After almost 2 months, when Randidly felt rather confident that his own Battle Intent had grown to the point he needed it to, he finally made his attempt to escape. To his surprise, it went extremely successfully. When he lashed out with his Battle Intent, smashing aside the mental attacks from the young man, rather than panic, the young man just smiled and took a step back. Then he walked away, leaving the keys to Randidly’s manacles.
Nonplussed, Randidly walked out of his jail cell and into the hallway. There was even a very convenient path out of the hallway and into the outer world, which Randidly quickly took. The jail in this strange space was on a high mountain, and Randidly was forced to quickly slide down the outside of the mountain to escape. There he reached the “Badlands” as Shal had called it, and encountered some new struggles.
After all, he quickly realized that the castle torture was meant to be possible to escape. And below were the powerful spear users who could manage it. The hot and dry scrublands with low plants was lousy with spear users, constantly fighting against each other, and against Randidly, if they noticed him.
His first fight went, probably, exactly how it should have gone; he was ripped to pieces. Afterwards, the rather humongous man who had put his spear multiple times through Randidly, had scratched his head in confusion. “What are you doing over on the Northern face of the mountain? You are so weak. You barely qualify to be in the East-, wait are you new?”
Nodding was a struggle with the mangled wreckage of his body, but he managed it. Then the man laughed, and introduced himself as Marco Polo, and offered to escort him to the correct location.
So Marco Polo, basically ignoring Randidly’s confused protests, dragged him along on a journey to the Southeastern face of the mountain, which Marco believed to be the best place for him. The strength was arranged in a circle; the strongest were in the West, and the weakest in the South, with East and then North being transition locations between them.
“Well we have nothing else to do until our sentences run out,” Marco would say. “Why not try and kill each other? It gets the blood flowing. There’s no sex and no wine here; what else is there to life?”
As Randidly watched Marco effortlessly crush person after person they ran into on the journey, he had to admit the man was very skilled with the spear, even if he wasn’t very charming or eloquent. His huge body vibrated and jiggled with every word he spoke. It was hard to remain serious when faced with Marco’s ridiculous comments, but Randidly couldn’t help but admire his blunt personality.
“If you make a mistake, why admit it? Better to double down, insert doubt into the enemy.” Marco would say, “That way, he might make a costly mistake later and die.”
Randidly would just roll his eyes, but he admired that unashamed attitude. It wasn’t something that he could personally manage. Ever since he was young, Randidly had been very concerned with following rules and remaining reasonable. To Marco, these actions held no value; all that mattered were results, and anything you did to achieve them was reasonable.
The area around the mountain was huge. As they encountered more and more spear users, Randidly realized there were probably thousands of people here. What was most interesting was their strange attitudes towards each other. Initially, they were extremely violent and murderous. But rather quickly, it would be easy to see which in the battle was superior and they would quickly finish the fight, and then behave like old friends, swapping stories and sharing a meal.
Almost wordless, during their journey, Randidly settled into the role of cook making food for the two spear users. Although he wasn’t practicing directly, he did learn a lot about fighting with the spear by watching all these fights.
By the end of their journey, Marco encouraged Randidly to fight, and after he did so and lost, Marco would step in, thoroughly enjoying his superiority. After all, this area was far too weak for him to be located in.
All in all, it took almost 4 long weeks of running through the badlands for them to arrive at a level where Randidly stood a chance. The biggest reason it took so long was because traveling too close to the prison was inadvisable; the guards sometimes patrolled the area immediately around the mountain, preparing for people who, like Randidly, planned to break back into the prison.
When they finally reached an area that Randidly could survive in, Marco Polo seemed disappointed, and vigorously shook Randidly, telling him to come visit him. Then he ran forward, back around the mountain, avoiding going through the extremely domineering Western area, where Marco would be the one crushed during fights.
Randidly had been taking the potion still, keeping any notifications from distracting him, so he took this opportunity to examine his current status. His time in the dungeon had given him great gains in several areas, which gave him a sizable amount of PP. He put this into the Path of Carnage, but it wasn’t enough to reach the next milestone, so he settled down to continue his training.
The next several months were a bloody time for Randidly. Unlike Marco Polo, he couldn’t overwhelm the spear users in the area. He considered avoiding them, but it seemed like Shal wouldn’t want that. Rather it was better to fight and train, even if it wasn’t in the most efficient manner. At the very least, it would increase his killing edge, making him more decisive in fights.
