Shal seemed to possess some understanding of how the badlands worked, and had Randidly lead him back towards where he had managed to achieve equilibrium. As they returned to the Southeast area, the disgust on Shal’s face grew, but he said nothing.
They settled down in Randidly’s camp, after driving off two of Randidly’s weaker rivals with a glare from Shal, and Shal instructed Randidly to prepare, for the true training would start after he rested.
This did not include a time, but Randidly knew he would have some time to himself, he usually did in times like this, so he took his time to brew mana potions and sit under the Weeping Cloud without moving, allowing the strange recuperative qualities of the cloud to influence him. It really was a profound ability, and one that he relied on both to break Shal out of prison, and to Engrave at the height of his strength. Hopefully he could improve it to the level that he could receive a path for it, because Randidly knew that it would benefit him greatly.
After he had recovered his peace of mind, he looked at his notifications. The most exciting one was the notification that the created skill based upon Bert’s leg movements had reached 90%. That meant some concerted effort on his part would push it to the next level. But at the same time, Randidly was willing to take his time and really refine the image for it, without pressing forward. They would be here for a while, after all, so there was no need to rush to finishing.
Shal would be very annoyed if he wasted this effort, which even Shal acknowledged could lead to a useful skill. Then he looked over his stats, throwing his PP into the unending pit that was Path of Carnage. Lately, it hadn’t even given him anything for putting PP into it, it was just a black hole. In his heart, Randidly realized it might be better to take the 500 PP reward from the most recent Path of Carnage V and leave, but there was a part of him that wanted to stubbornly refuse. He had been gaining quite a lot of PP recently, and it looked to continue for a while, although his growth was slowing down somewhat. At the same time…
What if it went on forever…
Randidly took a view of his full status screen.
Health(/R per hour): 556/1010 [+8] (377 [+12])
Mana(/R per hour): 12/1249 (118.75)
Stam(/R per min): 601/1140 (148 [+4])
Vit: 111 [+4]
Str: 88 [+12]
Agi: 109 [+12]
Paths: Newbie 7/7, P.Def 10/10, M.Supp 10/10, Risk Taker 15/15, Basic Physical Fitness 20/20, Trainee 15/15, Wandering Survivor 20/20, Pathless I 5/5, Pathless II 5/5, Pathless III 10/10, Pathfinder 15/15, Disciple of Shal 37/37, Pathless IV 10/10, Pathless V 15/15, Pathless VI 15/15, Pathless VII 20/20, Pathless VIII 20/20, Pathless IX 25/25, Pathless X 50/50, Pathless 100/100, Mana Bolt Path 25/25, Phys Fitness 25/25, Evasion 35/35, Phantom Thrust Path 40/40, Spear Mastery I 50/50, Monster Slayer I 1/1, Monster Slayer II 3/3, Heavy Blow Path 20/20, Monster Slayer III 6/6, Monster Slayer IV 12/12, Monster Slayer V 25/25, Potion Making I 25/25, The Monster Slayer 100/100, Entangling Roots 40/40, Meditation 35/35, Frontrunner 100/100, Apprentice Path 50/50, Fireball I Path 50/50, Potion Making II 35/35, Spear Mastery II 75/75, Phantom Thrust II 75/75, Empower I 60/60, Root Manipulation I 75/75, Advanced Phys Fitness 100/100, Fighting Proficiency I 80/80, The Lonesome Spear 100/100, Path of Carnage V 415/500
Skills (Soul Skill): Cycle of Rot and Ash Lvl 901
Combat: Spear Mastery Lvl 96, The Inevitable Phantom Arrives Lvl 47 (Un), Spear Phantom’s Footwork Lvl 79, Eyes of the Spear Phantom Lvl 59, Phantom Half-Step Lvl 29, Heavy Blow Lvl 36, Dagger Mastery Lvl 10, Iron Skin Lvl 42, Dodge Lvl 53, Fighting Proficiency Lvl 66, Block Lvl 40, Haste Lvl 56, Phantom Onslaught Lvl 25, Sweep Lvl 36, Spear Deflect Lvl 10, Empower Lvl 53, Calculated Blow Lvl 30, Roundhouse Kick Lvl 31, Edge of Decay Lvl 32, Ghastly Slash Lvl 29, Pierce the Skies, Shatter the Earth Lvl 15, Battle Intent Lvl 34, Struggle Lvl 19
The 7 Kata of the Ashen Spear: The Spear Advances, Ash Trails Lvl 13
Spells: Spearing Roots Lvl 17, Mana Bolt Lvl 28, Mana Shield Lvl 24, Root Control Lvl 73, Arcane Orb Lvl 22, Fireball Lvl 30, Magic Missile Lvl 4, Healing Palm Lvl 12, Pollen of the Rafflesia Lvl 18, Summon Pestilence Lvl 33, Mana Strengthening Lvl 38, Wall of Thorns Lvl 10, Soul Seed Lvl ®, Agony Lvl 37, Inspiration ®, Incinerating Bolt Lvl 27, Circle of Flame Lvl 24, Plantomancy Lvl 25, The Weeping Cloud ® Lvl 23
Crafting: Potion Making Lvl 37, Farming Lvl 20, Plant Breeding Lvl 9, Mapmaker Lvl 7, Analyze Lvl 24, Refine Lvl 17, Extract Lvl 6, Mana Engraving Lvl 53
Auxiliary: Physical Fitness Lvl 59, Meditation Lvl 56, Running: Lvl 25, Sprinting Lvl 19, Sneak Lvl 43, Acid Resistance Lvl 22, Poison Resistance Lvl 21, Pain Resistance Lvl 23, First Aid Lvl 16, Equip Lvl 25, Pathfinding Lvl 18, Mental Strength Lvl 17, Curse Resistance Lvl 15, Fire Resistance Lvl 14, Sewing Lvl 11, Cutting Vegetables Lvl 2, Manual Labor Lvl 6, Digging Lvl 5, Cooking Lvl 29, Grace Lvl 38, Bacterial Regeneration Lvl 35, Superiority Lvl 14, Mental Fortitude Lvl 29, Second Wind Lvl 15, Weather Affinity Lvl 19, Clockwork Mastery Lvl 8
His list of skills continued to grow, and it was getting extremely monstrous. The amount of PP he could gain over the course of a battle was extremely high, simply due to the breadth of skills he could rely on. True, he had spent several months in here, training his spear skills in battle, and raising Mana Engraving to above 50. His gains in Battle Intent were also paying dividends. Now he was starting to see how Dian could have her intent be so powerful that it could devour his inspired spell.
