2.68 Entourage Selection – Meeting 2 and Test 1
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Deriga straightened herself. "I want to join the entourage because I believe in our Goddess, our church's mission, and the prowess of our champion. While my ranking and rating are subpar, I have seven tier 1 skills and know how to use them. Additionally, I researched the competitions, and I'm mentally and physically prepared."

"You are in as I have promised," Flora said and explained to the other clergy, "Deriga informed me about needing an entourage. Furthermore, she has impressed me with her dedication to her beliefs, and Evailyn favors her."

"Seven tier 1 prayers is impressive for someone with a basic class," Irden said. "Having more skills is the advantage of being born low. With every rise in Rating, RGS, or tier, one has a chance to acquire additional prayers."

"Interesting. I haven't considered this aspect. While I have collected some classes−"

Mia choked and had to cough.

"−I won't discriminate against people with fewer classes. What makes a good cook is not the number of kitchen utensils somebody possesses but how well one handles them." Flora mustered the two remaining candidates, Vatten and Konstantin. Both had said very little during the meeting.

"Thank you very much for the opportunity, Champion," Vatten started. His voice was soft and higher than Flora expected from such a large man. "I have to admit, I was reluctant to leave the war, but you have convinced me that the competition is important and that we have a chance to succeed. My skills are sharpened by non-stop fighting in the last three years. I have Pray, the standard tier 1 prayers of the Priest and the Field-Chaplain class. I want to join your entourage whether you continue to provide substitution or not, but I would feel more at ease if I knew someone would stand-in for me at the theater of operations."

"Alright, let us speak about the details privately. I'll see what I can do. I have to coordinate with my son."

"Your son?" Irden asked.

"Yes, his team is substituting for Vatten at the moment," Flora said.

"The champion's son is a level 210 Radiant Monk," Vatten explained, and the eyes of the more experienced people widened, and Nomizo even gaped at her.

Flora was taken aback by the strong reaction. However, when she thought about it, it made sense that the natives would value a rare class and a high level.

"Why doesn't he join your entourage?" Ceart asked.

Flora realized that she didn't even know what god Robby or the other Riverstones followed.

Flowing Flowers to Aidan: "Get me the list of gods of the Riverstone divine classes−at least of the first two squads."

Immediately, Aidan posted a table. When Flora scanned them, she didn't recognize any god's name but Zapple's. He was a Christian. Flora was shocked that she never considered that there might be traitors in her son's clan. However, Aidan assured her that he wasn't in contact with any member of the CoCC and part of another sub-faction, Church of Christ – Lutheran.

The meeting clergy grew agitated while Flora handled the information, but with a tap on the table, Flora refocused their attention.

"My son isn't part of Evailyn's clergy. He has entered the Cetviwos before me, so he didn't know about her. I have considered inviting some of my associates like my henchgirl−" Flora pointed at Mia. "But have decided against it. The champion competition is a duty of as well as a chance of the church of Evailyn. Mia, please tell them about yourself and why you are here."

'Oh my gosh. Why haven't I introduced her yet? I'm so rusty with this meeting crap.' Flora chastised herself when she realized another error she had committed. She squared her shoulders and, except for a slight pursing of her lips, didn't show her thoughts.

"Hello, everybody. My name is Mia MyMio, and I've been traversing the Cetviwos for three years. I haven't visited your worlds in the past because of age restrictions. My areas of expertise are classes and skills in the technological branch and Human Versus Human combat. I'm honored to support the Champion by optimizing the entourage's team composition. Please take care of me." Mia stood up, bowed, and sat down again. She made it look natural.

Flora blinked. Thankfully, she had business contacts with Chinese toaster manufacturers. Otherwise, she would be too stunned to continue. Such behavior was not normal for a German teenager, at least when she had been young. Teenagers should be wild and not have smoother manners than grannies! And three years in the Cetviwos? Wasn't that game less than two years old?

The natives didn't think Mia's behavior was strange but appreciated it. Even Zander's face showed rare approval.

Flowing Flowers to Aidan: "Remind me to pay Mia more, dear."

"Well, I'm the last one, but I'm hoping I'm not the least." Although Konstantin was smiling, it appeared forced. "I have mastered the five Paladin and Divine Shield standard prayers. I will work hard." He glanced at Ceart.

Flora was taken aback by the lackluster self-presentation. "What do you want to work hard for?"

"Uhm. Our victory?" Konstantin behaved like he had been caught in a trap instead of a simple question.

"Our victory" could mean many things depending on who Konstantin defined as "we". Flora didn't want to bully him, but Mia's information about the lying habits of the Natives was fresh in her mind. "Please be more specific."

"For you? I mean… shit? Sorry. Uhm." Konstantin sweated. "Can I start all over again?"