But most of the spear users here had been here for a while, and had much higher Skill Levels than Randidly. Still, Randidly’s stats seemed to be enough to give him a fighting chance. Unlike when Marco had fought, the fact that Randidly had low skill levels became very apparent to his opponents, who seemed to view him with derision for it.
But despite that… despite the weaknesses in the way he fought… Randidly started winning fights. He learned to see a chance and seize it. He learned to predict his opponent, and to use his particularly unique blend of skills to trick and overwhelm opponents. In his heart, he wanted those victories, and as he desired them, they began to come to him.
The Aether pulsed like a molten heart in his chest, catalyzing his growth. It was a very beneficial time for him.
But the real problem was how to accomplish his second goal. Breaking back into the prison and freeing Shal, giving him a teacher once more. These desperate fights against the wandering spear users was useful, but it wasn’t what would give him the most power.
Although this confusion tortured him for a long time, Randidly stumbled across an answer, almost on accident. During some downtime, Randidly had finally managed to create the Tier V Shadow Rune, and it referenced some very interesting text.
Quality Leather Bracer Lvl 30: A piece of leather armor worked by a talented individual. End +2, Health +25.
Engraving of Shadow V 31% (U): Shadows seem to gather around the wearer of this armor, concealing him from the eyes of others. Effectiveness of surprise attacks increased. Reaction +1.
Randidly sat back on his heels. It had been an exhausting process to create this piece of armor. The fact that the percentage was already above 20 was a surprise to him, but a pleasant one. But it seemed that there was more possible here. It did not create shadows around it yet, but it might, if the quality increased.
And in that increased quality, there seemed to be a possibility for secrecy, perhaps at the level that it could allow Randidly to sneak back into the prison and free Shal. But with all of his effort only resulting in this…
Shaking his head, Randidly settled into the long haul. This wouldn’t be as simple a process as he thought.
Dart yawned, bored at his post. Although the position within the prison paid well, it was extremely boring. Tomkat’s criminals, those that possessed the requisite power that the First Spear chose not to just execute them, basically escaped within the first few weeks or died, and then fought each other to alleviate their boredom, rather than trying to fight through and gain their freedom back. Afterall, while the prisoners by and large didn’t trust each other, the guards lived and trained as a unit. They were not forces that could be compared.
Suddenly, Dart’s eyes sharpened, and he looked very closely at the badlands below. In the twilight after dusk, he had sworn that he had seen a strange movement. A shadow that detached itself from its position and approached the base of the prison. But as he continued to scan the ground, he could not find the culprit.
Sighing, Dart just shook his head. The boredom here was even getting to him, causing him to see things. He couldn’t wait until it was time for him to depart, and return to the real time. He had a rather serious girlfriend, and had been dubious about spending these 6 months away from her. But although it was 6 months from his perspective, he would seem only to take a 1 week vacation to her.
Dart’s face turned ugly. Which would be fine, if it wasn’t for Calln. Calln was a childhood friend of hers that always seemed to hang on her arm and point out Dart’s weak points and flaws. Not a talented Spear User himself, Calln worked in the administration of Tomkat, in an important, if without honor, position.
In fact, it was only due to Calln’s prodding that he had came here for the stint. Now that he was here, Dart wondered if that wasn’t exactly what Calln intended. It was just a week, but…
Feeling slightly dizzy, Dart leaned against a rock for support and took several deep breaths. It was hard, this guard duty. He found himself dwelling and brooding more and more. He couldn’t escape his disgust for Calln, and his fear that that sleazy man would use this opportunity to drive a further wedge between him and his girlfriend.
He must have been more upset than he realized, because Dart leaned forward and vomited. As he straightened, slightly concerned, the rations for the prison were bad, but not that bad, Dart found himself face to face with a shadow. A shadow with piercing green eyes and a cruel smile.
The shadow’s spear was silent, and as it entered Dart’s body, everything slowly began to fade to blackness. As he fell forward, Dart recognized that this…
This was the end. But to his surprise, his last thought wasn’t a curse on his killer. After all, Dart was a spear user himself. This was the life they lived. That shadow bore him no ill will, their paths simply crossed, and Dart’s destiny turned out to be the lesser of the two.
No, what filled Dart’s heart was a burning fist of resentment for Calln, for the weakling that dared to whisper in his girlfriend’s ear. He hoped that fucker died a torturous death due to illness, slowly wasting away.
To die by the spear…. It was the greatest honor. But to die, weak, and a burden on your loved ones…
Such a man would never appeal to a woman. Not in a thousand years.