Randidly breathed in, and then breathed out. He was already dreading tomorrow, not for the part where he would beat the squads as much as he could, urging them towards strength. In fact, that part would likely be slightly cathartic. It would give outlet for the burning aggression that had been lit earlier during the fighting, and still burning quite hot. After all, he had not been pleased to come back to the village to find that Lyra was… well, whatever it was that had happened to her. Punishing the village in a small way seemed like a forgivable outlet.
Truly, he had obtained a taste for violence.
No, it was for the words he would have to say after that. Randidly still didn’t want to be involved in any of the daily activity of Donnyton, but he did want to spur them on towards growth. To that end he had created the schedules with Daniel and Regina, given the new potion methods to Mrs. Hamilton, and used his remaining two blessings.
The choices were relatively easy. He needed people who would protect and strengthen Donnyton, individuals who were active, and people without classes. That Regina wouldn’t obtain a blessing was unfortunate, but the power that Randidly felt from both Annie’s and Mrs. Hamilton’s classes seemed very promising. Best of all, the 4 blessings had been used on different types of individuals, so their classes had different uses.
Alana for strength and power. Sam for support and crafting. Mrs. Hamilton for managing things behind the scenes. Annie for threat elimination.
But Randidly knew that these actions were only a small part of what he needed to do for the village. So after crushing the squad’s concept of strength, Randidly would then speak to them, hopefully in a motivating manner. This was what he was dreading the most.
The sun peaked over the horizon, and Randidly raised his hand to shade his eyes. It had been a long night. But it looked like it was finally over.
It would probably take the group from Franksburg another day or two to arrive, slowed as they were by the large number of people traveling with them, and the necessity of sticking to the roads on their journey. After they arrived, Randidly wanted to speak with Alana and Raina, and then he believed he would take his leave of Donnyton for a while, finding a deserted area to train in.
At least, he thought he would do so, depending on what happened with Lyra….
They had placed her dead body in a bed, and put her goop on the bedside table. But they were complete unsure what to expect from her. No one could tell when she would… recover, but there had been no changes in the goop over the last several hours.
Sighing, Randidly rubbed the bridge of his nose, a spark of irritation flashing across. This was exactly why he wanted someone else to be in charge….
‘Only one thing at a time.’ Randidly reminded himself, taking a deep breath. Then he examined a particularly notification that he had received earlier in the night.
Congratulations! You have fully absorbed the blessing from the Patron of Ash. The Soul-Skill “Blessing of the Patron of Ash Lvl 1” is available to you. You may either retain your current and forget this new soul skill, retain the new and forget the old, or attempt to combine the two. All previously obtained benefits will be retained.
Warning, if the two Soul-skills are combined, an inferior skill may be obtained, based upon compatibility. This action cannot be undone.
There was no real choice here. Always forward, holding tightly to the spear as best he could. Randidly chose to combine the skills.
Soul-skills combining…. Warning, compatibility is at 41%. Do you still wish to proceed?
That spark of irritation had erupted, filling Randidly with hot flames of rage. His grin wide, Randidly clicked yes, daring the system to try and screw him over. He felt the two Soul Skills, almost could see them, the warm power of the blessing from Ash, the cool rot and deadly accuracy of Spear of Rot Mastery.
They began to circle each other in his chest, coming closer. As they approached, slowly spinning around each other, Randidly heart began to beat more quickly, a strange excitement filling his body. And within him, another beating emerged, a pulsing of that strange icy-hot energy. As they neared, the heat of the the blessing burned away the spore-y remnants of the rot, and the rot settled neatly into the area left cleansed by the heat.
Faster and faster they swirled, and as they neared each other, the energies turned increasingly unstable, rushing towards an explosive collision.
Instinctively, Randidly sensed that this couldn’t happen.
So he pressed, using all his will to keep them apart. The approach stabilized somewhat, but the two Soul Skills rotated faster and faster, perversely creating greater and greater pressure for them to meet.
Gritting his teeth, Randidly refused. Not like this.
Randidly’s eyes burned emerald in the dark.
This would not end in an inferior product….!
Randidly was very aware of how much of his strength he owed to his Soul Skill. It had given him several unique skills, and gave him extra benefits from leveling skills. With it, he had risen farther and faster than even a Classer hoped to match.
And that would only grow more pronounced if he succeeded here, Randidly knew. Although Randidly didn’t know how to accomplish what he wanted, he knew that the system responded to want and need. And every ounce of him craved this. Every inch of him needed that strength, so he could live, so he could protect the people who relied on him. So he could find the people from his past and lay to rest any lingering ghosts. The pulsing in his chest grew more insistent.
If you crave something, take it.
For a brief second, Randidly’s green eyes flickered, and then burned a sickly violet. A cold, numbing kernel, simultaneously the concentrated core of heat from his rage, flowed out of him, moving to settle between the two swirling energies. It gathered itself into a small ball, creating an oppressive pressure of its own, its energies pressing outward and counteracting the strange gravity that was drawing the two soul skills together.