Randidly looked up sharply, and was surprised to find Shal standing there.
“It is time,” He said simply. Nodding, Randidly stood and followed him.
The next 3 weeks became a blur of pain. Randidly never had a chance to fight anyone else in the area, because he was constantly dueling against Shal, who would harp on his every weakness in his stance, and never hesitate to strike at it. Time after time Randidly was knocked to the ground, his bones shattered.
Still, Shal just looked at Randidly. Randidly gritted his teeth and pushed himself up. He wasn’t truly an interesting person, before the system. He was quiet, and disliked interactions with others. Without the pressure of classes, he never would have met Tessa. Without being forced to have a roommate, he never would have met Ace. Sydney…
Well, Sydney was a special case. They were always connected, in a way.
But he had been bland, sleepwalking through life. Then the system had arrived, and crushed the previous world and left chaos and death in its wake. But also a path that led to power. Where before, Randidly had just been a quiet guy, as he founded Donnyton, and interacted with others, he slowly discovered his identity; he was someone strong.
Shal had showed him the basics, and then needed him to return and use the strength Randidly had borrowed from him to do him a favor. In that, Randidly stubbornly found a new version of himself; he was a man who would keep his word.
No matter what it took. That was a type of strength he wanted to possess.
So even though his body was barely able to keep his limbs in working condition, despite the furious pulse of Aether, Randidly stood, swaying. He settled into a fighting stance, and lowered his spear to point the tip at Shal. And so it would begin again.
Some of Randidly’s previous rivals were curious, and watched from afar, but after seeing Shal move, none dared approach. It annoyed Randidly, but Shal was clearly too powerful to be here, even when he used a regular spear, and not his personal spear.
As they expected, the prison did not pursue them, even though Shal was a prisoner a few tiers higher than Randidly. So they remained in peace, with no disturbances.
About a month and a half after they escaped Randidly had grinded his skills, mostly Spear Mastery, Spear Phantom’s Footwork, the Inevitable Phantom Arrives, and Bacterial Regeneration, enough that he reached 500 in Path of Carnage V and received the familiar notification.
Congratulations! You have completed the Path of Carnage V. Everything around you is blank and barren. The loneliness of your path lays across your shoulders like a cloak. Your hands stink of blood. You finally arrive at a crossroads. To your right, the path leads towards the keeps of your enemies. To your left, the untamed wilderness stretches unending as far as your eye can see. But before you, a rusty sword sticks out of the ground. Shall you take the sword and depart from this path here? Shall you head to your enemies keeps? Shall you head into the wilderness? You have encountered an Extending Path! Continue, or recieve your current reward?
For several long seconds, Randidly hesitated with his finger over the option to select the sword, but then he sighed and lowered his hand. He couldn’t bear the thought of remaining on this path without receiving the greatest reward for it. There had to be something further…
But the next thing would be Path of Carnage VI. How could the 6th stage really be the last one…? Still, he would not choose the sword. Instead he considered what to take of the other two. Sure, he did want to be able to attack the keeps of his enemies, but that might include skills or qualities that a leader would require. That wasn’t truly him. He preferred throwing himself into the unknown. So he chose the left path, into the wilderness.
You have passed the Warlord’s Sword The rewards for choosing the Warlord’s Sword: +12 Str, +10 Agi, +5 Vit and End. Quelling Blow (Un) Lvl 1.
You have passed the Path of the Conqueror. Yours is not the bloodletting that inspires others to follow you.
Randidly checked, and sure enough, Path of Carnage V 500/500 was now Path of Carnage VI 500/1000. He could only grit his teeth, swearing that he would resist the impulse next time to choose the longer payoff. After all, if he didn’t receive anymore benefits from this path… some very useful paths were beginning to pile up while he remained here.
But these things were put out of Randidly’s mind; training took all of his attention and effort. Shal wasn’t trying to kill him, he was just trying to keep Randidly as close to death as possible, without crossing that last line. At this, Shal was very, very good.
Blood routinely filled Randidly’s lungs. His legs were sliced and lacerated, and his arms trembled. Shal had Randidly use both training spears, and the larger obsidian one, attempting to master different methods, but Shal seemed only endlessly disappointed. Still, it was obvious that the training was having effects.
The most obvious one was how quickly Randidly now sprung back from near fatal blows. His body seemed to leap to healing with alacrity, earning Randidly Shal’s grudging admiration.
“Truly, you were made to be bullied,” Shal commented on one of the rare occasions the training stopped long enough for a meal. Randidly was too tired to even answer.
But it was also clear that his spear arts were progressing, even if it wasn’t at the rate that Shal wanted. Through repetition and brutal training, this was slowly being made up, one strike at a time. So exhausting and brutal was the training that Randidly largely dropped all of his Engraving. He still trained spells when he could, mostly the Weeping Cloud to recover, but anything more… he just didn’t have any gas in the tank.