Randidly didn’t want to Level, so as often as he could manage it he executed the monkeys with Acri. But the method that Randidly had decided upon to work off his tension was to thoroughly test the limits of his combat Skills.
For the past year or so, Randidly had basically possessed and used all the Skills that were now his tried and true methods to attack his enemies. Between his spear, the roots, and the different manifestations of the Ignition of the Emerald Essence fire, Randidly had so far used a different Skill based on the type of attack pattern he wanted to use.
Which was useful, but it gave him little to no guidance when there was no ideal attacking method. After all, Randidly was unable to answer what his most powerful attacks were. He assumed it was his new Grim Chimera Skills, but he had never really taken the time to fight against the same enemy with all of his Skills to determine which were the most effective.
So as more and more monkeys rushed toward him, Randidly approached the whole issue very scientifically.
Ignition Bolt didn’t do much direct damage, but its greatest strength lay in its fast speed and ability to pierce through most common varieties of armor. The monkeys, poison frogs, and giant snails that Randidly found on his casual tour of the Dungeon were all transformed into honeycombs by the sharp bolts. In addition, Ignition Bolt had the added benefit of aiding Randidly’s accuracy at a long range, likely due to bonuses he acquired from his Skill Level.
There was a small amount of assistance in the form of prescient instincts that Randidly didn’t experience with any other of his long-range Skills.
Meanwhile, Verdant Nova contained a much higher concentration of explosive power, if less direct killing potential. When Randidly was right next to a snail, the explosion from Verdant Nova was enough to hammer the hard outer shell to pieces. The remnants of its body were then blown away in a concussive sweep of the nearby area.
Usually, monsters survived, but it did appear that the explosion was so sudden and powerful that most were left stunned by the experience. Monkeys were sometimes so mangled by the force that they went limp.
In terms of heat, no other Skill held a candle to Eruption of the Blazing Leyline. Plus, this Skill possessed the advantage of lasting the longest. Randidly accidentally roasted two monkeys alive before he realized that a direct attack from this Skill would kill the Level 65 Monkeys in a single attempt.
Unfortunately, this Skill also seemed to grow only slightly in the area of effect as the Skill Level increased, but much more rapidly in temperature of the flames. As such, it would never really grow to be something that was useful against a group of enemies. But those with a large body could be easily inflicted with extreme amounts of pain.
The final of the Skills in this area, Reach of the Jade Slag, was ultimately the one that impressed Randidly the most. It simply did a lot of things very well. First of all, the attack itself was quick. As soon as Randidly’s will stretched outward, the stone underneath the ground would gather up and erupt.
Second, the molten jade claw that erupted out of the ground was hot enough to provide quite a bit of damage just by pressing against the skin of high-Level monsters. Third, the claws had grown much longer since he had Leveled the Skill and were able to slash out and rip off the limbs of several nearby monkeys.
Plus, even after the initial attack finished, the molten jade remained. Randidly left quite a few monkeys miserably waiting to be finished off by Acri simply by allowing the molten jade to collapse cool around their bodies in a rough sort of bondage.
In comparison to his flame-based Skills, Cruel Indignation of Yggdrasil possessed a fraction of their killing potential. However, it more than made up for this in the amount of area that it could affect. Plus, prolonged exposure greatly increased the mental strain of the victims without changing Randidly’s costs at all. It scaled extremely well with multiple targets over a long period of time.
Randidly cracked his knuckles. Dozens of enthusiastic monkeys obligingly surged out of the nearby jungle, swinging through the air and flinging their bodies toward him. Next, he would test the Skill that had become the core of what he was.
Infinite Fingers of Yggdrasil was not Randidly’s most used Skill for no reason; it generally only wounded the enemy, but it could wound as many enemies as Randidly wished. With his extremely profound new understanding of Control, it was child’s play to turn a stretch of woods the size of the Erickson Steel headquarters into a graveyard.
Diligently, Randidly gathered up the corpses of the monkeys who attacked him. If nothing else, he would later melt away the remaining flesh with Eruption of the Blazing Leyline and collect the monkey’s more valuable bones.
Still, Randidly perhaps underestimated the killing power that resulted from several roots stabbing upward through a body at once. There were a rather panicked few minutes after Randidly cut the attacking monkeys to pieces where he was sprinting across the jungle to finish off the monkeys before they bled out. Luckily, he ultimately didn’t gain another Level.
