With his attention in front of the Skill, he paused, then reached out and touched Ashes to Ashes. Immediately, System notifications popped up in front of him.

Congratulations! There is currently a resonance between two of your Skills. It becomes possible to allow this resonance to grow. Warning, results of allowing the Skills to influence each other are unpredictable. Warning, if you possess insufficient energy, illness or death might result from the transformation.

The following two Skills are in resonance with each other: Ashes to Ashes and Scarlet Burst.

Only by utilizing both Skills at the same time will the resonance grow. If the resonance proves to be harmonies, Skills might change or merge.

Randidly scratched his chin as he considered the notifications. This… although the System didn’t say it, was this related to his Class? Or perhaps the image that he had been using for Scarlet Burst? It was true that he had borrowed some if from Ashes to Ashes. That strange, decimated world that he saw, filled with charred carbon and molten metal, had stuck with him ever since he had left the Patron of Ash’s world.

The only problem was that Randidly liked both of the Skills. Maybe merging into a more powerful form would be fine, but… if there was a bad reaction…

But then Randidly couldn’t help but shrug. First of all, he could recover from it. He could make his own Skills again, although it would be difficult. Second, with his source of Aether and pure images, very rarely were the warnings of the System worth anything to him. The only notable exception was the trouble he had with his Soul Skill early on in his career when it was the Cycle of Ash and Rot. Since then things had worked.

The possibility of damage to his Class gave Randidly some pause, but he doubted that such a Class that had been so painstakingly created would break so easily.

Pointing, the moss dome they were lounging in spread outward to cover a new circle of land. Calmly, Randidly stood and walked into this new area. Both Azriel and Skarch spared him a glance, but then returned to their own refinements. They all knew what they were here for, and trusted each other to do their job.

But that didn’t mean that they wouldn’t take great care to notice the other’s abilities. After all, if they performed well, they would need to face each other in the finals.

Randidly didn’t bother to close off his portion of the dome and block their vision, although he considered it. Azriel knew about Scarlet Burst and Ashes to Ashes for sure and even had ways to counter them. Skarch might learn something from watching, but with Randidly just activating the Skills, it would be hard to discern what the actual use was.

So Randidly stood still and closed his eyes. He breathed in, then breathed out. Then he activated Ashes to Ashes.

Instantly, the world that Randidly saw shifted. He was in a place of deep greys and fiery reds. Aether manifested in a weak wavering white light as if he was viewing it through water. Although he knew it wasn’t the case, the moss dome around him looked more like stone than plant matter. In this place, everything was stretched to its polar opposites.

It was a binary world, in a way, Randidly realized. This place pressed the world together and removed all of the depth to it. Perhaps that explained the strange effect of Randidly being able to avoid an attack…

But then his mind snapped into focus as he realized how much Mana he was wasting. So instead, Randidly used Scarlet Burst.

As he did so, the vista that Randidly saw around him shuddered. The flattened and contrasted world shuddered and trembled. But not in a way that reversed the effects of the Skill. If anything, it intensified the strange flattening effect, so colors bled away from the world, and all that remained was a burning monochrome wasteland.

Still, when he used the Skills at the same time, the song between the two Skills grew more intense. The volume was slowly growing, and under the vibrations, Randidly heard something akin to voices between the two Skills. There was a surprising about of subtlety in what was happening.

Only a second had passed, but Randidly winced. Using Ashes to Ashes for prolonged amounts of time was simply impossible; the cost was so high that even now Randidly could only maintain it for a few seconds. He used Scarlet Burst once more.

Again, the world shivered and flattened further. Randidly used it again, and again, and-

Foolish child, this is not a Path you are ready to see.

For a second, before the voice spoke, Randidly had seen something. It was difficult to describe in words. When Randidly was a child, he often played with tape measures. It was a fun game to see how long you could stretch it out from the base before the weight of it was enough to overcome the crease of the tape. But at that moment, the weight became too much, and the tape would collapse to the ground, all sense of structure and shape was lost.

It was a sudden shift that reminded Randidly of the evolutions of his image for As the Sun Stills.

But here, it was his view of the world that collapsed. The flattened and monochrome’d world seemed to struggle for a second, and then it crumbled like paper. And then-

If this world is naught but ashes… what happens when those ashes fall away? There is only memory and loss. Sit in the lonliness and you will feel it breath.

Everything became agony. It was raw and present in a way that Randidly could only compare to those times he had received dental work in the past life. Sometimes, a nerve was exposed. It wasn’t pain because something bad was truly happening perhaps, but it was so much unknown and overwhelming information the nerve had never experienced. The body had no way to understand what was happening except pain.

This was the spiritual version of that-


And just like that, Randidly was back, sitting on the ground with sweat pouring down his brow. In front of him, a dozen or so notifications blinked, informing him that he had gains in both Nether Resistance and Pain Resistance.

Then a powerful presence pressed down on him. It was a familiar one too; it was the stony-faced Patron of Ash.

Do not attempt that again. Take it slow. Soon, you will be on the Path to becoming Chosen, and then you will find answers. Until them… don’t casually waste a life that belongs to me. Don't you desire to become my vessel?

For some reason, Randidly’s limbs weren’t working correctly, and he collapsed back on his back. The domes of moss around them trembled and began to sag. Desperately Randidly reached for his Skills, but he still felt strangely numb and disconnected from everything. For the first time in a long time, Randidly felt deeply nervous. In those first moments of pain… he had completely lost himself. He was unconscious within a second. If he had stayed in that strange-

Randidly coughed out a fat wad of phlegm and then gasped in several batches of air. Within a few seconds, the numbness began to recede, and there was a strange mental tingling that afflicted Randidly. Still, that was much preferable to the numbness. Finally, he was able to grip his Skills and stop the domes from collapsing.

He leaned his head against the ground and said a silent thank you to the Patron of Ash. Then more notifications forced Randidly’s eyes open.

Congratulations! Due to a successful resonance, a change has appeared amongst the involved Skills! Your understanding of the Skill “Ashes to Ashes” has deepened. Although you do not yet truly understand, the dangers present have become known to you. From this point on, the cost of the Skill is decreased by a small margin. Effect increases with Skill Level. In addition, there is a small chance of an accident while utilizing Ashes to Ashes.

Randidly swore quietly. That… was not a trade worth making. Such a risk was impossible to calculate. But before he could think too deeply on that, the notifications continued.

Your Skill Scarlet Burst has taken on some of the characteristics of Ashes to Ashes! It has evolved into the Skill-

Before that notification could complete, Randidly felt something click into place inside of him. A whooshing noise filled his ears, and abruptly Aether rushed out of him to form something in his core. Normally, Randidly could have easily handled all of these sudden changes and acted accordingly. But at the moment, the strange prickling continued. The numbness hadn’t quite fully departed. Effectively, Randidly was at the mercy of the System at the moment, and he didn’t appreciate it one bit.

Warning, addition resonance has been detected! Synchronicity-

Congratulations! Your Skill Scarlet Burst has been consumed by a newly created Skill. Due to the replacement effect, a Skill slot will not be occupied by the new Skill. Skill Level will be retained.

Congratulations! You have created the Third Kata of the Ashen Spear! You have gained the Skill “When a Shadow Departs, Fireflies Dance”!


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