Randidly arrived back at Devvit’s boat, now satisfied with the amount of potion materials that he had managed to obtain from the strange merchant.
He honestly had no idea what the currency was worth, and asked increasingly direct questions of the merchant called Claptrap, but the merchant seemed too proud to answer, but felt sorry for Randidly anyway, and would offer him more, as if as a substitute.
Honestly, it would have been more useful to just know how much they were worth, but Randidly supposed he could be satisfied with just having more money…
Shal was sitting on the boat waiting for him, and as Randidly arrived, his eyes slid open. “Ah good, you have handled your affairs in case your idiocy kills you; perhaps I was mistaken about your ability to think. Are you prepared? The melee begins shortly.”
Randidly hesitated. He would have preferred an opportunity to brew some potions out of the ingredients he had, but… He supposed he already had enough for a single day. Besides, he hoped he wouldn’t be forced to go all out, and could instead rely on his own passive regeneration skills, which he suspected were rather rare. This would put the skills under increased pressure, and expedite growth.
Based on Devvit’s explanation, Randidly did have some confidence about being able to manage through this round, so he simply nodded, and followed Shal as they began the long winding walk back towards the strange colosseum area.
“If you survive,” Shal said, striding forward, ignoring the stares as he walked, carrying Randidly’s tassle, “We shall have the opportunity to train again for a short time. I must say, your continued Vitality impresses me. I had assumed you would have died without my guidance; but fear not, I shall… rid you of all the bad habits you have developed. No matter the cost.”
Then Shal laughed, and Randidly had a sinking feeling in his stomach. More than the melee he was about to be a part of…
...the prospect of the fanatical training of Shal was much more intimidating…
All of the contestants, and there were truly hundreds of them, Randidly realized, packed into the small area, stood still, eyes darting back and forth, struggling to act casual as everyone came to terms with the fact that they would soon be competing against one another with their lives on the line.
For his part, Randidly was slightly bemused. Being here, in Qtal, there was clearly a familiarity with death that wasn’t a part of his old world. But it was also a world that had been part of the system for at least several generations. As such, monsters and dungeons had been pushed back, far away from the places were civilization reigned supreme.
Seeing the nervous glint in most of the eyes of those around him, they had fought, but they had never fought while stricken with the fear that they would die. They had never lost all conscious thought other than the stubborn refusal to die.
He had come a long way, but Randidly still vividly remembered stumbling back into that safe room, covered in acid, knowing nothing but fear and the burning pain in his body. It was still a chilling memory, and a reminder of how unexpectedly your demise could arrive.
As the time they waited continued to stretch onward, Randidly considered whether to make a statement early. But ultimately, he didn’t want to deal with the hassle of the attention that would come with it. Sure, using Agony would probably debilitate most of the opponents around him, but it would paint a large target on his back.
Although Devvit seemed to think most of the opponents would only be so-so, that didn’t mean they all would be. There was no need to seek those individuals out right now. He would find them soon enough, in the actual tournament, where Randidly would have the benefit of at least another month of training with Shal.
Shivering instinctively, Randidly turned his focus elsewhere. Just in time to see the large brass doors of their waiting room rumble slowly open. Immediately, everyone was on their feet, spears drawn, looking around warily.
An attendant had explained the rules again earlier. 10 Stages, only 3 could pass per stage, by standing on it at the end of 2 hours. After 2 hours, if there were more than 3 people on the stage, there would be a 60 second overtime. If there were not 3 people there at the end of 60 seconds, all of those people would fail.
And as soon as they passed through the door into the main arena area, they would be considered participating, and could be attacked at any point by their fellow spear users.
Randidly was towards the middle of the group, so he didn’t immediately move after the door opened. But soon the people in front of him broke into a trot, running out in the air, and Randidly cautiously followed. Very quickly he began to move, running just a bit faster than those around him, dodging and weaving, and within a few seconds, he had burst out through the door, arriving at the huge arena.
The ground was dirt and the walls rose around him, covered in strange viewing cells. But he kept his eyes on the ground. He had no need to pay attention to the cells currently; he simply needed to stay down here, among the stages.
Dozens of people were jogging around Randidly, exchanging glances, and it was actually one of the men near Randidly that made the first move, stabbing towards Randidly’s back with his spear. Almost as if this was a spark on oil, several other small battles erupted around them, as people attempted to sneak attack other competitors, and were then sneak attacked themselves.
Snorting, Randidly drew his spear and knocked the initiator's spear to the side, and then delivered a roundhouse kick to the man’s chest. It was easy to see from his movements that he wasn’t really that strong. Randidly expected that most of the upper tiered Classers from Donnyton could have taken him in a battle.
