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A note from puddles4263

7/8

After killing the guard, Randidly evened out his breathing and removed another bracer from his ring. He had been able to successfully engrave 3 bracers with 60% efficacy of Shadow V. He had originally assumed only managing it once would be fine, but the elemental rune was not a Skill Rune after all, it was just an elemental one, and using it as a tool to hide came at a high cost.

Quality Leather Bracer Lvl 30: A piece of leather armor worked by a talented individual. End +2, Health +25.

Engraving of Shadow V 60% (U): Shadows seem to gather around the wearer of this armor, actively concealing him from the eyes of others. Surprise attacks are more effective, and the wearer as a small of amount of precognition in regards to incoming attacks. Reaction +5. May consume the energy of the Engraving to double the efficacy of the concealment for 10 minutes.

At its base, the 60% efficacy did make it seem as though people viewed Randidly as though he was in deep shadow. They needed to squint and focus on him in order to make out the details of his person. This was profoundly useful in a fight, where vision became quite important, but a watchful guard was still able to spot out Randidly with just wearing the bracer, especially while he moved.

But he had spent the last week slowly edging closer, only at night, spending the day meditating and fine tuning his ability to use roots through Root Control even further. But ultimately, there was a danger zone; the area right around the guard’s position was patrolled rather often. So he needed to cross that very quickly.

There had been a moment when Randidly had tripped, losing some of the easy grace with which he had loped across the outward perimeter, making a small noise and some unnecessary movement, and the guard seemed to notice. Randidly had frozen, wondering if activating Phantom Half-Step a few times would be necessary to rapidly approach. Even then, it was difficult to say if he would make it in time. Perhaps the Spear Advances? But the noise and explosion would likely reveal his position anyway…

Luckily, the guard seemed to have his own concerns, and very quickly looked away from the position where Randidly was standing as still as he could. Which was good, because there was a time limit on the bracer’s shadows, and it was swiftly approaching. During that time, Randidly snuck up the rest of the way and killed the man without letting him make a sound.

But perhaps the most disturbing part of the attack had been the intense way that the man had stared at Randidly as he was dying, as if he was trying to send a message. That man had unfinished business, Randidly could tell, but now died, unsatisfied and angry.

It was chilling. The regrets and desires that the man died with seemed to hang in the air. The man had somehow wanted Randidly to carry them forward, but he couldn’t even communicate them. So they could only hang in the air, and eventually dissipate. Although it did certainly seem that some of those desires settled on Randidly’s shoulders, weighing him down. The same way he could feel the life of the guard he had killed to make it here curling around him.

Closing his eyes, Randidly promised himself he would not die like that. He would pay his debt back to Shal, and then return to Donnyton. Even if he had to kill to make it so. There, he would seek out the people that created the system and make them pay for driving so many people to an early grave. And for what?

It was frustrating that the system prevented him from learning more from Shal what was to come. The Calamity loomed, and Randidly could do nothing to prepare. To help Donnyton prepare.

Which wasn’t exactly true, Randidly supposed. He had largely ignored the messages from those in Donnyton, most out of disinterest, Lyra’s out of increasing unease at the inane things she talked about, but he had sent Sam the runes he obtained from the Willow Tree Spear Style.

Randidly grimaced. Another debt to repay. But that would be for another day; life was not so fair that everything would work out easily, or even in a way that was palatable to us. For now, Randidly could not even help to stand against the powers that sought to eradicate that Style.

Replacing the consumed bracer with another one with efficacy about 60%, he continued deeper into the prison. As he dodged past patrols and slipped around corners, Randidly began to realize how little the guards actually seemed to care about people breaking into and out of the prison. Just like the way his torturer had let him leave once he had broken out of the formation, even dropping the key to remove his handcuffs, the guards just seemed to want to keep of the facade of protecting the prison.

There was only one area where the guards were actually thick and serious looking; in the area where Randidly believed the portal out to the real world was. Honestly, the prison administration didn’t care so much what they did while in here. The only reason they had been brought here, was the thought that they were too valuable as spear users to simply kill. It was the punishment of the monotony for 100 years, coupled with the Aether Poisoning they would be subject to when they left, returning to the thinner Aether density of the general world.

Luckily, the higher powered prisoners weren’t kept in that area. They had their own private small cabins, almost like villas, where they were forced to sit, wrapped in those chains of a material that Randidly could not even warp in the slightest.

