Cycle of the Gloomy Wood: All of life is in an endless cycle. Although the deepest and darkest woods seem to be completely still, they are simply a part of a great dance that will go on into eternity. When something dies, it will release a small shred of energy. Gathering these shreds will enable the Skill user to regeneration a small percentage of their missing Stamina and Mana. Percentage increases with Skill level. As Skill Level increases, the cooldown between uses decreases.
The Skill was convenient, especially with these Wights dying easily in front of him. But it wasn’t like he needed additional Mana if he was facing a large group of the weaker ones. However, it was possible to avoid a confrontation with a single strong foe long enough to gather Mana up again. The only problem was the cooldown.
With a few steps, Randidly crossed the bottom of the lake and arrived at a Wight that had somehow managed to avoid being crushed in the ice. A cut to the neck later, a pale orb of light floated upward from its body. As soon as it appeared, Randidly felt drawn to the orb. But also, Randidly noticed that it immediately began to dim. It wouldn’t last long, it seemed.
Randidly grabbed it. There was a small benefit to Randidly’s Mana and Stamina, but not significant enough for the energy burst to be useful by itself. Immediately, Randidly checked the surrounding area for another and found it.
When he crossed to this one, he killed the thing just as quickly. Another orb appeared. But Randidly could sense that it would be another five minutes before he could absorb this one. With a bitter expression, Randidly returned to the shores of the lake. Another growth stock. Wonderful.
Still, it meant that his Class was once more solid enough to grow and provide him Skills. For now, that would need to be enough.
As he walked calmly out of the water, the people he had saved jumped. They had gathered some distance from the shore, but when they saw him appear, they hurried over.
“Hero! Thank god you arrived when you did,middle-aged woman said with nervous nods. “Otherwise… we all would have perished. And our section would have gone without water. Is there… is there anything we can do to express our thanks?”
“No need-” Randidly began, but his body had other ideas. With an embarrassing amount of volume, his stomach grumbled. Randidly grinned awkwardly.
True, his stats were so increased that he largely was beyond the normal necessities of life. But he had spent a month in the dark without eating anything. Even if he didn’t desperately need food yet, Randidly’s body wanted it.
“-ah, I see sir is hungry. Well, feel free to return with us to our camp,” The woman said, bobbing her head. “What, ah, may we call sir?”
“...Ghosthound.” Randidly said softly.
Annoyingly, it seemed the path back toward the people’s camp led through a dozen Wight patrols. After the third such group was encountered, Randidly rapidly expanded his Perception by relying on Grasp of the World Seed.
“How can there be so many fucking Wights?” Randidly hissed, shocked in spite of himself. They seemed endless. Like ants, they marched across the countryside. Near their current position they mainly kept to reasonable groups, but beyond that, there was a sea of them. Against that many, even he…
How many Psychic Poisons would it take to knock him unconscious? Even with a stronger will, that many attacks… with Propagator’s supporting them…
“To answer Sir Ghosthound, Hastam is surrounded.” The woman, whose name was Merta, said shortly. Even now, she seemed to constantly walk on eggshells around Randidly. But they had been so constantly harried by Wights that there hadn’t been time for Randidly to find out why. “The Spearman School is under siege. Most of the Wight forces moved from the other Schools to our current location to finish us off, because we are the greatest threat-”
“Damnit,” Randidly growled. Closing his eyes, he unleashed a two thousand or so Mana with Grasp of the World Seed to kill another nearby band. When he opened his eyes, he found Merta looking at him with a horrified look. For a second he began to explain he wasn’t angry at her, but it seemed a pointless pursuit.
Randidly glanced behind him. The twenty survivors of the water gathering expedition, aside from Merta, maintained a distance of about ten meters from him constantly. Sensing his gaze on him. They all hunched their shoulders and stared at the ground. Randidly’s gaze hardened, but he wasn’t sure why this was happening. Still, to be so totally feared… it was not a good feel.
“Let’s keep moving then,” Randidly said lightly.
Like nervous rodents, the group trailed after him. With Randidly striking with Grasp of the World Seed before Wights could even come close, the walking speed of the group rapidly increased. Within three hours, they had arrived at their ‘base’.
