truth.
That they were very weak.