Randidly looked out from the cleanly split building, his face grim.
He was standing in a room he hadn’t been in for almost 8 months, but was still intimately familiar. Or at least, he was standing in the first 6 inches of it.
Randidly grimaced. This was Sydney’s dorm room. The place that both Ace and Sydney had likely been, curled up in bed, watching a movie like they did every Friday night until he got out of class.
He had gone to Tessa’s place instead of his usual ritual of proceeding directly to Sydney’s room, so it was probably just starting to get late, and they had probably been starting to wonder where he was. Or honestly, perhaps they hadn’t even noticed the extra 45 minutes slip by, absorbed in whatever it was that they were watching on the TV.
Either way, it didn’t matter. Everything after that 6 inches was empty space. Most of the room had been teleported elsewhere, at whatever location the other portion of Rawlands University had ended up.
Rubbing the bridge of his nose, Randidly stepped forward and off into the void, dropping the 7 stories to the ground. He hit the ground with a crash, staggering a little, but quickly straightened and walked away, back towards the high school he had found nearby. While he was scoping out the high school, he had seen the familiar sign for the dorm, and a flash of hope rose in his heart.
Not that they would be there, still in the building, obviously. But that it would be enough proof that they were here, hiding away somewhere.
Randidly shouldn’t feel as disappointed as he did, and chided himself for it. But…
He closed his eyes. And what would he even say, if he would see them now? Sydney’s ultimatum still weighed on his heart. It was why that last week, before the system arrived had been one of the most stressful in his life, culminating with him breaking up with Tessa. He had made a decision, perhaps a spur of the moment one, but still a decision during his night class. But now it had been so long that he had lost the thread of it with the passage of time.
If he saw her now… if he saw Ace now…
Releasing a long held breath, Randidly smiled. It was relieving, in a way. Now he knew for sure that they weren’t here, in Franksburg. He had time.
And in that time, Randidly swore himself he would grow strong, strong enough to face them both.
Then he opened his eyes and walked into the high school, heading directly towards the chemistry lab. For now, strength. Growth. Progress. It was better to focus on the present.
There were three main reasons that Randidly had decided to spend the day today like this. The first was that it seemed like jobs would be scarce, with the huge Freedom Fighter operation. Second, he was no longer sure that he could easily find enough variety in jobs to be worth spending another day earning PP at one. And finally, it could be said that the real reason that everything happened was due to his Potion Making.
He had brewed that potion that had dispelled the strange curse the shaman’s had placed on Shal, which had started everything.
But since then, he had left Potion Making by the wayside. Sure, he continually made better and better potions, earning him several levels, but the real growth in his skill had occurred while trying out new recipes.
His attempts in the past few weeks to find recipes had all ended in failure, but he was beginning to suspect that it was due to his preconceptions getting in the way. Randidly had originally assumed that all potions were variants of the two base materials, Red and Blue Energy Shards, but his brief stint as a chef got him to thinking.
In a way, what the system did was simplify the inputs in life, and quantify the outputs. That is, of course, in addition to breaking most physical limits and laws, but that was secondary. It made everything work in a system.
What had thrown him off, Randidly reflected as he began to set out beakers, was the origin banana. The profound effect of the juice from that plant had made him believe that the two colors were the important factors. But it seemed that simply wasn’t true; the Origin Banana was a rare exception, rather than the rule.
As such, in order to progress past this level of Potion Making, he needed to identify the other base units of the potion system. Once he had those….
But he set those thoughts aside for now. He already had some theories about what they would be, but he wanted to try a few things first.
Kiersty looked on, bemused, as the strange Thorn creature crawled all over Arbor, wrapping his thorny vines around it. She could feel Arbor’s annoyance and helplessness through their bond, as it was forced to put up with its elder brother’s teasing.
Finally satisfied, Thorn climbed down and wriggled over towards Kiersty. She wanted to stumble backwards, but knew this was necessary from Arbor’s whispers. So gritting her teeth, she allowed Thorn to come close, and with surprising delicacy, prick her with a single thorn. It absorbed her blood cleanly, the creature shivering slightly.
