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A note from puddles4263

 15/21

After another sixteen hours alternating between working on his Engraving and training his other Skills, Randidly finally had a Skill worthy of scaling up.

Phantom’s Finisher Lvl 41 (Skill Level limited by Item Level): Strike out with a vicious blow that partially ignores the target’s defenses. User develops a slight sense of when an opponent is off balance, and that the sharp move will be most powerful. The strike is explosively powerful but consumes a large amount of Stamina. Amount of defense ignored increases with Skill Level. Power increases with Skill Level. Speed slightly increases with Skill Level.

Randidly bared his teeth. Perfect. All that was next is to scale the engraving up and cover his entire arm with it. And in the process… engrave the control runes across the arm so that the two engraving work in tandem.

For ten minutes Randidly simply breathed and considered the problem before him. Especially for extended periods of concentration, sometimes the preparation was just as important as the act.

Then he nodded sharply to himself and exerted a bit of Mana to extend tall interlocking walls of roots up over as hut. It was already night so Randidly didn’t feel like it was very noticeable to completely surround his dwelling with a dome of powerful roots. Then Randidly casually engraved a few runes for strength into the dwelling.

This was not the sort of thing that Randidly would like to be pulled out of for anything but a dire emergency.

Without the dim starlight, it was pitch dark within Randidly’s small forge. But that just made Randidly smile fondly. Although it was almost like a nostalgic blast from his time in the underground prison, there were so many ways that he had taken definite steps forward that would ensure that would never happen to him again.

Perhaps for that reason, Randidly felt extremely comfortable in the darkness. Especially as he imagined a new form for himself.

Randidly began by clearing a wide area and then setting out the assembled metal pieces of his arm one at a time. He took care to place them and mark that physical spot in his mind so he would not forget how they were laid out. As he did so, he began the arduous process of mentally connecting those individual pieces to where they would be laid out on the arm.

Slowly, Randidly developed a mental picture of what the arm would look like.

Breathe in, breath out.

Then Randidly began to imagine the lines of engraving skittering across the arm, tracing the lines of power and meaning that would cement it as a powerful tool. There were stops and starts as Randidly encountered problems he didn’t expect and slowly accounted for them, but the mental inventory process turned out to be much shorter than the physical preparations.

Finally, Randidly settled on the style he wanted to go for to add both the Aether controls and the Phantom’s Finisher Skill he wanted to the arm. Randidly’s eyes cracked open as torches of Ignition of the Emerald Essence illuminated the space.

Emerald within, emerald without. And in that world, he would create.

Carefully, Randidly studied all the physical pieces and made sure they matched his mental image exactly. Piece by piece he pored of them, rubbing his hands against the glossy metal to understand the feel of them. He raised them and measured their weight. Then, with great care, he laid them back down on the ground.

He continued until he had touched every single piece of the arm. And although it was just a touch, it gave Randidly a sense of what each one was for the arm he was making.

Then, with a nod, Randidly picked up the first piece and began to Engrave.

It was funny to Randidly that he had once had extreme difficulty with even the simplest runes. Mostly that was due to his smaller Mana pool and lack of Control, and both of those two factors experienced an insane amount of growth since Randidly had started engraving. As it was, Randidly calmly moved through each of the strokes of Mana, shaping how the equipment would be able to interact with the world without pause.

The first piece was extremely simple. It was much more difficult to set down the first piece and smoothly begin to Engrave the second piece. The jump from material to material was… difficult. Even with a powerful Intelligence, Randidly paused before each piece and wracked his brain to consider all the ways these different lines would touch and interact with each other.

It wasn’t as dangerous as the growing Skill Engraving, but it would still be a colossal waste of resources if this didn’t work out.

Well, not colossal, Randidly corrected mentally. Probably only about a day’s worth of work, all told. And the second time will be much easier than the first. Which is probably the only reason why I didn’t make a prototype out of a weaker metal…

Which, at the moment, Randidly dearly wished he would have. Yet another part of Randidly was amused at that suggestion. It was far too late to back out now. He could only pick up the next piece of metal and begin the engraving.

In the dimly lit dome of roots, Randidly’s focus became the vicious edge of a razor. He carefully scraped through every challenge, checking all the edges for consistency. His mind was constantly at full alert, considering the complex interactions of the two engraving patterns and the numerous pieces sliding against each other.

Time moved quickly past.

Honestly, Randidly was having fun.

He worked tirelessly in the emerald light, engraving piece after piece. Very quickly he entered something of a trance. Instead of watching with his eyes, Randidly’s hands traced the metal hoops to understand their shape. With his senses, Randidly created the looping strokes of Mana Engraving upon the equipment.

His eyes simply looked to the far wall, unfocused. In his mind, he was picturing the floating phantom of his mother, the cold distance, the flesh stripped away to reveal the stark white of her bones beneath. The spooky and distorted noises that haunted his nights as a child.

