By the end of it, Randidly was mentally exhausted and leaned back against the ground. They were still waiting for Silo, who was now slowly recovering some distance away from them after using the corrupted Aether source.
Laughing, Skarch stood. “I look forward to the meals, Mr. Ghosthound. Something tells me that Silo will return soon, so recover quickly before he gets the wrong idea…”
Randidly considered Skarch as she walked away, both due to her words and her images. Indeed, her powerful consistency was impressive. But Randidly had gained four Levels of Visualization during the game, and one in As the Sun Stills. More than that, however, he was learning to utilize his images more effectively.
He wasted too much time imaging the process by which his image came to be. It was important, obviously, but it had little to no bearing on the power of the final image. It simply gave him a consistent start to his image. That, and the images Randidly created were grand things. That added to their power, but the lack of detail outside of the process meant his images were fragile.
It was the same reason that Azriel’s relatively weaker images could break his when she struck correctly. The only difference was that Skarch was an anvil to Azriel’s needle.
Speaking of Azriel, she walked over to join Randidly after Skarch had left. “I disagree, you know.”
“What?” Randidly said, sitting upwards. It seemed that some of Azriel’s snappishness from earlier had persisted, because her lips were twisted into a frown.
“What she was saying earlier,” Azriel explained, “About what was more important, lack of weakness or great strength. I disagree. I have spent my days flawlessly, almost my entire life. And it has never been enough. My value, my accomplishments… they did nothing to sway the leaders of the Northern Domain. My Master… my master remains an outcast, based upon its previous form.
“To have escaped from the grasp of the System and seized its own Class… and to be unanimously oppressed in the North. It is a tragedy.” Then Azriel paused. She gave Randidly a bit of a glare. But he could sense the distaste was not aimed towards him. “Perhaps you don’t recall, but my position in the North was not very good. Obtaining the Skill Crystal Memory in my Style, which was declining in strength… the other Styles were out for blood when it happened.
“To avoid disaster… my family auctioned me off.” Azriel’s gaze grew distant. “Not my virginity or hand in marriage, but my status as a disciple. I would follow whatever Style paid the most for it. Imagine my horror when an unknown entity from the deep North purchased me. I did not feel fear, obviously, but I felt a vast disappointment; I would never know greatness. I was lucky enough to be wrong.”
Sighing, Azriel looked down at her hands. “I owe everything to my Master. I asked it once what I could do to repay it. Do you know what it replied…? ‘Being able to stroll through a city would be nice.’ Such a small thing that I had never considered. Such a thing that every Pontiff and Master in the North would beggar themselves to prevent.”
Randidly coughed awkwardly. “What… what is the form of your master?”
“It is not so simple,” Azriel said, shaking her head. “Truly, my Master’s form resembles a monster’s. But it is not only that. The fact that my Master’s spearmanship… comes from another place is the problem. A natural, wilder impulse than was used by the Spearman.”
“Ah,” And now Skarch walked back over, her gaze on Azriel. And it seemed that within her vision was something like… pity? “This makes more sense. You follow an aberrant, one that does not seek the Mastery of the Spearman. Especially in the Spearman School, such a thing… but even in my own Spear School…”
The group fell silent. Randidly looked between Azriel and Skarch, who were both thinking about the situation. It seemed like there was a powerful prejudice against non-Spearman things then. Randidly was opening his mouth to ask a question when Silo cut his way back into the moss bulge.
“All of you, cease your resting- ah, you are already up.” Silo struck a gallantish pose as he smashed into the building, splashing them all with rain water that continued to pour down. Randidly grimaced. He had just gotten dry, too…
“I have good news!” Silo announced with a flourish of his spear. “While patrolling, I discovered the sight of a nearby battle. It seems that a force other than us attacked Wights the next island over. I suspect that this is the handiwork of Sergeant Platton, or one of his subordinates. We have done well gathering energy into our Soulstones, but the fastest way to points is to gain the approval of our Sergeant; the tactical points they can give us might double our effectiveness in the contest. There are still three weeks remaining, so I believe now is the time to up our game.”
