Randidly hadn’t used this move in quite some time, purposefully, so as to take advantage of the notification free period to refine his image for this move. Even now, he could feel the icy hot violet Aether flowing through him, making a strange symbol, the symbol that was the skill that he had created.
And as he thought, and believed, it changed slightly, evolving, shifting. It was hard to tell whether this change had been a good one, but it had been one he had been working on for several weeks.
During that time, Randidly had thrust his spear countless times. It was a heavy repetition, not to increase the quality of the thrust, but so that his body knew intimately the motions required in a thrust. A thrust was to advance, to attack, to proceed. T thrust was to walk forward into battle. It was a simple motion, but it was the bread and butter of a spear, using its strength, its speed, and its monstrous reach.
To thrust was the first reaction of a spear. To advance was the only option, in some cases.
As he stood there in that room in the bottom of the boat, his bare feet on the planks underneath him, the soft swaying of the waves making the entire structure rock, Randidly focused on this, searching inside of him for the perfect feeling of advancing. That perfect thrust, that he slowly grew closer to the longer he practiced.
After he had finally settled on that feeling, he did not stop there. His move was one that required more than just a spear, there was also the propulsion of fire that threw him forward. Breathing slowly, Randidly ran through everything he had learned, practicing flexing his mana, reaching for that feeling, attempting to imbue it into that symbol of Aether inside of him. Insidious, addicting, cold, and deadly, that energy pulsed, burning his insides.
But there was one more thing he needed for this image, and it was a rather recent addition. It was a phrase that Shal had just said to him, earlier in the day, that had stuck like a burr in his mind, nagging at him.
“It is like you forgot that the true weapon you have is the spear. You try to do the work yourself, but you are just a man with a spear. The spear knows its business…”
The spear knew its business, huh…
As he raised the spear in his hands, Randidly relaxed his grip, using just his fingertips to hold the spear. Then he slid his hands into position, learned over the long practice with the root avatars. Then he steadied his grip, and opened his eyes.
In his mind, he merged all of these concepts into one hold, combining all those feelings he hung onto into the move, the Aether in his chest roiling and burning.
“The Spear Advances, Ash Trails.”
Stance, grip, mana flex, explosion.
Randidly felt the board beneath his starting position crack and splinter as he launched himself forward, his whole body a blur, Eyes of the Spear Phantom working as effectively as he could manage as the whole scene blurred.
The speed he had gained was too much. Randidly in the past had struggled with remaining calm as he screeched forward, but this time, he relaxed. After all, the spear knew its business.
By the time all of these thoughts had flickered across his mind, he had arrived at the woman and her spear blurred, the blunt end rising to meet him. As the spear curved towards him, Randidly had a crazy idea.
He activated Phantom Half-Step, teleporting himself backwards a small amount. His momentum continued though, and he ripped forward, through the air, his move creating only a brief moment’s delay
It was only a fraction of a second, but the woman noticed it, that strange, unnatural movement. Her eyes widened. Her spear blurred even faster.
Randidly sat up, wincing. His head was killing him. As he looked around, it took a few seconds for his vision to stop spinning, and for the people around him to settle back into normal motion. The bearded man was talking animatedly with his employees. The two women were in quiet discussion with Shal in the corner.
When they saw he had awoken, they all turned to coolly regard him.
Randidly had to suppress a grin. This certainly was a lot different than the reception that he would have received in a similar situation back in Donnyton. He hated people who fawned over him and were overawed by his presence. Much better to deal with people like Shal, who was practically glaring at him.
Shal, in fact, was the one who spoke first. “You cheated.” He said simply, and Randidly flushed. In the heat of the battle, he had forgotten that he was just testing the power of his created Skill Set. He had been too lost in the move, and reacted naturally when the instinct to use the skill had struck him.
“Be that as it may, in terms of power, that move was almost enough to overwhelm my counter, even before he… adjusted his position.” The woman said coolly.
Shal crossed his arms. “This was unnecessary. A mid tier color will suffice.”
“And it is dishonorable. He should wear badges of his strength with pride. Shouldn’t you, the son of a Spear Adept, know that better than anyone else?”
Shal remained silent, and the woman walked slowly over to Randidly. “Follow me, I shall take you to our back room. You may pick any color but Indigo or Violet for your Tassle. It is the proof of your accomplishment. It will draw attention to you… but it will also bring to you the respect you have earned.”