Flora nodded.

Flowing Flowers to AIs: "What is your analysis of Konstantin from the food-foot cams?"

During her homebody phase, Flora had prepared a surveillance strategy.

The Octopussy monitored everybody's feet because she had read an article about body language and that the feet gave away useful information. Of course, she searched the internet and bought two classics to provide the AIs with information on interpreting body language. She just hoped that the CentralTank developers had read the same books when they programmed the body language of the natives.

The plate with the toasts had eight lenses to monitor the upper body and faces.

Aidan to Flowing Flowers: "He seems to be pressured by Ceart. He doesn't want to be in this meeting, and he is confused."

"I'm Konstantin Kuvetli, and I want to Church of Evailyn to prosper and that you succeed in the Champion Quest, and I'm withdrawing my candidacy," Konstantin said rapidly.

"Why, Tiny? We were looking forward to it!" Babra exclaimed.

Flora had started with three paladin candidates, now she had none! "What RGS and rating has Tali Rondas again?"

"Tali Rondas has an RGS of 2 and a C-rating, Milady."

"You can't be serious. He is just a soldier!" Ceart said. "The reasons for Ursula's resignation are no longer valid. None of her seniors are in the race."

"That's true. Okay, Ursula, you are back. Please tell me your reasons, Konstantin."

"I don't do well under pressure."

"Well, you did better than Ursula during the pope fight, and Talas performed better than both of you. Aidan, display the list." Flora fetched his console.

  1. Flowing Flowers – 52%
  2. Ellaciel Zander – 16%
  3. Tomos Ceart – 9%
  4. Afstira Nomizo – 8%
  5. Mino Irden – 6%
  6. Babra Pikame – 3%
  7. Tali Rondas – 2%
  8. Deriga Ticet – 2%
  9. Konstantin Kuvetli – 1%
  10. Ursula Yl – 1%

"Now, I'm ashamed," Irden said, taking the next toast from Flora's spy plate. "The council duty has made me rusty. I'll sub for you, Vatten, if the Champion selects you."

"Thank you, Abbot. Next reason, Konstantin." Flora wanted to unbury the root cause but was unsure of hard to squeeze him.

"I… I… " Konstantin looked down.

"I'm sorry, dear. It's alright, you don't have to participate if you don't want."

"But he wants it!" Babra said. "He's just afraid that he will mess up again."

Silence fell over the table.

"Are you referring to the attack on the town you guarded?"

Konstantin nodded but still didn't look up.

"I wasn't there and know nothing about it. Let's assume you made the gravest mistake anyone could make. So what do you do now? Hide here until you retire? I suggest you work your ass off to atone for your past sins. Start by giving your best in the selection process. Can you do that?"

"Yes, Champion," Konstantin said and glanced at Ceart.

"Ceart, you are back in, too. We let Mia decide who will fill the last two places." Flora said. "Mia, what do you need for your decision?"

"First, raw data about attack and defense values, then I would like to try out some team compositions. So, we will need space for some mock battles. Do we know anything about the environment of the competition? Is it magic only? What will be the level cap? As far as I know, it is unusual to hold these competitions in the Cradle."

"While it is unusual, it has happened a few times before," Deriga explained. "The Faction Framework, that's where the headquarters of the High Factions reside, has a magical arena. It can simulate any environment. Its level cap can rise up to level 5. In 1844 a divine Champion competition was magic restricted. My grandpa told me it had been a farce. More often than not, there is no restriction, but technology restricted competitions or rounds do happen now and then."

Flowing Flowers to Aidan: "Research technological restricted areas. If we can counter magically restricted by raising my metal handicap, there should be a way to counter the anti-technology mojo."

"Alright, so we are testing the white damage and defense as well as burst and sustainable rotations," Mia said. "Do you have some boxing boxes at hand, Auntie?"

"I have to fetch them. Please show us the training area that I know what I can bring." Flora said. She didn't ask Mia to explain her first sentence. She hoped it would become clear.

Flowing Flowers to Aidan: "Print out nets with universal generators. We can use the divine energies of the HQ to power it."

The council led the two Riverstones to the roof above the residency wing of the temple. A couple of rusty training dummies stood in a corner with some clergy throwing spells at them. On the other end of the empty field, a circle was drawn on the floor. Mia identified it as a dueling ring.

Flora tried to see it as positive. At least, she had a lot of empty space for some boxes.

While Mia organized the candidates, Flora went back to her lair and fetched the boxes and generators. Thanks to the refunds, she had a lot of them.

Soon an army of Octopussies and Forklifter-robots powered by Flora, Mia, and Celia Werkstaetter remodeled the roof, façade, and Balancing Boxes. Flora wanted the latter only to be hip-high so that the users could heal or buff their peers or even attack the targets and Stehaufmaennchen.