The other three exchanged glances and shrugged. After all, they didn’t have much choice but to move farther into the chain of islands. They had basically cleared Wights completely out of the smaller islands on the edges. The larger islands they had avoided, much to Randidly’s annoyance. It seemed clear they could crush these, but even he was hesitant at the thought of comeuppance by the powerful Wights.
Still, Randidly was of the opinion that they could escape quickly and strike often for a short time in relative safety, so they should take advantage of the high value targets. Meanwhile, Silo and Skarch, mostly by default, thought looking for the Sergeant was the best course of action.
Randidly bared his teeth. “Then what are we waiting for?”
Silo gave him a hurt look. “I don’t mean to hold you back... But I’ve been patrolling while you three have been laying here. Before we continue… a small nap is necessary.”
So while Silo napped, Randidly, Azriel, and Skarch played more games with images. When it wasn’t Randidly’s turns to face someone, he did his best to refine his image for his general Spear Mastery Skill. The obvious method would be to copy Skarch’s image by focusing on a spear and working from that. But Randidly chuckled as he stroked Acri. He probably couldn’t do his creation justice. Intense details weren’t his strength.
He leaned more towards flavor. Besides, he needed to involve his disparate styles of fighting, as well as Sulfur. Specifically, Randidly supposed he needed to capture the Kata of the Ashen Spear, the Spear Phantom Style, and the Yggdrasil Skills all at once.
The images he came up with… were messy to say the least.
But he did at least succeed in increasing the durability of his images. Unfortunately, Randidly couldn’t help but notice that as they practiced, Azriel drew more and more Aether from him. She was improving noticeably in real time. When they dueled, for every bit that Randidly’s images grew more durable, her images grew sharper and more powerful.
All the while, her eyes were mild and her mouth was pressed into a thin line. Randidly wondered what sort of person her Master was. It was clear that it had changed her life in an irrevocable way, and Azriel deeply desired the ability to pay that back.
Abruptly, Randidly realized that he understood Azriel very well in a way. Didn’t he come to this world to fight for Shal because the man had saved his life and gave him a spear with which to defend himself? Without that interference…
What would Randidly have done in that Dungeon? Even if he could eventually escape, starting in there for so long would have meant he had very high Skills. The Level of Skills he would have needed to beat a Level 30 or so Dungeon would have meant he devoured Aether. Would the reward from beating the Dungeon have sustained him in the aftermath, or would he have collapsed before fighting against the Sphinx and obtaining an Aether Spring?
Randidly shook his head. It was strange to think about. But it was indeed true he owed Shal much. Immediately, Randidly had an impulse to send Shal a message, but he refrained. Mostly, it was because Shal must know he was back here and had chosen not to contact him… what did that mean?
Did Randidly’s actions with Lucretia earn Shal’s ire? And Lucretia, what was she up to…?
Randidly sighed. There was so much he didn’t know… and currently he was learning very little about the state of the world. Hopefully that would change, but for now, it was slow going. But then his eyes sharpened. Still… his power was growing, and that was extremely useful. He considered his Status.
