Randidly frowned, but said nothing. Previously, he had the strange impression that Shal’s skill level was closer to his current skill level, but perhaps he was mistaken. He didn’t like what he was hearing, but if Shal was correct…. If all of their skill levels were over 100… It was a sobering thought. And considering how much difficulty Randidly had at overcoming those vibrating spears of Tartet, even though he used Haste, Empower, and Mana Strengthening, in addition to the actual skill.
If what Shal was saying was correct, and his stats were also slightly above his opposition, here, and would only be on par with those in the regional tournament…
Randidly shivered. That kind of difference in skill was intimidating. He supposed the only reason that he had a shot was due to the varied nature of his magics, and he suspected that many were like him, and left Resistance as a stat that did not receive very much attention.
Shal appeared to be brooding in silence, so Randidly asked, “...is there any hope then? Couldn’t a Classer just… train in a dungeon for an extremely long time before the tournament? Years even, while still staying below Lvl 25?”
“In theory it is possible. But in practice, few do. To suppress one’s strength overmuch is wasteful, and rather pointless. These requirements do not come into force very often, only 5 years. That is enough time for only 5 generations of the best and brightest to become the youngest of the style. As for those who are aware they must compete at a certain level due to timing... most fear Dungeon Poisoning, and would not risk it overmuch. It is not safe to rely on the time dilution for too much.”
Shal gestured dismissively. “A word for a body grown fat on Aether. The concentration of Aether is naturally higher in a dungeon. Almost 5 times as so. While in a dungeon, the time dilution causes your connection to your village’s Aether to be tenuous, but you suffer no backlash as you absorb more from the air, increasing your growth anyway. Then, as you require it less, the Aether connection to your village wanes further. It will never be destroyed completely, but if your body is too reliant on ambient Aether, and you leave the dungeon, you can expect to be bedridden for months, until Aether connection to your village grows strong enough to support you once more.”
Shal frowned at Randidly. “In fact, I feared you would suffer just such a fate, but that it would continue indefinitely, for you have no class. But I believed that the Aether reward would sustain you long enough for you to find and gain a Class, and develop a healthy source. The fact that you have continued this far… with such strength… is….confusing.”
Then he shook his head. “But I do not begrudge you your secrets. Go, you may do what you will until lunch. At that time, we will train again until dusk. I must… do some investigations. We cannot rely on ordinary means, if we expect to turn…. you into a passable disciple.”
Randidly ignored the insult and asked. “Before I go… is there any information available on Patrons…?”
Shal paused, then turned and looked him up and down. “...I had not thought of this. Yes. Divveltian tells me you have a merchant friend, yes? Consult him, there are some widely accepted Patrons that have… passable trials for their Initiates.”
Then Shal left, and almost inexplicably, Randidly bowed at his departing back. Shal truly was an impressive spear-user, and had a knack for pointing out the flaws in Randidly’s form that was surprising, considering his blunt communication style. Well, perhaps that was exactly why he was so talented at it.
Although the training he had done with Mrs. Hamilton had been effective, it was hard to say whether it was the training style or the shift in perspective that had enabled that sudden growth. And that growth likely wouldn’t have been sustainable; the first levels were always the easiest to get, in any skill.
Meanwhile, Shal was a well honed machine. If anyone could give Randidly a chance in this tournament, it would be him.
But it was good that he would be able to obtain more information about Patrons. If he ever returned to Donnyton- well, when he returned to Donnyton, it would be incredibly useful for the people who reached the Apprentice path. Randidly wasn’t really in the need of advice on which Patrons were good to choose, obviously, but rather he wanted to know the way the path progressed. If the path he had was normal, that would be fine, but if it was one that resulted in him being teleported to that strange world again…
Randidly blinked. Speaking of Donnyton…
He still took a sip of the black potion daily, being increasingly confused by its seemingly endless nature, and it eliminated notifications, but…
Randidly opened up his friends tab, and sure enough, due to the communications array towers in Qtal, his box was filled with friend requests and messages, asking if he was okay. Seemingly endless. There were at least 100, all from different people. There were different styles too. Raina appeared to write a small diary and send it to him. Mrs. Hamilton reported the results from the training exercises she developed while watching him.
Donny just sent small reports on threats that they had dealt with that day. There was even one from Bert the aged turtle, that was simply: “Don’t slack off.” But perhaps the most adorable were the messages from Kiersty, who, with frequent misspellings, excitedly described how Arbor was expanding, and how much his plants missed him.