Flora put three Boxing Boxes in the middle and on top of them Balancing Half-Boxes, to the left and right two rows of Treadmill Tunnels and in the other two directions Boxing Boxes, two Acid Pools and two Rat-Climbs. Everything was in spell casting range for the balancing boxes in the center, so Flora requested that two monks with Mantra supported the training session of the entourage in the next days.

Meanwhile, Mia had built a group and put each candidate in a Boxing Box to test their "white" performance. That meant no prayers were allowed, only abilities. The candidates had to block or dodge the boxing gloves and hit the dummy until they fainted or got knocked out or 10 minutes had passed.

Flora explained to the council members and Werkstaetter, the head of the crafting department, the boxes and the rune-schemes and how to use them optimally. She spoke loud enough for the candidates in the boxes to hear her. If they got distracted by it, well, multitasking was an important ability as well.

"I want every council member and guard to have at least one level in Mind-Control Resistance. Actually, I want everybody to gain one, and I expect more from the council and the entourage." Flora said, showing them the rune-scheme for Fear. "Especially, the latter should strive to get one level in every kind of resistance. That one level reduces the opponents' secondary effects by an entire tier and is easy to get."

Afterward, Flora requested a private conversation with each of the council members. She started with Zander because the Metaling bishop said she had work to do.

Flora suggested entering two adjacent treadmills out of earshot from the others, and Zander agreed. To facilitate better communication, Flora perforated the two tunnel walls between them. Now, the arrangement resembled a confessional box with a double-layered pardon screen.

Flora asked a few questions about the Bishop's feelings about the church's current trajectory, her future plans, and advice for the competition.

Zander's replies were short but not unfriendly. Her answers about her plans were so generic that they didn't take hold in the auntie's consciousness. She gave Flora some information about the other churches which participated and their likely Champion candidates. The conversation went better than Flora expected. She felt she was building some rapport with the cold Metaling.

The Boxing Boxes' doors were open, and Flora could see Deriga and Vatten from her position. The Field Chaplain used a buckler and a scepter as big as a mace, whereas Deriga attacked with the Multitool Scepter in her right and the Soldier Scepter in her left hand. Watching Deriga dual wield dispelled some of Flora's doubts that the adolescent Priestess wasn't up to the challenge. She felt ashamed not trusting Deriga enough, but she was just so young.

Next, Irden joined Flora.

"Those boxes are most marvelous, Champion! I'm sure they can even raise my RGS! I have to dodge all responsibility in the future that I can enjoy them, and my rating won't go up accidentally. Especially, I like the addition of the pools and climbing box. They can prepare the candidates for other terrains than your regular drill ground. The competition environment is often out of the comfort zone of sedentary clergy."

Flora made a mental note and forwarded the advice to Mia. Then, she asked him the same questions as Zander. He seemed to think positive about everything and expressed his hope that Zander would take up the mantle as the new pope. "I know she can be a pain in the bottom, but she works hard for the church and her charges. While her heart is on the colder side of the temperature spectrum, it is in the right place."

Irden advised Flora to pack a lot of food and not to disregard how the little buffs from food and potions could stack and influence the bigger picture.

Flora expanded her to-do list and added acquiring suitable equipment for the entourage.

Priority:

Description

->

Status

A:

Animator

->

Check

A:

Remote Arms Class

->

Open

A:

Elemental Master Class

->

Open

A:

Meditation Chamber

->

Check

A:

New: Food, Potions and other temporary buffs

->

Open

A:

New: Equipment for the entourage

->

Open

B:

Skills to learn: Bolster Immune System, Flush Out

->

Open

B:

Building the Animator mech-suit

->

Open

B:

Achievements for attribute OV

->

On Going

C:

Building an effective Healing-Repairing Turret

->

Discarded

C:

Controlling a nitro mech-suit

->

Open

D:

Summoner Class

->

Check

"By the way, would you like to visit my monastery? I wouldn't mind if you brought a few of those boxes with you. Caihaven is lovely in the autumn. Always worth a tour," Irden said.

Flora was stunned by the audacity of the abbot. However, another aspect of his invitation bothered her more. The word "Caihaven" wasn't new to her. Where had she heard of the city before? She poked Aidan.

"In Caihaven was the temple Ceart had defended and where he had expected a major attack to happen, Milady."

Flora raised her eyebrows, but Nomizo already had replaced Irden in the Treadmill Tunnel.

When Nomizo began jogging next to Flora, the difference of the sound of her feet's impact was jarring. How can a 50 kg woman's steps be louder than a 300 kg man's? She was slower, as well!

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