Class: Planting of the Forest of Enmity (+x5)
Level: 29 (72%)
Health(/R per hour): 3522/3451 [+730] (1717 [+165])
Mana(/R per hour): 4109/4022 (855 [+9])
Stam(/R per min): 3211/3176 [+60] (564 [+45])
Vit: 376 (+15)
End: 159 (+20)
Str: 402 (+52)
Agi: 479 (+24)
Perception: 397 (+20)
Reaction: 412 (+15)
Resistance: 292 (+45)
Willpower: 470 (+10)
Wisdom: 374 (+9)
Focus: 298 (+4)
Progenitor’s Influence: 12961
Skills (Soul Skill): Seven Lands of the Spectral Tree Lvl 2099
Combat: Spear Mastery Lvl 185, White Phantom’s Half-Step (Un) Lvl 82, Heavy Blow Lvl 99, Dagger Mastery Lvl 10, Iron Skin Lvl 47, Dodge Lvl 99, Fighting Proficiency Lvl 142, Block Lvl 75, Phantom Onslaught Lvl 42, Sweep Lvl 54, Spear Deflect Lvl 10, Calculated Blow Lvl 96, Roundhouse Kick Lvl 74, Idiosyncratic Cut (Un) Lvl 107, Pierce the Skies, Shatter the Earth Lvl 60, Body Control: Freeze Lvl 37, Stalemate Breaker Lvl 39, Talon Strike Lvl 44, Counter Lvl 67
PoFE Class Skills: Plant Dominance ® Lvl 121, Spray Holy Sap (Un) Lvl 21, Sharpness Lvl 83, Call Grove Defenders ® Lvl 34, Earthquake (Un) Lvl 44, Invigorating Call (Humanity)(Un) Lvl 14, Four-Shaded Domain (A) Lvl 29, Phantom’s Lantern (Un) Lvl 35, Grasp of Lava ® Lvl 80, Erode Image (L) Lvl 7, Vengeful Bloom (Un) Lvl 20, Gallant Intervention (Human) Lvl 4, Spriggit’s Tinkering ® Lvl 75, Aether Understanding (A) Lvl 51, Summon Lava Golem (Un) Lvl 46, Aether Infusion Lvl 45, Volatile Ash (A) Lvl 12, Visualization ® Lvl 35
The 7 Kata of the Ashen Spear (Ru): The Spear Advances, Ash Trails Lvl 89, As the Sun Stills (A) Lvl 61, When a Shadow Departs, Fireflies Dance (Un) Lvl 32
The 6 Signs of the Spear Phantom ®: The First Sign- The Inevitable Phantom Arrives Lvl 104 (Un), The Fifth Sign- The Wild Phantom’s Embrace (A) Lvl 184, The Sixth Sign- The Breath of the Spear Phantom ® Lvl 65
Aether Skills: Aether Detection Lvl 106, Aether Manipulation Lvl 101, Living Aether ® Lvl 106, System Interference Lvl 12
Spells: Spearing Roots Lvl 99, Mana Bolt Lvl 28, Mana Shield Lvl 32, Arcane Orb Lvl 22, Fireball Lvl 30, Magic Missile Lvl 4, Healing Palm Lvl 12, Pollen of the Rafflesia Lvl 20, Summon Pestilence Lvl 55, Wall of Thorns Lvl 29, Yggdrasil Soul Seed ®, Inspiration ®, Incinerating Bolt Lvl 95, Circle of Flame Lvl 76, Plantomancy Lvl 35, Hammer of the Dawn Lvl 37, Burning Footsteps Lvl 23, Ashes to Ashes (A) Lvl 64, Touch from Beyond ® Lvl 32, Gravity Affinity Lvl 71, Incendiary Eruption Lvl 52
Crafting: Potion Making Lvl 73, Farming Lvl 34, Plant Breeding Lvl 19, Mapmaker Lvl 7, Analyze Lvl 29, Refine Lvl 72, Extract Lvl 58, Mana Engraving Lvl 130
Yggdrasil: Glittering Leaves of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 109, The Golden Roots of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 130, the Emerald Sap of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 130, the Yyrwood Flesh of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 134, the Deific Mien of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 128, the Cruel Indignation of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 119, Crown of Yggdrasil: Silence and Upheaval Lvl 40
Auxiliary: Sneak Lvl 46, Acid Resistance Lvl 22, Poison Resistance Lvl 21, Pain Resistance Lvl 69, First Aid Lvl 16, Pathfinding Lvl 18, Fire Resistance Lvl 102, Sewing Lvl 11, Cutting Vegetables Lvl 2, Manual Labor Lvl 6, Digging Lvl 5, Cooking Lvl 75, Clockwork Mastery Lvl 25, Aether Connection (A) Lvl 15, Soul Bond Lvl 105, Chef’s Palette Lvl 33, Nether Resistance Lvl 20, Child of the Rain (Un) Lvl 32, Chosen of Fire ® Lvl 86, Engineering Savvy ® Lvl 78,