Unfortunately, the area was more heavily patrolled, and Randidly had to go to the windows of each cabin and peer in, checking for Shal. So he was forced to burn another one of his bracers to escape a rather sticky situation where two patrols had come from both directions, forcing him into a corner.

The cabins were seemingly endless, and some were empty, so it was a rather dull exercise of tension. Still, it did wonders for Randidly’s sneak skill, so he couldn’t really complain.

Finally, after 3 hours of combing, he located Shal. His master’s eyes flicked open almost immediately as Randidly stood up against the bars.

“You… I am surprised. I had doubted whether you would ever have the means to make it here. Come, break open the door and retrieve the key from the wall, then I will be free.”

Randidly shook his head. His master was definitely going to give him a complex, whether he meant to or not. Shal was a master of the backhanded compliment. But then Randidly turned his attention to the door, regarding it dubiously. It was made out of the same material as the handcuffs, and probably far beyond his ability to physically damage. But perhaps…?

Randidly raised a hand and shot an Incendiary Bolt into the lock. It practically bounced, off, completely failing to damage the metal, and burned a small hole in the ground before sizzling to a stop.

Shal chuckled, and Randidly gritted his teeth. It really seemed that being trapped here for a few months had brought out Shal’s mean streak. Randidly took a deep breath, calming himself. Then he created a root and tried to burrow upward into the ground beneath Shal’s hut prison.

Unfortunately, the whole structure appeared to be made of that strange material that resisted damage, and he was unable to penetrate it. In addition…. It seemed like ALL of the ground in this area was covered in a layer of the stuff, preventing Randidly from being able to create roots at all.  Huffing in annoyance, Randidly left Shal to his chuckles and began to walk around the small hut. There were a few times over the next 10 minutes when Randidly had to stop his search in order to avoid patrols, but all in all, he had completely examined the house.

He was forced to set aside all of his grand plans of breaking in by force. He finally admitted to himself that it wouldn’t be feasible, even with Inspiration to lift the entire little house up and rush out before he was mobbed by guards.

Inevitably, the quick and dirty answer was easiest. Randidly created a Root Spider and used Root Control to warp one of its limbs, stretching it and twisting it to reach through the small holes in the bars and move towards the key.

But as it did so, a small metal disk detached itself from the ceiling and swung down, making a buzzing sound. The metal disk cleanly sliced through root, which began to immediately decay and wither unnaturally. After 2 seconds, the root had turned to dust, and some of that decay followed back along to the Root Spider clinging to the small window. Soon, it too was just a pile of dust, and Randidly was left blinking.

“Ah, perhaps I forgot. There are alarms and defenses to prevent such things.” Shal flicked his fingers at Randidly dismissively, which was basically all the movement he could manage, bound up as he was. “It is impossible for the current you. Train for a few years and then return. I have already calculated your deficiencies; accept them and move on. I have no choice but to wait.”

And with that, Shal closed his eyes.

After weeks of being tortured by Battle Intent, chased down by spear users with more skill than him, systematically dismembered for sport, and finally arriving at a place at his correct skill level and feeling humiliated how close to the bottom he was, Randidly was very tired of receiving attitude. Shal’s most recent comment made him snap, and he narrowed his eyes.

Fine then, so there are traps? Let’s see how powerful they really are.

****

Shal kept his eyes closed for several minutes, then slowly opened them, still sensing his student hiding on top of his small cell. His mouth twisted upward; the fool refused to admit when he was beaten. It was a quality that could kill him any day now, but would serve him well if he managed to live long enough for Willpower to matter.

Honestly, Shal preferred it this way. Breaking down his student’s will and then building it back up from scratch would result in a more powerful resilience. It would just take some brutal violence in the mean time to accomplish it effectively. And at least the bare minimum in desire from his disciple to be strong, but the boy had shown something at least close to that.

As for the waiting, it wasn’t much of a problem for Shal. After all, he finally had it, after so long of wandering around lost. He had been a shell of himself when he had first met Randidly, barely able to withstand mental attacks from those orc shamans. Acquiring a student had shaken him a bit, and caused his memories of the Spear Phantom Style to turn away from his father, and turn towards the fact he now had a student.

And with that student here… there was hope that he would find her. Meet Lucrecia and cut her to pieces, inches at a time until she died sobbing and-

Shal blinked. His student had dropped back down from the roof and was approaching the door. The air seemed to still, and as Shal watched, the boy’s eyes changed from a deep forest green, slowly glowing, like a fire flickering into life and then spreading, until his eyes were a brilliant emerald, with flecks of violet.

Then his student raised his hand.

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