Randidly shook his head sorrowfully when looking at the rewards from the Fiery Sharpshooter Path. Basically, everything but the stats had been completely devoured by the Ignition of the Emerald Essence series of Skills. Although it wasn’t quite a Skillset, it was certainly a powerful tool that Randidly had relied on to get to this point.
But I suppose it’s worth spending some time to figure out if it can become a Skillset, Randidly thought as he rubbed his chin. With these absorptions… the power should increase a small amount?
Immediately, Randidly conjured the Emerald Essence and looked deeply at it for almost ten seconds. But after casually summoning a fistful of emerald flame, Randidly was unable to see any real difference. As before, the fire burned. In terms of damage it dealt… it would be difficult to figure any shift out without an opponent on which to test the flames.
The rewards from the Mana Lich Path were marginally less disappointing because he did obtain a Skill and several passive boosts relating to Mana based Skills. But the Skill was a defensive one that only had a passive element. It would add something to Randidly’s repertoire, but it wasn’t very important now.
Plus, with how quickly Randidly could blow through his own Mana… Well, his initial Mana pool was likely extremely high compared to his contemporaries, so perhaps he was underestimating its effect. But the reward was just somewhat of a letdown after the reward given by the Mana Ghoul Path. Even if Randidly immediately could clearly see the lines of Mana than ran through his limbs.
Indeed, perhaps what Randidly noticed most of all from his time manipulating Ignition of the Emerald Essence was his immediate ability to see the branching lines of Mana that fed into the flame itself. Randidly wondered whether he would have just a transparent a view on the genesis of a Skill in other individuals.
Of the three, Randidly supposed that the Experimenter II Path rewards were the most valuable. The already interesting Creator’s Luck was transformed into a two Rarity higher Creator’s Knack. Randidly never struggled to obtain Skills with high Rarities, but he understood that a portion of his power was due to the high Rarity of his bread and butter Skills.
Or rather, considering the fact that many of these Skills were self-created, the System had given his Skills a high Rarity precisely because they were so powerful. As long as he maintained a certain level of poignancy and drive, his Skills would receive extremely high Rarity grades.
So it was with a bit of expectation that Randidly opened up his list of available Paths and took another look at what he had available to him. Immediately, Randidly smiled at the new option available to him.
Friend to Humanity 0/100, Mantle of the Patron 0/500, Aether Convergence II ???, Perfect Soul Bond 0/1000, the Bell of Doom Tolls 0/600, Growth of Yggdrasil III 0/2000, The Ashes of Ulaat, Patron of Ash 0/1000, Order Ducis: Font of Guidance ???, Humanity’s Torch 0/500, Bearing of a Teacher ???, Puppet Master 0/100, Pain Immunity I 0/250, Physique of the Grim Chimera 0/1000, Chimera’s Grudge I ???, Cleaver of the World Tree ???, Weakness of the World Tree 0/500, Experimenter III 0/500
The question was whether Randidly wanted to use a further 500 PP in order to finish the next Experimenter Path and upgrade the Creator’s Skill even further. Likely, the next batch of training he participated in would benefit from this Skill immensely; after all, Randidly planned on spending quite of bit of that time working on his metal making and Mana Engraving.
Both of these tasks would be boosted by the Skill. Plus, Randidly had some plans to push the state-of-the-art for metallurgy a few steps forward. Randidly didn’t have any sort of special knowledge about metal, but he was confident that his ability to test and combine things wouldn’t be casually rivaled by anyone at this point in time.
But Randidly currently only had 2859 PP to fulfill a half dozen of his desires. Of that amount, Randidly’s intention was to save 1500 of it to throw into the Growth of Yggdrasil when he unlocked it. Which left 1359 PP. If he took away 500 for the next experimenter Path, the remainder was less than 1000. Which was the amount that Randidly was primarily concerned with at the moment.
Because he had assumed there would be a middle step between his next Path and Growth of Yggdrasil III.
Ashes of Ulaat, Perfect Soul Bond, and Physique of the Grim Chimera all required 1000 PP.