His heart slowed the speed of its beats. Still, Randidly’s gaze remained fixed in the middle distance, his eyes unfocused.

The skeleton wrapped in shadow was a small figure. One that wasn’t going to intimidate another physically. Instead, its strength stemmed from the fact that it was unavoidable. Inescapable. All things would eventually arrive before the skeleton. It was a phantom of judgment. Of time and of death. It was a wild and fickle creature by human understanding. Its schedule erratic and its arrival unpredictable. It took and took and offered no solace to those that remained.

But all Paths would lead to its Inevitable Arrival.

Randidly released a breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding. His hands were trembling. Immediately, his gaze snapped back into focus.

Even though his Mana pool was fine… his Willpower was growing strained and blunt. That came as quite the shock. Did I really tire out so quickly…?

Releasing a surprised laugh, Randidly paused after finishing the most recent metal disk and took some time to simply watch the unpredictable shapes that emerged from the fire. It wasn’t ideal, but it was enough. Because Randidly’s Ignition of the Emerald Essence was special. It was the light which accompanied the genesis of humanity.

Fully fifteen minutes later, Randidly blinked. Then shook his head. Alright, back to work.

With a refreshed psyche, Randidly continued to draw the lines of engraving across the hoops. His fingers moved with methodical precision. By this point, he knew his strokes by heart.

A frame for control. Followed by the thin and violent lines of the phantom; this was the step that drained the most of Randidly’s mental energy. Then there were the functional runes of control, within the frame and flanking the phantom rune. Followed by a detailed rune for Mana to Aether conversion that tied the whole thing together.

Piece by piece. Time after time.

And then Randidly started, looking around to find that the ground was covered in bits of metal that glowed with the power of an engraving. Grinning, Randidly conjured some vines to pull the disparate pieces together. Starting with the largest, the pieces of thinly wrought metal were brought together and threaded through each other.

With the assistance of plants, the process was over very quickly. It was bulky, perhaps twice as thick as Randidly’s normal arm, but it was complete with working elbow and fingers.

Watching with an expression of wonder, Randidly stretched out his right arm and touched the engravings. They instantly flared to live, a spider web of glowing blue lines that crisscrossed the silvery metal.

Like a jellyfish's drifting tentacles, Randidly carefully alighted upon the metal arm mentally. The fingers twitched and then flexed. The elbow bent inward slowly, like a door blown open by the wind. The forearm twitched.

As a smile grew on his face, Randidly moved the arm more actively. It twisted back and forth, gripping the nearby roots that held it aloft. Then Randidly pressed harder, forcing the hands to squeeze. With a crack, the metal had ripped through the root and dropped splinters as the supportless arm crashed to the ground.

Randidly chuckled. Good. This is the sort of force I’ll need.

Randidly produced the leather binding given to him by Sam and put it on. Then he raised the metal arm to the shoulder and twisted through the groove. Then he put down the clasp, locking it into place.

Although it wasn’t intuitive… Randidly raised his newly created left arm, looking at its Status.

The Left Arm of the Baleful Wood’s Lord (L) Lvl 75: A powerful mechanical arm that is controlled with intricate runes. Although the item was designed to compensate for a weakness, there is an air about the weapon that indicates this will quickly become the Lord’s Strength. Possesses the overwhelming ferocity of the Wild Phantom within its material. Strength and Reaction +25. Stamina +100. Touch of the Baleful Wood V. Runic Elegance II. Wild Phantom’s Raucous Finale (L) Lvl 74.

Touch of the Baleful Wood V: Made with the blood and sweat of the Lord of the Baleful Wood. All Class Skills will cost 25% less when used through this arm.

Runic Elegance II: The engraving upon this equipment was done by one who is quickly approaching the abilities of a master. As such, the effectiveness of all engraving is moderately improved. Activating the effects of the Engravings will require moderately less energy.

Wild Phantom’s Raucous Finale (L) Lvl 74: A powerful strike that calls to mind the cackling laughter of the Wild Phantom. Possesses such force and power that the cost is significantly increased and the user sustains some small amount of damage to his/her muscles in the limbs used to move. Will ignore a significant portion of the target’s defense. Amount of defense ignored increases with Skill Level. Power increases with Skill Level. Speed increases with Skill Level.

Randidly raised his two hands and clapped them together. The metal felt warm to his real hand, almost like his old left arm was back. After twisting his hand to and fro, Randidly reached out and dropped the veil of roots that surrounded his hut.

To his shock, it was already midday. The sun was high overhead. Birds chirped pleasantly to each other, gossiping about these strange plants that appear and disappear overnight.

But Randidly was done. His arm was back. Once more he could use his spear Skills to practice.

In addition…

Randidly’s expression became thunderous. It might be a bit early, but his Riders hadn’t returned. It was time to go find out why. His metal hand clenched into a tight fist.

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