Which was, it turned out, a huge camp some distance away from Hastam. When the group approached, Randidly was somewhat surprised to see the place was utter chaos. There were hundreds of clustered leather tents sprawled across a large valley. With his eyesight, Randidly could see some official looking buildings at the far end of the valley, but the group that he had rescued was not heading in that direction.
Eventually, Merta led Randidly to a group of tents that was surrounded by a very basic barricade. Wooden poles had been sharpened and stabbed into the ground. Several muscled and scarred men and women who were lounging by the opening in the barricade perked up when the group approached.
“Merta! You survived!” A tall man said. He had a warm smile as he walked out from the gate toward the group. His skin was light orange and there was a closed eye in the middle of his forehead. “We feared… well, we heard the news about the Wight horde. Did you manage to bring water?
“Yes, I think we would all know what you brought back for the group.”
Everyone turned to look at an ugly looking man that walked out of a large tent erected outside of the barricade. A jagged scar cut off a chunk of his nose and left his mouth lopsided. Even though the expression was grotesque enough to mask some of the emotion, Randidly could tell the man was smiling with ill intent toward the new arrivals.
The tall man flushed. “Darrune. Leave us. This is not your business.”
“Now, now, now,” Darrune said, sidling over. “Aren’t I protecting your section by placing myself here? I’m a deterrent. Have you not all benefited from the meat that I bring? I just ask for a little water for the invaluable service I provide. Perhaps five barrels.”
“Five barrels-!” Merta spluttered, barely able to believe the number. Randidly felt a headache coming on.
“Darrune, without that water, the children-” But the tall man abruptly fell silent. His eyes went wide. The same thing happened to most everyone in the group, including Darrune. They all stared slack-jawed at Randidly.
The only person who didn’t react with shock was Merta. But Randidly could sense her trembling.
All Randidly had done was raise a finger and point. But in that casual gesture, he had focused on the image of overwhelming Sharpness. An edge that could split a hair and the hardest steel just as easily. A spearhead that could pierce through an entire world. A grasping jade claw that would treat metal like paper.
The image slid silently forward, digging a long trench across the ground. There were probably twenty meters of space between Randidly and Darrune. With a wicked glee, that image ripped a deep gash in the ground that extended for nineteen and a half of those meters.
As the image approached, Darrune emitted a choked cry and fell backward. It was only when the image ran out of steam and hissed to a halt that anyone dared move. Everyone's eyes traced the long rip that Randidly had so casually torn in the land. The groove was deep and even. Chillingly so.
In his mind, all Randidly could think about was how many people that sea of Wights had killed. And in the face of that heavy number, he had no patience for these political squabbles. And also no time to indulge them.
When someone finally found the voice to speak, it was only one word.
Frowning, Randidly carefully looked around at the surrounding people. “I don’t have time for this. Merta, bring me to a cooking fire.”
“Ah, yes, Sir Ghosthound,” Merta said, hurrying past Darrune and into the barricade. Darrune just stared blankly at Randidly, until the scarred man realized that Randidly had turned his way. And then he scrambled up and scampered back to his tent.
Sighing, Randidly followed after Merta. Frustrating and worrisome, this night had been. Although the sun hadn’t yet risen, the Eastern sky was beginning to brighten. The entire night had been taken up escorting these people. If he got a good meal it wouldn’t be a total waste, but it still made him somewhat nervous that he didn't’ know what was going on in Hastam. Even the tournament took a backseat to the looming threat of extinction at the hands of the Wights.
Perhaps not more important than that, but there was something else Randidly needed to do while he had a moment. If he let himself get swept up, he would always make excuses to avoid it. And this was a promise that Randidly had made to himself; tonight, he would check in on his Soulskill. Which was exactly what he intended to do. The benefit of such a visit was that the time difference would mean that it would only take him a few minutes to check in on all the people he was curious about.
In that time, Randidly hoped he could get a pulse on the world within him.
After receiving a bowl of thick stew and wolfing it down, Randidly found a quiet tent in which to sit. Then, with a light breath, he slipped into himself, to find out just how much had changed with his Steps of the Godling II Path.