It wouldn’t be such a big deal if I saved a small amount less than 1500 for the Growth of Yggdrasil… Randidly reflected. Since the total Path was only 2000, he would be capable of getting through that amount of PP in a few months. Considering that the was about to face the final Judgement that loomed over the Path of a Heretic, he would likely gather a huge chunk of that PP very quickly over the course of that fight.
As long as the Judgement isn’t a pushover.
So, the question then became: was having the improved Creator Skill worth slowly down finishing the Growth of Yggdrasil Path? Although Randidly found it an incredibly close question, the ultimate answer in his heart was yes.
The Yggdrasil image is what drives my personal Strength, but Lyra is right about one thing… Randidly thought bitterly. I can’t help the Earth with my images any longer. But if the metal that Erickson Steel produces is of sufficiently high quality, Sam’s people can make weapons more than capable of making up for missing out on my images.
So Randidly threw 500 PP in the Experimenter III Path, gaining 2 Perception every 25 PP spent.
Congratulations! You have completed the Experimenter III Path! Your desire to uncover the secrets of the world leads you ever higher in pursuit of knowledge. As you climb the steep slope in front of you, your view is severely limited. But there exists a certainty in your heart that the summit will lead you to something far beyond your limited understanding. For with a view comes perspective, and from perspective comes the power to determine your destiny. Focus and Willpower +50. The Skill Creator’s Knack ® Lvl 1 has evolved into Creator’s Aptitude (A) Lvl 1. All prior effects are slightly improved. There is now an almost nonexistent chance to channel the spirit of the origin of a crafting material while combining, for an exceedingly impressive result.
The amount of Stats he gained while completing the Path was slightly less than Randidly had hoped, but he received the evolution of the Skill he wanted plus 100 Stats as a bonus. For now, that was more than enough compensation for the 500 PP he spent on the Path.
Of course, Randidly could only shake his head wryly when he saw the Experimenter IV Path sitting in his Path screen, costing 1250 PP. He had the PP, but he knew that this was all the investment he was willing to make in the mysterious Creator series Skill that he hadn’t had the chance to test yet. Besides, the next price tag was a little rich for his blood. Maybe the next time I obtain a huge amount of PP from my Soulskill I’ll be able to be even less discerning with the ways I spend my PP.
Then his focus shifted to the next decision: between Ashes of Ulaat, Perfect Soul Bond, and Physique of the Grim Chimera which was the best Path to improve his current power? If the Experimenter Path was an investment in the future, these three Paths were all culminations of moves he made in the past. All three seemed likely to give him various advantages moving forward.
Perfect Soulbond would improve his synchronicity with Neveah, which definitely would not lead a bad result. Ulaat’s ashes would likely put him through a trial that would familiarize Randidly with Ulaat’s strength and images. The Ashes of Aemont had been instrumental in obtaining Breath of the Spear Phantom. And Physique of the Grim Chimera seemed like another way that Randidly could give himself increased physical prowess, and use him Grim Chimera images more fully.
Randidly looked down at his hand with a frown. Especially after that final move I used against Paolo and Kayle, it seems like there is something fishy hidden within the makeup of this image. Maybe I put it there, but if it was a portion of an older image that I used to form the Grim Chimera… I cannot be too careful.
But it’s unclear whether working on the physique lowers that danger or exacerbates it.
All three also had obvious downsides: improving the bond with Neveah might mean that more Skills would be subverted like his Riders had been, immediately going to her aid if she needed it. Ashes of Ulaat probably would involve some sort of trail that he would pass, which would consume a portion of Randidly’s valuable time. Meanwhile, the Physique of the Grim Chimera would only benefit his physical fitness and his one image, when Randidly planned to use this time to mainly work on the Yggdrasil Skillset.
Ultimately, the sound of someone approaching pulled Randidly’s attention upward before he could make a decision. LIke a ghost, Helen landed in the clearing and gave Randidly a speculative look. “Do you have any more of those fruits?”
The corner of Randidly’s mouth quirked upward. “No, but I can make more. Do you want one?”
Shrugging as if she hadn’t been the one to bring it up, Helen casually walked closer to Randidly. “They were clearly a rare treasure. It seemed… somewhat out of place for you to give them to Donnyton, now. After what happened...”