They orbit stabilized, slowing slightly, but still swirling around each other in an endless cycle: Rot, followed by a cleansing fire, followed by creeping rot.
Panting, Randidly fell to his knees.
Congratulations! You have obtained the Soul Skill “Cycle of Rot and Ash Lvl 1”. All previous benefits have been retained.
There were no skills or other bonuses associated with this Soul Skill, apparently, which made Randidly hesitate. But in the end, he would soon find out whether he succeeded or failed, so for now, he simply shrugged. Then he looked at his skill level notifications.
Spear Mastery had increased by 2, Phantom Thrust and Spear Phantom’s Footwork by 3, Eyes of the Spear Phantom and Phantom Half-Step by 1, Heavy Blow by 1, Dodge by 2, Fighting Proficiency by 3, Block by 1, Haste by 3, Sweep and Empower by 2, Calculated Blow by 1, Edge of Decay by 3, Ghastly Slash by 5, Pierce the Skies, Shatter the Earth and The Spear Advances, Ash Trails by 1 each, Agony by 3, Physical Fitness by 1, Pain Resistance by 3, Grace by 3, and Bacterial Regeneration by 2.
All together, including leftover from previously, exactly 50 PP. Randidly chuckled to himself. Not enough to finish off the Phantom Thrust path, but more than enough to see the usefulness of this Soul Skill.
Randidly put the first 5 PP into Phantom Thrust path, earning him +1 Agility from the path. He obtained nothing from The Soul Skill. Frowning, Randidly put 5 more PP into it, earning +1 Strength. But this time, Randidly also received a bonus from the Soul-Skill, Cycle of Rot and Ash: +15 health and +2 Vit.
Randidly made a pleased noise. It took 10 instead of 5, but the benefits were still decent. Randidly dumped the rest of his PP into the Path, seeing what he obtained. The remaining 40 earned him +4 Agi and +4 strength, but also results from the Soul Skill that made his eyes widen.
Each took 10, but each was slightly different, but each giving powerful gains. Randidly wasn’t sure if the rotation continued, but even this much was quite a bit. First was the health and Vit, and then came +3 Control and +2 distributable stats. Then third was +15 Stamina and +1 Agi and Strength, then +3 Focus and +2 distributable. Finally, the fifth rotation was +15 mana and +1 to all types of regeneration.
The distributable stats Randidly put into Resistance, and then he looked at his status.
Health(/R per hour): 556/548 [+8] (234 [+12])
Mana(/R per hour): 12/874 (91.75)
Stam(/R per min): 601/678 (85 [+4])
Vit: 70 [+4]
Str: 60 [+12]
Agi: 79 [+12]
Equipment: Average Leather Tunic Lvl 5: (+2 Vit), Gloves of Quickness (Vit +1. Agi +3), Necklace of the Shadow Cat Lvl 20 ®: (Vitality +1, Strength +2, Agility +7)
Skills (Soul Skill): Cycle of Rot and Ash Lvl 51
Combat: Spear Mastery Lvl 56, Phantom Thrust Lvl 53, Spear Phantom’s Footwork Lvl 44, Eyes of the Spear Phantom Lvl 28, Phantom Half-Step Lvl 18, Heavy Blow Lvl 30, Dagger Mastery Lvl 10, Iron Skin Lvl 27, Dodge Lvl 38, Fighting Proficiency Lvl 43, Block Lvl 33, Haste Lvl 30, Phantom Onslaught Lvl 15, Sweep Lvl 34, Spear Deflect Lvl 10, Empower Lvl 32, Calculated Blow Lvl 21, Roundhouse Kick Lvl 21, Edge of Decay Lvl 23, Ghastly Slash Lvl 7, Pierce the Skies, Shatter the Earth Lvl 3
The 7 Kata of the Ashen Spear: The Spear Advances, Ash Trails Lvl 2
Spells: Spearing Roots Lvl 13, Mana Bolt Lvl 28, Mana Shield Lvl 24, Root Manipulation Lvl 28, Arcane Orb Lvl 22, Fireball Lvl 30, Magic Missile Lvl 4, Healing Palm Lvl 9, Pollen of the Rafflesia Lvl 15, Summon Pestilence.Lvl 17, Mana Strengthening Lvl 14, Wall of Thorns Lvl 7, Soul Seed Lvl ®, Agony Lvl 27, Inspiration ®, Incinerating Bolt Lvl 5, Circle of Flame Lvl 7
Crafting: Potion Making Lvl 30, Farming Lvl 20, Plant Breeding Lvl 9, Mapmaker Lvl 7, Analyze Lvl 24, Refine Lvl 12
Auxiliary: Physical Fitness Lvl 36, Meditation Lvl 35, Running: Lvl 23, Sprinting Lvl 19, Sneak Lvl 23, Acid Resistance Lvl 22, Poison Resistance Lvl 16, Pain Resistance Lvl 20, First Aid Lvl 13, Equip Lvl 25, Pathfinding Lvl 18, Mental Strength Lvl 15, Curse Resistance Lvl 3, Fire Resistance Lvl 14, Sewing Lvl 11, Cutting Vegetables Lvl 2, Manual Labor Lvl 3, Digging Lvl 5, Cooking Lvl 16, Grace Lvl 14, Extract Lvl 1, Bacterial Regeneration Lvl 3, Superiority Lvl 2
His skill list was truly expansive, as he began picking up more and more passive skills that gave him small bonuses. Most promising for the future were the Superiority and Bacterial Regeneration skills, which would probably give him an edge in battle that no one else would have. In addition, Randidly wasn’t sure how, but he believed that he would be able to expand his “Skill Set”. He recalled that the notification had stated he was only the second person on earth to create a skill set, so there were others out there who were strong. But it was the only Runic rarity item currently made, which gave him some confidence moving forward.
