It had been a while since Randidly had dreamed. And he knew it was a dream because he was sitting in his high school principal's office with his mother and the Creature. But even though it was clear to him that this was a dream, Randidly was rather ambivalent about the whole thing. He simply accepted it and looked back and forth between the two of them.
“I wonder if you are alive…” Randidly whispered, looking at his mother. She favored him with one of her beaming smiles that lit up her entire face. At that time, Randidly could see why his mother had become so strange as she aged.
She wasn’t just beautiful, she was transcendent. Impossible. She was a moonbeam weaving through the trees to find a blooming lily. This also just wasn't a facet of the dream; Randidly's mother was truly this striking when she remembered to try.
“Of course I’m alive,” His mother said sweetly, reaching out to touch Randidly.
The Creature spread its fingers on her desk. Scowling, it said, “Mr. Ghosthound’s behavior has been deplorable lately. He has killed hundreds, and on school grounds!”
His mother’s hand brushed against his cheek, and then she leaned forward and took Randidly in a hug. “No matter what he has done, or what he has become… he will always be my baby. Just like I will always be his mom.”
Sighing, Randidly shattered the dreamspace around him with a pulse of will. The images of his mother and the Creature disintegrated into tinier and tinier pieces. After a time, they were naught but dust and settled in the corners of his subconscious where they had previously come from. Randidly could strike and destroy their representations in the dream, but they would always loom large over his subconscious.
Because unfortunately, his mother hadn’t always been there for him.
Randidly opened his eyes. He was laying on the ground, covered in ash. His chest burned but in an oddly pleasant way. No longer did Randidly feel like he was soon going to die. Ash was falling slowly from the sky like a warm snow. When he set off, a layer of ash fell off of his chest and onto his legs.
As he did so, a sharp spike of pain ran through his head and he raised his hand to touch his forehead. Fuck, so he was alive, but this was one hell of a hangover. He could feel chaotic energies still running through his Soulspace, but more worrying was his physical weakness. The constant pain seemed to simply be persistent aches and Aether flowed freely into him, slowly healing the wounds that remained.
Tentatively, Randidly reached out and made a fist. A fist of lava burst out of the ground and gripped an ashen statue, crushing it to powder. The Mana inside of Randidly was sluggish, but it responded. Randidly released a huge sigh he had been holding. At least that confirmed that all of his Skills hadn’t been burnt away.
But even after long seconds of staring at the ground, Spearing Roots did nothing. There was no response.
Very slowly, Randidly leaned back against the ground and watched the ashes swirl down towards him on the ground. He was deathly exhausted. He had a very real worry that this situation would lead to Randidly to being weaker. But despite that, he grinned widely at the sky.
“I survived,” Randidly whispered.
After breathing in and out several more times, Randidly considered the notifications.
Warning! Significant damage has been sustained, please see a Village Spirit for Assistance.
Warning! Your soul had reached the point that it has been permanently scarred.
Warning! If you proceed-
Warning! A foreign energy is-
Recalculating… contemplating absorption… following intent…
Congratulations! Your Skill Ashes to Ashes has gathered some of the power of Ashen Image! Your Skill has evolved to All is Ash (L) Lvl 64. It has become the fourth Kata of the Ashen Spear. Due to the increased rarity and presence in the Kata of the Ashen Spear, the Skillset's rarity has increased to Legendary!
The power of the Ashen Image runs rampant through your body. Images relating to ash grow more powerful!
Your Skill Gravity Affinity has gathered some of the power of the Ashen Image! Your Skill Plant Dominance has gathered some of the power of the Ashen Image! Chosen of FIre has gathered some of the power of the Ashen Image!
Your Skill Plant Dominance ® Lvl 127 has evolved to form Grasp of the World Seed (L) Lvl 199!