Then, as per the instructions from Arbor, she raised her hands over Thorn and used her new skill, Blessing.
She instantly gained two skill levels.
Small motes of gold flew off her fingers and landed on Thorn. It seemed immensely excited about this, and dug into the ground and hurried off in the distance, seeking the ample prey that was wandering around recently.
Feeling abruptly tired, Kiersty sat down.
Nathan, who had been standing off to the side and watching the whole interaction, walked forward, offering his sister a cup of water. She drank thankfully.
“We should go,” Nathan said, glancing over his shoulder. “If mom finds us here…”
“I know,” Kiersty said meekly, standing up and hurrying back.Their mom didn’t like them hanging out with Arbor. Thought it was a “creepy tree”.
She didn’t understand. Kiersty’s eyes glittered. None of them did, really. Not even Nathan.
Randidly looked down at the 4 small crystals in front of him, his expression satisfied. It had taken him most of the day, but he had finally isolated 4 base units. There might be more, but for now, he had found these to use in experiments.
A red and a blue crystal, and then a green and a purple one. The end result had him earning 3 Lvls in Refine, which was an added bonus.
The green one had been the one he was most confident about. He had previously made several basic poison potions as weapons that could be thrown at masses of enemies. As his skills with spells had grown, this method had swiftly been outclassed, but that didn’t mean that poison wasn’t still powerful, in the right situations.
It had taken dozens of the strange mushroom that grew wildly in the area, but he had slowly boiled them down and refined them, extracting the poisonous energy from them and condensing it into a crystal form.
It was, Randidly reflected, probably enough poison to even threaten him, condensed in the sparkling green crystal. Still, it was almost useless in that form.
The 2nd new crystal, the purple crystal, had been the one that had taken him most of the day. In the end, it had been a strange, passing comments that Randidly remembered Sam making that was the clue.
Sam had been talking about the difficulty about harvesting parts from monsters.
“The trouble is,” Sam had said, his face fixed in his perpetual frown, “That the bodies degrade pretty quickly. A bone or pelt you get an hour after they die is half as strong and tough as one from 5 minutes after it passes. The effect gets worse the more superficial wounds it has, the more blood it’s lost. It’s like most of the mana sits in the blood, and slowly dissipates after it dies.”
So Randidly had captured ants and crushed their bodies to a pulp, gathering the juice. Then he had boiled away the pus, until just the blood remained. And he refined, and refined, and refined.
He was forced to go out 5 times for more blood, the final time slaughtering his way through a warren full of the ants in order to gather enough bodies. He had even earned a level in Incinerating Bolt and 2 levels in Agony. Still, stubbornly, a thick, molasses-y substance his only prize. But then he remembered the rest of Sam’s explanation.
“The trick we discovered,” Sam said, scratching his head, “Is to wipe a little of your own blood on it. It’s like it's a signal to the system that you want the body. That’s the reason that we got the sphinx in such pristine condition, even after so long; you had bled all over it.”
Could it really be that simple…? Randidly had wondered. He created a Spearing Roots from the ground and allowed it to draw a line across his skin. The blood gathered and then dropped onto the molasses of partially refined blood.
With a sizzle, the outer layer of molasses crusted over, and then disintegrated, turning into rancid smelling ash. But there, at the bottom, lay a small, purple crystal.
Staring at the crystals now, Randidly couldn’t wait to start experimenting with potions, But he looked up and saw the setting sun and grimaced.
In terms of efficacy, it looked like the two crystals he had made were only of the basic level. Which meant that refining more of either of them would be a much more comprehensive effort than gathering Blue or Red energy shards. But right now...
He had promised to return to the business owner and do some more work as a cook for him tonight. And he had also wanted to check in on Tessa, but time just seemed to be against him today.
Ruefully he placed the crystals into his inventory and walked out, heading back towards the city. The cooking was enjoyable enough, and the PP attractive enough, that Randidly was willing to put the potion making off for now. It could be done anytime, now that he had the ingredients, after all. Besides, even if Sydney and Ace weren’t here, it was worth it to monitor Franksburg. Raina’s powers were more than enough reason to keep an eye out.