After typing out a quick message to Donny on a strange keyboard that sprang into existence in front of him, letting him know generally that he was fine, and dealing with problems elsewhere, he closed out his friends tab. He wasn’t close enough to Donnyton to affect the outcomes anyway, so there was no point in reading up on things only to worry about them. Better to focus on the present, where there were several issues that he needed to address.
When Randidly walked out of the boat and onto the deck, intending to go visit Claptrap, what he found gave him pause. The two female spear users who had tested him in the belly of the Tassle shop were now on the deck as well, meditating. Around the boats, most of the other boats had unhooked their moorings and were drifting away, and there was a path of choppy orange water, towards which their boat slowly floated.
Curiously, there were two other figures on the boat, their heads to the deck in some strange sort of prayer stance of genuflection. They also looked oddly familiar…
Above them, Randidly’s emerald Tassle flapped eye-catchingly, next to the sky blue of Shal’s. He turned to Divvit and asked. “What’s…. going on? The boat’s moving…?”
Divvit snorted. “...Yes. Not only was your performance too eye catching, but it also revealed Shal’s presence here. With the boat now flying both of your Tassles… well. Most would give way, and let us move closer to the heart of Qtal, as is our prerogative. But it also brings more… attention.”
Divvit nodded towards the genuflecting figures, to whom Randidly turned. “And who are these people….?”
Almost as if they had both been waiting for this opportunity, both smoothly stood, one male, one female. The female had long brown hair, braided and curled down her back. She was, Randidly couldn’t help but notice, extremely lovely. A dirty part of him wondered how good with a spear she could really be with hips as well endowed as that, but quickly squashed that line of thought. She was, Randidly thought in his second and more relevant realization, the woman who had carried that fool’s body off of the stage during the fight.
Randidly spared the male a glance, then a longer, more serious look, as he watched him open his mouth.
“Heh, I’m glad you asked.” The male said with a smug look, raising his gem studded spear, which had apparently been cleaned of his vomit. “I am the greatest talent the Iron Spear Style has seen in generations! My name is-”
“Errr, no,” Randidly interrupted, wanting to cut him off before he began running his mouth. “I guess… I really meant why are you here.”
“Sir, this one humbly requests that this one receive the honor of being your spear attendant.” The female said, bowing again.
The male chuckled evilly and spoke haughtily, all the while bowing even lower than the female, his nose practically brushing the ground as he spoke. “Hmph, kneel and accept my honorable generosity. I, too, will be the best spear attendant possible. No need to thank me, for I,-”
“Is this normal?” Randidly asked Divvit, as he pointed to the two.
Divvit chuckled. “Their personalities? Perhaps not… but yes, spear-users that have acknowledged their own inferiority, and don’t have much room for upward mobility in their own Style, will attach themselves to talented individuals. It is a yearly commitment for them, but you may terminate the relationship at anytime. You don’t really need to do much for them; they are effectively indenturing themselves to you in order to hitch themselves to your social status. It is still a bit early, I think, for you to have spear attendants, in terms of strength, but…”
Shrugging, Divvit closed his eyes and returned to meditating. Randidly just scratched his head. But he hesitated for a few reasons.
‘It is definitely not because the woman’s looks,’ Randidly assured himself, eyeing her bowing form briefly. Then he shook his head. If he was to up the training with Shal, it would be hard for him to venture away from the boat very often. And that was assuming that they remained here for the training. Plus he wanted to continue his potion experiments, and to fund what he needed to Engrave, and both of those were rather time consuming activities.
It might be worth it to have these two as spear attendants, especially if he didn’t really need to do anything. But did he really need them both….?
Randidly looked at them again, and the woman straightened, smiling sweetly at him. But Randidly’s eyes were on the male, who remained hunched over in a bowing position, refusing to move. He took in his posture, the slight tremble to his body, and the white knuckled grip on his spear.
A drop of water traced down his brow, and dripped onto the deck with an audible plop. Randidly closed his eyes.
“Probably just sweat, huh…” Randidly whispered, then shook his head. It was a little embarrassing how emotional he had gotten since becoming involved in Donnyton. Before he had been…. Well, he had been like a ghost. Without a personality, walking through life. But slowly, he was changing, finding his own path.
He was still emotionally withdrawn, but he was starting to connect more with people around him. More importantly though… people were growing to value him. It was a strange feeling, to have others dependant on him. First Donnyton, and now these two.
Strangely, for the first time, Randidly was truly thankful for the system, and the changes it had brought to his life.
“...Alright, I accept. Is there a ritual, or a form we have to sign…?”