But this wasn’t enough. It wasn’t nearly enough.
After resting for a short time, Randidly stood slowly. Mana began to once more flow through his body, enabling him to use spells, which was a welcome feeling. He caught movement out of the corner of his eye, and turned, seeing a graceful young woman wearing a sundress, looking at him with violet eyes.
“...Did you age yourself?” Randidly asked, torn between confusion, weariness, and amused exasperation.
The young woman stuck her tongue out at him, and her dirty blonde hair, which currently fell in a cascade down her lower back, shrank upwards, to her shoulders. Her wide cheekbones narrowed somewhat, sharpening, looking younger. Her body turned from slender to skinny, regressing to that of a teenage girl.
Lyra shrugged, seeming sheepish. “I don’t know, I thought I looked pretty good.”
“You did.” Randidly said softly, meaning it.
They stared at each other for a long second. To his surprise, Randidly found himself breaking the silence. “...You make me feel… strange. Positive, but strange. But we really don’t know anything about each other. And now…. Are you even you?”
Lyra snorted. “Tell me then, oh wise Randidly. With all those skills and stats, and those… energies inside of you, ...are you still YOU?”
Randidly stilled, and then thought about it. Then he shrugged helpless. “...I suppose it doesn’t matter. But you are probably… right…”
“Obviously. So I want to say this” Lyra hesitated, giving him a sidelong glance. “If you… think I’m beautiful, and enjoy being around me…. Don’t be weird and overthink it. Just let it happen, okay?”
Grinning, Randidly shook his head. Just don’t over think it, huh…? This was no longer a world where you could survive without thinking carefully. There was too much they didn’t know, too quickly was the world becoming strange and foreign around them...
They stood in what Randidly thought was a companionable silence for several minutes, watching the sun rise over Donnyton, people rising to go about their chores. Although they had weathered one storm, more would come. That was the price you paid in this world.
But then Lyra stamped her foot. “Really? You have nothing to say?”
Randidly blinked. “Uh,”
But Lyra was already ranting, pointing her finger towards him. “I can’t even get a compliment on my looks?!?! Did you know what sort of day I had yesterday? I tracked down the Tribulation! I broke its defenses! I sacrificed my human life! I even interrupted it, right when the tribulation was going to devour Nul, absorbing them both, becoming a complete VIllage Spirit! And you have nothing to say.”
Randidly scratched his head. “Well I didn’t really know all that…”
She gave him a withering look. “Did you think the problems just solved themselves when you came back to the village? I don’t know why I bother with you.”
Lyra stomped away.
Randidly hid his grin, knowing that it was only partially true anger. She was only doing it to make him relax. And it had worked. Randidly breathed deeply, readying himself for the day, his gaze sharpening. There really were somethings that didn’t need to be thought about too deeply, he supposed.
Although it was a hassle, Randidly would start the villagers on the path of strength. They needed it, or else they would soon die, devoured by what was coming from the Nexus.
Lyra’s existence was… strange.
She had obtained Nul’s access to the Village Spirit controls, but she had also gotten Kimmy’s ability to shift her form. She had some very amusing ideas of how to abuse this skill, but something more pressing was holding her current attention.
After she had cheered Randidly up, and gone looking for Daniel, so the village could spend the significant SP they had gained by defeating the Tribulation and her Raid Bosses. But she received a strange notification that was not a notification. Sorting through the memories of the rules inherited from Nul, she realized it was a missive from… the powers that be, that arranged for Village Spirits.
Dear Sir or Madam,
Two individuals, Nul and Kim-Lath, have filed formal complaints against you for usurping control of the VIllage in which they had vested interests. This situation falls outside of the purview of the normal Code, so the matter has been submitted to Conduit review for final judgement.
Your presence is required at the hearing. Please prepare to testify as to the truth, and to swear on the very Aether that gives you life.
The hearing will be in 24 hours. Please make preparations for your affairs to be handled during your brief absence.
Octavius Shrike, Overseer of the 7th Cohort to the Nexus
Lyra wanted to vomit. What a hassle. Not only was she forced to interact with Daniel out of necessity to spend the SP, but she had to attend a hearing tomorrow…?
….Couldn’t she send a representative…..?
Then she hesitated, calculating.
No… that wouldn’t do… what if they were providing a meal? Alien food sounded pretty good right now.