Using Empower, Randidly added a burst of speed and got out of the group of infighting that had stalled out very near to the brass doors. Most new entrants avoided the growing brawl, but others charged proudly forward, excited to test their mettle in battle. It all seemed very strange to Randidly. Defeating opponents at this time was almost pointless; there were far too many people to make a dent in the number.
So Randidly followed the growing streams of people that began running around the giant central building, heading for other stages. The stage immediately outside of the brass doors already had at least 10 people atop it, and they were battling fiercely. Randidly paused for a second, examining them, and turned away.
Some of those people… they even gave Randidly pause. There were definitely opponents here that would give Randidly trouble. Their speed and the way they used their spears were imaginative, and the fact he could notice these things in just a cursory examination proved that they definitely possessed talent. There were even a few individuals that used spells, producing spears of earth from the ground to attack other contestants. He made a note to avoid them, but another part of him began to burn, wanting to join the foolish rush, seeking a challenge.
In addition to obtaining the qualification to go on to the actual tournament, Randidly also wanted to test himself here. But he forced that instinct to take a back seat for now. The battle was 2 hours long; there was no need to seek out trouble so quickly. Besides, things were descending into madness around him, as more and more fights broke out by the area around the first couple stages.
As Randidly glanced to the side, he noticed two contestants separate and slowly catch up to him, one coming up on each side. He sighed inwardly, but made no move to attack them. He was already tired of this type of activity.
And just like he had predicted, they attacked him, both launching themselves forward, spears darting towards his ribs, with a grace that surprised Randidly. The speed was almost too much for him to take.
But because he knew the attack was probably coming, he activated Empower and Haste, funneling powering into Footwork of the Spear Phantom. With two steps, he avoided their blows and appeared behind the first opponent, sending a Roundhouse Kick at his back. Strangely, that man swiveled, avoiding the blow, and slammed the butt of his spear into Randidly’s surprised face.
Grunting, Randidly stumbled backwards, as the two rushed towards him.
“Don’t underestimate me!” The one that Randidly had attempted to kick yelled furiously, and Randidly felt an old, familiar spark of anger rise within him, hungry and vicious. He had originally been running without his spear out, in order to attract less attention, but it appeared that had backfired. These people held too much fucking focus on the spear.
So Randidly produced his slender spear, and immediately stepped with Spear Phantom’s Footwork, appearing between the two. They responded well, raising their spears, but the nearest one was no match for the speed of Phantom Thrust. It ripped off half of his neck, and he fell gurgling to the ground.
Roaring, the other charged forward, but Randidly used a Mana Strengthened Sweep to pick him up and throw him high into the air. Due to the angle Randidly had, the man spun wildly too, and couldn’t regain his composure before he smashed into the ground with a sickening crack. Around them, other contestants just swerved slightly, avoiding the battle, but eyeing Randidly with glittering eyes that made him even more annoyed.
Stomping over to the man whose throat he ripped out, Randidly glared down at him. “Fine, you want to die? Wish granted, idiot.”
The man laughed, but it really just sounded like more gurgling and said something that incensed Randidly even further. “Better to die holding a spear…. than to hide…. and never advance towards… my destiny…”
In a very anticlimactic way, the man’s eyes dulled, and his head fell back. Extremely human seeming, crimson blood flowed out, spreading slowly out around the man’s body. Randidly spared a glance for the other man, who was struggling to move, and seemed to be doing nothing other than mewing weakly.
Although Randidly had killed many things since the system had come to Earth, and watched many more creatures, including humans, die, this moment would stay with him for a long time. Part of it was the almost glee with which these people ran towards their fate. Part of it was the acknowledgment that his power was legitimate, even here, at least at this level.
Part of it was how red the blood was, staining the ground, and as the blood drained into the ground, Randidly had an abrupt vision of thousands of people coming here to die, their blood flowing outward and down, through the boats beneath them, slowly reaching the water. So much blood that the water in the surrounding area would slowly become stained orange, an eternal testament to the dried iron pumping out of dying bodies.
Randidly didn’t know if this was accurate, but the image helped him understand the people of this world, and a lot of the things that Shal and Devvit said in passing clicked together in his mind. Here, following the path of the Spearman towards mastery of the spear, and personal power, was everything. If Randidly wanted to succeed here, and bring honor to Shal’s style in order to repay him for all that he had done…
There was only one way. To display power.
His eyes burning with anger, Randidly walked forward, leaving the other man to die on his own. Fine, he would smash these idiots apart, and teach them to value their own lives.
Or they would die fools by his spear. Randidly couldn't care less at this point.