The next morning, Randidly walked out onto the deck, raising his hand to shield the sun. Above him, his emerald tassle flapped in the wind, the golden letters of his name catching the light and flashing in an eye catching manner.
Randidly was chilled slightly when he noticed that all of the surrounding boats had detached the lines they had to their boat. They had several feet of berth all around them, where the strangely orange colored water splashed.
“What’s…. going on…?” Randidly muttered to himself, and he was extremely surprised when there was an answer.
“Heh, you’ve certainly stirred up trouble for us.”
Randidly turned and found that the speaker was the old man, still sitting cross legged, meditating, on the deck of the boat. But as Randidly turned to him, the speaker yawned and straightened, standing up.
“Good thing too,” The old man added, “I was getting rather bored.”
“...Is there really something strange about the color I picked…?” Randidly asked, curious.
The old man smiled. “...It certainly wasn’t a smart choice. Has Shal not told you…?” Randidly shook his head, and the old man chuckled.
“Ha, obviously not. That young one has his head stuck so far up the ass of his spear he cannot see. Then come, let me explain.
“It all goes back to the Spearman, who had four disciples, and was the one who slew the great Calamity that came in the wake of the system. Afterwards, the Spearman proceeded to ascend to the 4th Cohort, looking in his righteous fury for the source of the system that brought such death and strife to his world. But to protect the world, he left his four disciples, the founders of the four schools, and ordered them to train our youth well, for no matter what he found, he had no doubt we would need more strength than simply his for what was to come.”
The old man flicked his hand and a gourd appeared within it, from which he took a long swig, looking around. Then he sighed, and continued to talk. “The strife between the four disciples is another tale. Suffice to say that we followed the disciple who believed the path to power lay through training oneself until you lived up to the the potential inherent in a spear. We train Spearman.
“The founder of our school used a tassle of a color that was named after him: Byzantium. A dark, dark purple. He became the master of 1000s of disciples, but Styles slowly formed under him. A Tassle is the representation of your Style, and a Tassle needs color. Byzantium also created the ranking system we still use: At the top are Masters, then Pontiffs, the Adepts, then Artisans. Each is associated with certain shades.
“Of Byzantium’s disciples, not all were talented. These ranks helped organize them, and tassle colors were slowly selected to distinguish which area you do, or will, belong to. From those disciples and Styles, 3 rose to the top. Two men and a woman. The two men competed fiercely, but the woman preferred to train quietly. Eventually, Byzantium decreed the order of their strength. First his own son, who triumphed over the other man, was given Violet. Then the other man, who was stubborn enough to rise up from a common background, Indigo. To the woman, who did not compete, he awarded Lilac.
“Time flowed onward, and to our horror, another Calamity descended, but no longer did the Spearman remain to slay it, instead all 4 schools held a tournament, to select their best and brightest to meet the Calamity. They held a tournament.
“At the end of it, two heroes remained. One from the Death School, with a bone white tassle. And a masked individual, who claimed to be from the Spearman’s school, whose tassle was emerald... In the final battle, the Spearman school was victorious. But in the collision, the mask of the man was destroyed. And it was revealed that the contestant was that woman, who had been given the lilac tassle. It was the young woman who was the daughter of the Spearman.
“Solemnly, she looked up at Byzantium, and famously said, ‘I apologize, but I will not fly your colors.’ Shaking his head, Byzantium replied, ‘Slay this Calamity, and you will have earned your own.’”
Randidly was scratching his head, slightly confused. If this color was so important to their school, then why…? But the old man’s next words stilled Randidly.
“Unfortunately, she failed. The woman disappeared, but the Calamity rampaged for years, and our world paid a dear price to slay it.”
For several long moments, there was silence. Then the old man continued to speak. “She was strong, true. But in the end, she wasn’t strong enough. Although he couldn’t discredit her completely, Byzantium famously included Emerald in the list of colors available to Pontiffs, the second highest tier of Spear users, even though she was strongest in the world. Only Violet, Indigo, and Lilac were chosen as colors available only to Masters. That would be her eternal shame.