Grasp of the Desolate World Seed: Using the influence of the World Seed, you have gained the ability to influence plants. Fidelity over such plants is extremely high, and small amounts of Mana give the empowered plants great strength. Distance does not negatively impact Control during use. Plants controlled in this way can be combusted at will for very little Mana cost. However, after you cease controlling the plants, they will persist for only sixty seconds before being consumed by fire and ash after being exposed to your power. Effects greatly increase with Skill Level.
Your Skill Chosen of Fire ® Lvl 92 has evolved to form Chosen of Ash (A) Lvl 100.
Chosen of Ash: You raise the temperature of your area by simply standing there. As you are a hollowed out thing, status effects have a significant chance of not affecting you. Fire loses most of its ability to harm you. Things you touch are affected by a minuscule amount of ash. Skills that include ash or fire are much more effective. Effects increase with Skill Level.
You Skill Gravity Affinity has warped beyond recognition! Due to the influence of the Ashen Image, Gravity Affinity Lvl 74 has shifted to Influence of the Molten Core (Ru) Lvl 1.
Influence of the Molten Core: Conjure a hyperdense core of molten metal and other trace materials. Size and weight increase with Skill Level and the time taken to summon the core. Once the core is summoned, it may be used as a weapon or as an agent to utilize its special ability. Its ability is Gravity Manipulation ®. The power of Gravity Manipulation increases with Skill Level. Ability to control Molten Core increases with Skill Level.
After all of that, Randidly had four of his Skills shift to more powerful versions. Although it wasn’t as splashy as he was expecting after all of that, Randidly was excited to try out the different Skills and see the effects. He had no doubt that at least when it came to All is Ash, he would be pleasantly surprised by the power.
Randidly sat up again, abruptly frowning. The question then is why he was still here-
Just as he was thinking that there was a strange swirl in the floating ash and a figure appeared: Ulaat.
Wasting no time, Randidly sprung to his feet and winced at the immediate sense of vertigo. It was all Randidly could do to not collapse back to the ground. His hand went to his chest. No matter that the pain had stopped, it seemed that the damage he had done to himself was not insignificant. The System wasn’t lying about the soul-scarring.
“What are you doing here?” Randidly growled, but Ulaat just seemed amused.
“I owe you the third secret. Did you think I would begrudge you this treasure, just because you refused to choose the Path I laid out for you? Take your time and gather yourself. I must speak to you about that Skill you now possess… All is Ash. Hopefully, you can avoid throwing yourself out of existence, as you did in the past.” Then Ulaat seemed to think. “Well, don’t take too long. I am a spirit without a home. I will not last more than a few days. But there is no immediate rush.”
Randidly eyed Ulaat suspiciously but ultimately decided nothing could be done about him right now. Besides, Randidly had taken his animating image and the mantle of a Patron. What more could Ulaat use to hurt him?
And above all, the fucker seemed mightly pleased. That rid Randidly of the rest of his suspicions. Instead, he turned his attention inward. And immediately grimaced.
He had lost a lot of Skills to the Ash. What was strange was that it seemed that Randidly was completely unable to perform some of the tasks relating to them. It truly seemed like those abilities were lost to Randidly. Most of them weren’t super important, but there were a lot of Ashen statues in his Soulspace.
Randidly had lost Manual Labor, Hammer of the Dawn, Healing Palm, Pollen of the Rafflesia, Spearing Roots, Mana Bolt, Summon Pestilence, Body Control: Freeze, Dagger Mastery, Mapmaker, Pierce the Skies, Shatter the Earth, Sweep, Spear Deflect, First Aid, Pathfinding, Cutting Vegetables, Plant Breeding, Vengeful Bloom , Gallant Intervention (Human), Four-Shaded Domain, Phantom’s Lantern, Mana Shield, Arcane Orb, Fireball, Magic Missile, and Wall of Thorns.
Randidly sighed as he looked at his status. It was certainly somewhat slimmed down.
