3.7 Tiger Is Not Food
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Somewhere in the wide world, there are teachers with inborn talents. They can calm down a whole bunch of unruly kids with two words and one gesture, discover and dig out gems in what most adults consider dirt, be a father and mother figure when, not if, it's called for, read minds, prevent problems. In a nutshell, teachers shape your child into a proper member of society or why would they have the right to take the taxpayers' money?

Melissa Lauster had neither of those legendary qualities and, very important, was well aware of it. That was why she had tended to reduce her hours to the minimum allowed by the university policy and stuck to one lecture plan repeated over and over again.

Besides, she was a professor, not a teacher. Ridiculous social convention dictated her students were considered adults. Unfortunately, the universe and, more importantly, the system had had other designs and ultimately imposed a teacher role onto her.

Take the current scene as an example. Professor Lauster was standing at the castle gate with her smiling face and was thinking, among other things, about the words a teacher shall say to a student returning from a trip with a giant tiger corpse on their back. A bloodied student with fire in her eyes, nonetheless.

'Good work, A-!', 'remember, we wash our hands before eating' or the famous' but did you follow all safety precautions'?

"Oh my god! Are you two hurt?"

A certain redhead rushed to the hunters and inspected them from head to toe. Alice, who had insisted on walking with her trophy the last hundred meters tossed up and down proudly and answered,

"Nope! It's all tiger blood. And some deer."

"Why would you bring it back, miss Branson?" professor Lauster intervened. "I don't think tigers as predators are edible."

"Oh, it's a usual misconception. Tigersteak is no worse than a beefsteak if you know how to cook it."

A pause occurred while everyone tried to find the right facial expression and Jean was too busy studying the tiger head and its wide teeth to notice the gazes. When she did, she blinked innocently,

"Or so I was told."

"Isn't it a monster tiger from a dungeon? It might be dangerous." Robert coughed and pointed out.

"Sage can identify it, right?" Alice protested, captivated by the idea.

"...right. I can. History says there are ways to cook a tiger. Or at least parts of it." Duncan nodded, but before anyone could feel he is dependable, the guy added, "Chinese medicine says a tiger penis saves from impotency."

"Good, Duncan. Anyone is impotent?"

Jean gave the male population a fierce stare. The male population took a wronged appearance.

"Where is Nomad?" asked Alice not because she had a hunch to put a chair under a shaky atmosphere but because she noticed the absence of the last spectator for her and her dead tiger. The one that was pressing down on her back pretty heavily.

"He is sulking. They two had a fight," Jean gestured at Robert who just rolled his eyes.

The small girl squinted. She heard... gloating? It somehow disconnected from her image of Jean. Again, so did the tiger meat remark.

"Damn this thing... is the kitchen ready?"

Professor Lauster looked at Robert who very responsibly stood behind to guard the gate and walked behind the rest of the floсk with a weak smile. Now she had a headache of dissuading them from eating a monster. Well, at least they were capable, she was comforting herself.

The problem with most capable young people wasn't finding the tailwind, but maneuvering them in storms. Or so she read in some book.


After thinking, Alice dragged her tiger onto the wall and ran down into the throne hall. There was a newfound wooden door near the spiral staircase, leading to a spacious room with wide windows. Alice looked inside and saw a pretty modern kitchen... minus electricity. It was also big enough to prepare a feast for thirty-forty men promptly.

The hunters were showed butchering tables, two wood and coal stoves, cabinets filled with kitchen tools, including all sorts of knives, salt, dry seasonings. Last but not least, three sinks and a bunch of pipes. Half of them were leading down and a half to a side room. Behind another door was a very large boiler. Solid-looking, albeit old-fashioned. It had mechanical thermometers and pressure meters. According to the former, the boiler was slowly warming up. Behind yet another door, there was a fuel warehouse, now filled with mountains of coal.

The system is generous! Though she knew the damn thing simply didn't want them to be distracted from points farm, Alice still marveled while washing herself from blood and dirt with very cold and clear water. When she drank it greedily, the water tasted like spring.

Buying a kitchen had been an initial reaction to the girl's hunt proposal. The system's description indeed promised an assortment of kitchen tools and seasonings for food (but, of course, not the food itself). Since no one wanted to mine salt, the initiative was approved lightning-fast. While at it, they figured the distance to the mountain foot and bought the water source together with the 'heating machine'. The system then had promised everything to be ready in three hours.