“Moving to the present… you may choose your color in two ways. One is based on your teacher. Shal is an interesting case, but he is approaching the Adept tier, that is no doubt. That should give you access to pale blues and below, the yellows, oranges, and reds, etc. Or you can go based on your own potential.” The old man paused. “Possessing a Runic rarity Skill set before Lvl 25… qualifies as having the potential to become a Pontiff in your lifetime. But the color emerald... is not… deemed honorable. It is a source of shame for our entire School. The color that failed the world. For that, you will be targeted.
“To make matters worse, there is another reason to target you,” The old man said with a smile. “There is such a thing in our world as ‘rainbow hunters’. They challenge and kill other spear users, taking their tassle for their collection, aiming for unique and vibrant colors to create a beautiful rainbow collection of tassles. Although the Heart School has green tassles commonly, they are across the world, and difficult to encounter. Due to that fact…”
“....my tassle is a hotly desired commodity by men who kill other men in order to decorate their mantle…?” Randidly said slowly.
The old man nodded.
Once more, silence descended on the boat. For several seconds, Randidly considered what the man had told him. But again, his thoughts were interrupted by the old man speaking.
“...But it is a good thing, I think. To have pride, and to choose your color boldly. It is only the young who can make such foolish decisions, because only they have the audacity to survive such idiocy.”
Randidly decided to take that comment as a compliment, rather than an insult, based on the absent smile on the man’s face, and asked, “What’s your name?”
“Divvit.” And as he said his name, Divvit’s smile was wide and full.
“So, Mr. Divvit, do I need to worry about people coming to challenge me?”
Divvit chuckled. “Well no, because technically what will happen is they will challenge the location where your banner stands. As it is my boat, and as Shal is your master, either of us can defend your honor and fight for you. Since we are invincible, you have nothing to fear.”
Randidly frowned. “Couldn’t they attack me while I was off the boat? Then come take my tassle later?”
“Luckily not. Byzantium made it law that only a duel held under a hanging tassle will enable the winner to collect their spoils from the loser. So if they want it, they will come here.” Then Divvit frowned, and added, “But if particularly conservative individuals are offended by the emerald choice, they might just attack you whenever and dump your body into the sea. But this is likely a small minority. And it will take time for them to hear and have their hearts filled with fury over such a small thing as color. Better focus on the qualifier for now.”
Randidly was silent for a moment. “...Can I win this? How strong will these opponents be?”
With a long, penetrating glance, Divvit looked Randidly up and down, before finally saying. “...based on what Shal has told me, and what I’ve seen… you are about as powerful as someone at Lvl 15. Although you seem to have gained some strength since the two of you sparred…”
Although there was an acknowledgement at the end, Divvit’s word’s still chilled Randidly. Lvl 15… A world that was a part of the system for a long time certainly had different standards when it came to strength. They likely determined the best path of training, the limits before Aether Starvation hit, which Patrons to use, and raised their warriors to surpass those limits.
“Most enemies there should be around your level, or a little below. Most of the disciples with any sort of talent have skipped this step anyway, and already received an invitation to the tournament. You should… likely make it.”
Divvit’s sentence was a grim one, but Randidly didn’t believe that it was really that worrisome. “Are spells allowed in the melee? Are potions allowed?”
Divvit nodded slowly, saying, “Well yes, but most people choose to focus their stats and skills in the single area of the spear… but there are those who choose to be both a spear-user and a mage…”, and Randidly grinned. True, he had been judged on his ability to use the spear, and been found to only have the strength of someone at Lvl 15. But the Ghosthound was not simply a spear user… When compared to his library of versatile spells, honestly, his spear moves were somewhat lacking.
Randidly made a mental note to talk to Shal about spear training more. Even if he had the advantage of spells, this was a great chance to raise the level of his spear moves in combat with those near his skill level. Any advice his master could give him would be important, at such a juncture.
“Ah, one final thing.” Randidly said. Divvit quirked up his eyebrow, curious.
“Do you know where I can find a cheap armorsmith?”