Some part of Randidly shared that same sentiment. But at the same time, Randidly mirrored Helen’s shrug without elaborating the nuances of giving those fruits away. In fact, the fruits weren’t difficult to produce, just time-consuming. He made another three earlier today, as he considered the Path situation. But he also included some aged fruits, in order to give Mrs. Hamilton some perspective on what they could become.
Plus, the gift of the fruit was an insurance policy that Randidly was taking out now to lower the risk that Donnyton would become aligned with Lyra’s goal after he distanced himself. If he never had to cash it, fine. Randidly didn’t mind allowing Donnyton to benefit. But it was better to prepare for the worst.
If they eventually turned against him, the fruits would become a weakness he could exploit.
“So now what?” Helen asked.
So now what? Randidly thought as he looked at his available Paths.
What is within, without. What is without, within.
“Now, I think we set other things aside and head over to Erickson Steel,” Randidly said to both himself and Helen. “Someone’s been trying to pry the formula for the metal out of them, and they’ve become increasingly aggressive about their methods. It seems that the protection of the Ghosthould doesn’t mean much in the business world.”
Helen snorted. “Ha, how quickly after the news gets out about the challenge will they show up to apologize? The cocks might even beat us over there to settle accounts.”
Randidly looked around the clearing. Everything looked as unnaturally pristine and untouched as when he had arrived. Even though fall was arriving, this clearing appeared to be in full, vibrant bloom. “You’d be surprised what greed makes people do. Besides, great deeds overheard from some distance lose their sting.”
“That’s why most Styles stayed away from business pursuits on Tellus,” Helen said dismissively. “Inevitably, they bit off more than they can chew with the endeavor. And they would often forget that a rich man is just as killed by a spear as a poor man.”
Randidly’s smile in response to that sentence was feral. Hopefully, this is an issue that can be eradicated as easily as a life.
Evan Crane tapped his cigarette against the ashtray and released a smoky breath. Although the cloud cruised slowly forward to impact the other man’s face, Evan made no attempt to shift the direction of his exhalation. The act of dominance brought him more than a small amount of pleasure. “So?”
His subordinate was sweating, but the man stubbornly continued to repeat his prior point. Apparently, the direct blast of smoke hadn’t conveyed the message Evan hoped it would. “Some of our partners are nervous. They say that Randidly Ghosthound fought against fifty people-”
“And it ended in a draw,” Evan took another long drag on his cigarette. The shaft of nicotine was reduced in size at a pace visible to the naked eye. Only after three seconds of strong inhaling did Evan release another smog-like breath toward the sweating man. “Do you know what a draw means in politics? It means the result was fudged.”
“But still, it was fifty people-” The subordinate began, but Evan silenced him as with three sharp gestures against the ashtray.
Tap, tap, tap.
“A wonderful PR stunt,” Evan shook his head in admiration. “That the almost mythic hero that founded Donnyton was able to appear, immediately prior to the talks about the world capital I might add, challenge Donnyton’s strongest Squads to a fight, and then end up drawing against them? Against fifty people?”
Evan inhaled for several seconds. Then he exhaled.
Tap, tap, tap.
“With these actions, the Ghosthound proves how powerful he was by fighting fifty people to a draw. Donnyton demonstrates its power by having substantially the same strength as the man who is generally agreed to be the most powerful person on Earth.” Evan spat a fat wad of phlegm onto the tiled floor of his office in front of the subordinate.
The phlegm was entirely transparent and clear, like spilled filtered water. Evan smiled in satisfaction. No matter how often I see this, I still can’t believe how well the System works… I’m smoking almost three packs a day and my body is still as strong a horse.
Evan looked up, his pleased expression disappearing immediately. “Why are you still here?”
When the subordinate spoke, it was in a tone close to a whine. “The partners just think that it would be prudent to decrease our activities in the short term. At least until Randidly Ghosthound can be located and evaluated.”
“Then we disagree.” Evan leaned back in his chair. Abruptly, he wished that he had thought to obtain some cigars before now. It would paint a much clearer picture to those second-guessing him. “And guess what? I’m currently in charge because I’m funding this project. And ultimately…”
Evan’s hands spread out and felt the thick weight of the wooden desk at which he sat. “...money makes the world go round. Now get to work.”