 Meanwhile, John and Nomad had laid the deer on a big cutting table and now the whole crew minus Robert was staring at it thoughtfully.

"You two are useless!" Jean announced solemnly and then asked the short girl, "Where is the tiger?"

"I think we shouldn't really eat it."

"Oh," the redhead showed some... disappointment? Though no one argued against Alice's decision.

"And there was no time to process it on spot."

"There are also moral considerations. Tigers are protected species," nodded Noman and then his brain caught up. "What tiger?"

Alice explained shortly, pointed somewhere in the right direction and the guy excused himself. Jean waited until he disappeared and beamed at the hunters with a piece of gossip,

"He and Robert argue which of the system facilities we need second. They are at the igniting stares phase."

"Weren't they supposed to wait for me and Dunkan? By the way, how long until the active barrier is on?"

It had been such a no-brainer they had had all agreed on it right away.

"Four hours," said professor Lauster. "The two of you spent almost six hours in the woods."

"By the way, I don't cook. Never," cut in Jean.

"I am good with meat," said John. "Well, with meat-meat, you know? Skinned and so on."

"Okay!" Alice lifted her hand. "Sage, please, help everyone to cut and prepare the deer. I am going to dispose of the tiger."

She had no problem in using a nickname and Duncan seemingly felt better when called Sage. When the girl took all necessary tools the professor called out for her,

"I recommend you to read our castle status carefully, miss Branson."

"It's Alice, miss Lauster," grunted she and walked out.


Winds strove to blow the girl off the wall. Not an easy task since the wall itself was plenty wide and the parapet was bigger than humans would have needed, the same story as with all local architecture.

Alice was busily ridding the monster tiger of its rich fur. Both hunter mastery and basic butchering skills were working in unison. From time to time she stowed the cut off remains on a plate to toss them out. Desert inhabitants on that side of a wall would love a free launch, the girl believed. Whatever is left after falling a thousand meters down.

The work was good. It acted as a distraction. Alice specifically turned away from her opened notebook behind. On the screen, there was a simple window:

Castle (temp.) Status

System Facilities

Active Barrier 3h 44m Kitchen Upgrade!
    Water source Upgrade!
    Heating machine Upgrade!

Seven of them spent exactly 18,000 points on these few positions. Not all points were battle, as Alice discovered, but she was pretty sure she lost exactly 2,571. And this was what had embraced them.

Upgrade. Upgrade. When the timer on the barrier expires, there would be a button 'upgrade' in its place, the girl was sure. The kitchen suggested restocking for a cheap price and electrifying itself, same with the boiler. Electricity would need a generator, the generator would need fuel... Alice foresaw this system move from a mile.

The water source with its 'inferior-grade spiritual waters' was much more appealing.

Also costly as hell.

My template system is a double-edged sword, her hands acted separately of her thoughts, diligently cutting the tiger. Theoretically, I can get access to a ton of skills. Moreover, I can buy skill points. I can buy classes... templates. I can buy new skills. I can buy lots of things, it seems, the girl frowned at the notebook. I can even evolve spear and bow mastery into arts, whatever that means.

Divide skin and meat, separate bones one from another, throw a kidney into the abyss. Her fingers moved faster and faster.

But I don't get the juicy gist of the class progression. Skill level scaling.

Another tiger kidney went down for desert scavengers.

Alice paused and rechecked her work. The secret of looking at the bloody mess of a butchered from inner organs tiger was not to breathe with one's nose. Unhurriedly, the girl then peeled the tiger pelt off the rest of the beast. Then that rest followed in the last tiger jump and then free fall.

Dirty and bloody were the stones around. The pelt was completed halfway. Alice was proud of her work in all its uncleaned splendor. Her father was an avid hunter who always respected his prey and processed it fully.

However, he had to sell whatever their family couldn't eat since his wife wasn't a fan of stuffed animals.

"Scar, the guys are roasting the meat!" shouted Jean from the stairs.

"I'm coming!"

Alice took the magic core and left the pelt to ventilate.


Well, man proposes and God disposes. Long story short, I was far away from my calm workplace but now I am back. Tomorrow there will be a new chapter.

while I am at it...

Happy New Year!