Spear Skills were the hardest to judge against these rather unimaginative monkeys. Even with a training spear, Randidly was able to cut them apart with ease. It was clear that the Descent of the Grim Chimera pushed his killing abilities to a ridiculous degree, but Randidly still carefully proceeded through all but the last of his Skills.
By the end of it, Randidly was wearing a satisfied smile. Without a doubt, his spear Skills were extremely powerful.
Of all his Skills, Randidly spent the most time trying to understand Sigil of an Approaching Fate.
As he had predicted, the Sigil did a significant amount of damage if left upon the body of a monster. These monkeys were relatively hardy, but ten minutes of bearing the weight of the Sigil had them crawling on the ground and moaning piteously. The flesh in the area around the sigil began to spasm. The veins became starkly visible as the blood appeared to be necrotizing and turning the surrounding vessels black.
It was not, it seemed, a painless way of dying.
But still, the Mana cost was very high. Hopefully, after some Leveling, it would become a more reasonable amount of expenditure.
On the other hand… I should just be happy that I have enough Mana to fuel it, Randidly thought rather bitterly. If anyone else had obtained that Skill, god only knew how long it would take for them to grind it up to a reasonable Level.
As it was, he reached Skill Level 15 by simply applying the Sigil and allowing the monkey in question to flee from him in fear. Slowly, Randidly could feel the specificity of his sense of direction was slowly growing. Even at Level 15, he hadn’t earned another Sigil. But Randidly figured it was only a matter of time before he could maintain two at once.
But again… the Mana cost… Randidly winced. Two at once would be a serious drain…
With most of Randidly’s frustrations from his damaged Class satisfied, he returned to his new base. And once he was there, he briefly brushed his knuckles against the monolith and then returned to the strange stone circle that pointed East. For almost twenty minutes, he simply stared at it and carefully probed the surface with Aether.
“If it really was a message… it wants me to head up to the Plateau…?” Randidly wondered aloud. He had also heard that sometimes Dungeons involved keys or puzzles. So perhaps the arrow was somehow related to that. If this really was like the low-Level Dungeon Randidly had been in previously, the boss would wait within the black lagoon at the heart of the plateau.
But these mounds hadn’t been present in the previous Dungeon. And Randidly and Shal hadn’t ever had a time where they couldn’t find the final boss of the Dungeon. Although the area that the high-Level Dungeon covered was almost ten times that of the original Dungeon, why had these arrows been added?
Perhaps the true reason that Randidly was leery was that the engraving at the core of these mounds was so amateurish. Rather than the System… it seemed like an intelligent being that lived within the Dungeon had made the arrow.
Somehow, the idea that there was a being within this place that was able to Engraving reminded Randidly of the Creature’s attempt to live within Earth’s Raid Dungeon. It seemed strangely sinister to him.
“There will be time to investigate it later I suppose,” Randidly said. With an effort of will, he moved some of the debris from the domes back into place. Although it was much more damaged than any of the other mounds were, a casual inspection would be fooled into thinking that everything was well with the mound. It was only if someone was familiar with the mounds themselves that it would be possible to notice the fact that something was amiss.
Rubbing the back of his neck, Randidly couldn’t help but shake his head. But perhaps I’m being unnecessarily cautious. This interaction with that being really reminded me why I need to be so careful here. And why I need to improve.
And with that, all of Randidly’s focused to a point. The air around him rippled and warped for several seconds, like the surface of a pond after a stone is dropped into it. Then the World Tree appeared, tall and resplendent. Its emerald leaves rustled softly like it was laughing in amusement.
“I know, I know…” Randidly said softly. He closed his eyes and let that timeless image soak into his body. Slowly, that hint started to appear in the luminous bark of the tree. “I can’t be thankful for the image here and also suspicious of the strange arrow at the core. I’ll take this gift gladly.”
There was a rumbling sound as the roots of the World Tree sunk into the ground. Randidly, still with his eyes closed, couldn’t help but grin a tiny bit. There was a strange sense of release as Randidly let go of the focus on his body, and simply became a mote of light floating through the endless cycle of energy absorption that fueled the natural world.
Sunlight, moisture, oxygen, energy… all in an endless cycle, all being processed through Randidly and his image on a scale that was somewhat mind-boggling. Huge rivers of all of the inputs and outputs spiraled beneath the observation of light-mote Randidly.
For now, he was content to watch. The rumbling continued to grow.
Slowly but surely, the roots of Yggdrasil spread out farther and farther as he fueled the image with his whole being. Slowly but surely, the image was growing.