“Disciples from small Styles who receive such attention inevitably die.” Shal snorted, but he followed them as they headed up back into the Tassle shop.
Randidly was led deeper, past the yellows, the oranges, the reds, then the maroons and light blues, into an area where there were pinks, lilacs, blues, and seafoam greens. For several minutes, he slowly walked among the colors, helplessly looking around. Honestly, he had no idea what he was looking for. But they were both looking at him with such expectations, it was hard to just pick something-
Then he saw it.
Folded neatly in the corner, on the bottom shelf, covered in dust, was a green. A dark green. Randidly walked over and picked it up. The fabric was rich and smooth, and as Randidly unfolded the Tassle, he realized that it glittered emerald in the sun. It was rich and vibrant, silky and fluid in his hands.
“Is this… acceptable…?” Randidly asked uncertainly. The woman smiled, and brought him a brush.
“Now bring it to the table and write your name.”
They spread the emerald Tassle on the table and Randidly looked at the brush in his hand with shock. This was…!
Just like the Engraving Needle, he could feel his mana tremble as he held it, almost as if they were ready to flow down along the brush and into the Tassle. There was no ink, but Randidly knew that if he set the brush to the Tassle…
More than that though, he felt EVERYTHING tremble. His health seemed prepared to slide out of him and onto the fabric, and his stamina too. Even a thin thread of Aether seemed to be flowing downwards to his fingers.
Somewhat lost in the feeling, Randidly lowered the brush to the fabric and smoothly wrote Randidly. After several weeks, although he wasn’t a master, he had at least a pretty solid familiarity with how to pool the energy when the letters curved, and be smooth and light when there were straight lines.
But after finishing Randidly, he realized that as he was using everything, he had much more reserves to spare; he had barely used ¼ of anything. So this time, as he slowly drew out the words Ghosthound on the Tassle, he took his time, carefully filling every stroke with energy. Letting the health, mana, stamina, and hint of Aether pool like an ocean beneath each letter. Letting currents building and grow in the depths of his writing.
Suddenly, Randidly blinked, looking at the words. He had finished. His hands were trembling, and the darkness at the corners of his vision seemed to indicate his health was very low. In addition, his body felt raw and twitchy, as if an electric current had run through him.
But before him, the word Randidly was spelled simply, the writing serviceable and gold on the emerald background.
Ghosthound was larger, and looping, filling the entire middle portion of the Tassle with graceful and imposing letters. It felt like a challenge to the world, a prideful statement of one’s own worth.
Shal made a disgusting noise. “...Ostentatious.”
The woman simply laughed.
They left with the Tassle and a matching strip of cloth in the same emerald color, which, when they arrived back at their boat, they hung from the mast. As they did so, everyone in the surrounding boats stilled, and then looked up at the emerald cloth quietly. It certainly stood out a lot amongst the orange, red, and yellow, but there were blue and light green flags, at least a few of them, so why was green such a big deal…?
Even the silent old man, who hadn’t reacted to their arrival, shifted and looked up at the emerald streamer for a long second. Then his gaze slid to Randidly.
Chuckling, the man said “Seems my old boat is going to be lively these days.” Then he returned to his meditations, a small smile on his face.
Randidly had asked multiple times about the meaning of the colors, but Shal had just ignored him, stating that they would talk in the morning, and left, leaving Randidly to his own room and his own thoughts.
To his surprise, he checked his status screen to discover that he had gained 7 levels in the Spear Advances, Ash Trails, in that single use. It seemed that either image was really that important, or the fact that he was against that powerful spear woman had really boosted his experience. He also received a level in Phantom Half-Step.
That PP was enough to get another tick up on his Soul Skill, earning him +15 Stamina and +1 Agility and Strength.
Struck by a sudden thought, Randidly closed his eyes, focusing his eyes inward, turning his attention to that place in his chest where his Soul Skill spun slowly, continually rotating around. While he watched previously, there were slow, gradual changes in the cycle, as he witnessed rot balloon up the biological matter, only to have it burn to ash, refining it slowly.
But now, Randidly checked within himself, watching closely. After a time, he opened his eyes.
Yes, it was happening. The use of PP sped up the process. Peppering the soil were now small, sand like grains of crystal, holding a strange energy within them. This was the energy refined from the continued cycle, the pure minerals that could be used to enrich a certain growth.
To his eyes, they glowed emerald, eerily similar to the shade he picked out for his Tassle earlier that day.