Class: Planting of the Forest of Enmity (+x5)
Level: 35 (???%)
Health(/R per hour): 3522/3773 [+730] (2314 [+165])
Mana(/R per hour): 4109/4126 (884 [+9])
Stam(/R per min): 3211/3276 [+60] (704 [+45])
Vit: 490 (+15)
End: 163 (+20)
Str: 437 (+52)
Agi: 494 (+24)
Perception: 424 (+20)
Reaction: 412 (+15)
Resistance: 398 (+45)
Willpower: 470 (+10)
Wisdom: 374 (+9)
Focus: 302 (+4)
Progenitor’s Influence: 27911
Skills (Soul Skill): Seven Lands of the Spectral Tree Lvl 2228
Combat: Spear Mastery Lvl 190, White Phantom’s Half-Step (Un) Lvl 86, Heavy Blow Lvl 105, Iron Skin Lvl 47, Dodge Lvl 102, Fighting Proficiency Lvl 144, Block Lvl 75, Phantom Onslaught Lvl 42, Calculated Blow Lvl 97, Roundhouse Kick Lvl 74, Idiosyncratic Cut (Un) Lvl 109, Stalemate Breaker Lvl 41, Talon Strike Lvl 44, Counter Lvl 68
PoFE Class Skills: Grasp of the World Seed (L) Lvl 199, Spray Holy Sap (Un) Lvl 25, Sharpness Lvl 85, Call Grove Defenders ® Lvl 34, Earthquake (Un) Lvl 47, Invigorating Call (Humanity)(Un) Lvl 14, Grasp of Lava ® Lvl 95, Erode Image (L) Lvl 10, Spriggit’s Tinkering ® Lvl 75, Aether Understanding (A) Lvl 56, Summon Lava Golem (Un) Lvl 46, Aether Infusion Lvl 45, Volatile Ash (A) Lvl 29, Visualization ® Lvl 74, Fruit of the Planting of Enmity (L) Lvl 2, Absolute Timing (Ru) Lvl 11
The 7 Kata of the Ashen Spear (Ru): The Spear Advances, Ash Trails Lvl 92, As the Sun Stills (A) Lvl 64, When a Shadow Departs, Fireflies Dance (Un) Lvl 46, All is Ash (L) Lvl 64
The 6 Signs of the Spear Phantom ®: The First Sign- The Inevitable Phantom Arrives Lvl 106 (Un), The Fifth Sign- The Wild Phantom’s Embrace (A) Lvl 187, The Sixth Sign- The Breath of the Spear Phantom ® Lvl 68
Aether Skills: Aether Detection Lvl 110, Aether Manipulation Lvl 105, Living Aether ® Lvl 108, System Interference Lvl 22
Spells: Yggdrasil Soul Seed ®, Inspiration ®, Incinerating Bolt Lvl 100, Circle of Flame Lvl 76, Plantomancy Lvl 35, Burning Footsteps Lvl 23, Touch from Beyond ® Lvl 37, Influence of the Molten Core ® Lvl 74, Incendiary Eruption Lvl 65
Crafting: Potion Making Lvl 73, Farming Lvl 34, Analyze Lvl 29, Refine Lvl 72, Extract Lvl 58, Mana Engraving Lvl 140
Yggdrasil, the Tree of Upheaval: Glittering Leaves of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 122, The Golden Roots of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 145, the Emerald Sap of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 143, the Yyrwood Flesh of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 153, the Deific Mien of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 140, the Cruel Indignation of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 133, Crown of Yggdrasil: Silence and Upheaval Lvl 76
Auxiliary: Sneak Lvl 56, Acid Resistance Lvl 22, Poison Resistance Lvl 21, Pain Resistance Lvl 79, Fire Resistance Lvl 102, Sewing Lvl 11, Digging Lvl 5, Cooking Lvl 77, 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 45, Chosen of Ash (A) Lvl 100, Engineering Savvy ® Lvl 83
With serious eyes, Randidly looked up from his status screen and considered Ulaat. The ghost, formed of Ash, smiled at him.
“So, are you prepared, boy?”