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Randidly stood in the shadows at the edge of the villa area with the mustached man. He had asked his name earlier, but the man had been completely silent. In fact, now that Randidly thought about it, he didn't think he had ever heard the man speak. So they stood silently, waiting.

Then the man nodded. Marco and Teliph made their move, and the gazes from the people on the watch towers turned away from them. They both activated the shadow engraving, burning its energy, but giving them the benefit of a shroud of shadow, which would make it very difficult for people to spot them, especially while they were distracted by other things.

However, they would need to move quickly, because as soon as someone realized there was a challenge to the warden and a distraction at the watchtowers at the same time, they would likely shift to a more defensive and on edge focus. So while they were distracted, in that small window of time, they rushed up to the main tower.

Although the mustached man was smaller than Randidly, Randidly put his feet into these strange stirrups they had fashioned from leather and gripped the man’s shoulders. They began to rapidly ascend, with Randidly slightly numb as the man managed to keep a grip in the very small ledges between blocks of that strange, almost impossible to destroy material. It was not even something that could be done with stats; there was definitely some sort of grip skill involved here.

Although he wanted to peer around at the watchtowers, Randidly stayed as still as possible, just holding onto the man’s back. They ascended quickly, rushing up towards the top of the tower. The man’s movements were swift and sure. They passed the 2nd floor, the 3rd, the 4th… Randidly inwardly breathed out one worry that he had; they would certainly make it to the top before the shadow engraving ran out of energy.

And it even as they passed the 6th, and then the 7th floors, there was no cry of alarm. No one appeared to notice them as they scaled up the side of the tower. As they approached their goal, Randidly turned his attention inward, focusing on the Aether that swirled within him. Those powerful moves, that lowered center of gravity, that image of verdant, golden roots glowing with life, the powerful roots that supported the World Tree, Yggdrasil…

But there was something missing. Something vitally important. He could create a skill, and it would be powerful, but it wouldn’t be quite what he wanted right now. His heart and Aether began to thump, growing in strength, and he felt a few drops of sweat trickle down the back of his neck. He didn’t have time for perfection right now, but at the same time…

Inwardly, his stubbornness rose forcefully to combat that. He DID have time for perfection. That was what he was striving for. Not enough strength, but to be truly strong. Anything else would be an endless disappointment. He wanted to dismiss this feeling out of hand, but…

There was something about this moment, that the dissonance in his move was extra apparent, climbing the tower. It felt off, somehow, like he was missing something. But what was it…?

They rushed up past the 9th floor with still no problems. No outward problems anyway. The watch towers were silent, their gazes elsewhere.

Those life giving roots, those powerful support beams… What was he missing?

They leapt over the 10th floor entirely, landing on the top level, where the portal sat. A squad sat off to the side, chatting, while two women stood right next to the portal, looking bored. Several other guards milled around, going about their daily duties, peering over at the disturbances. It appeared that no one had made the connection that they were coming.

And the shadow engraving was still in effect, so the few people who spotted their arrival, seemed to squint and frown, as if they couldn’t decide what they were seeing. The mustached man took advantage of this, and threw two spears like javelins, the first woman near the portal being hit in the gut and knocked backward, the second actually beheaded by the well thrown spear. Then the mustached man rushed forward, heading to block off the portal.

Randidly threw up Walls of Thorns everywhere, to confuse and block the sight of the guards, making a rather sudden maze, then focused inward, a small smile on his face. Because as soon as they landed on the roof, and Randidly had gotten off the man’s back and stood on the ground, he had realized it, what he was missing. The critical part of the image.

He wiggled his bare toes against the stone, savoring the contact. Aether began to roar in his chest, as it began to swirl. A huge wave surged up from within him, rising to create this new skill. With his eyes closed, he could see it; from his feet, through the tower, stretching downward, those golden roots continued, growing thinner and thinner, branching and spreading, soon covering the entire area. The ground around him was filled with those roots with which he was connected. He was just one part of the network.

Then the strength began to flow upward, from the very core of the world, up the golden roots, flowing into his body.

Because the roots did not simply begin with him. The World Tree Yggdrasil might hold up the sky, but it sat on the earth, and drew its power from the core of the planet. It was a piece of something much, much larger than itself. And that was why it was strong.

Congratulations! Due to your actions, you are developing your own personal skill. Skill is 100% complete. Please return to a village to obtain your new skill!

Immediate skill creation is possible. Would you like to proceed? Y/N

Warning, creation of a skill with insufficient fuel will lead to death. Do you wish to proceed? Y/N

Randidly smiled and clicked yes. More notifications popped up. But the one at the top was what he was waiting for. The guards were now hacking through the Walls of Thorns, and the mustached man continued to fight, attacking them while they were distracted, trying to keep them away from the portal. He was strong, but so were they, and they had numbers. More guards rushed up from below.

But the distraction was coming.

Warning, you have tread too long on the Path of the Heretic. Although you endured through the previous Judgement, no longer will it be so simple. Heretic X is now open to you. For this, you must face Judgement. Due to your affiliation with the Patron of Ash, the Judgement of the Patron of Frostbite descends. Know that even if you endure through the Judgement, more will follow. Proceed directly to the nearest Village and speak with the Spirit to repent.

Due to this being your second infraction, the Judgement’s power shall be greatly increased, closer to its power on its home world.  The minions of Judgement will spawn endlessly. When you die, a high level dungeon will be created from your corpse. Rejoice.

Randidly frowned, and spit on the ground. When he died, huh…? The clouds above started to darken and swirl, and there was an immediate drop in temperature. Fucking Patron of Frostbite.

But Randidly’s eyes went on to the other notifications.

Congratulations! Your own personal skill has been created. You have created the skill The Golden Roots of Yggdrasil (A) Lvl 1. Due to proceeding to a different Cohort than your home planet to create the skill, all bonuses associated with the record of creating an Ancient skill are lost.

The Golden Roots of Yggdrasil (A) Lvl 1: Your legs are the roots that connect you to the fires of the world. Passive Effects: Knockback and stun resistance greatly increased per skill level. Mana Regeneration increased while touching the ground. Effect increases with skill level. The effectiveness of each point of Vitality towards Health Regeneration increases while touching the ground. Effect increases with skill level. Active Effects: Costs 50 Stamina per second. The passive effects are doubled. Offensive and defensive physical skills are slightly more powerful. Effect increases with skill level.

Randidly breathed in and out, feeling it. Even now, without the skill active, he could feel small golden tendrils, running up from the ground, through the building, and to his bare feet, filling him with life and energy. Increased Health Regeneration and Mana Regeneration, huh…? And it seemed like the health regeneration bonus was based per point of Vitality, so it was a much more powerful thing, and would improve with the skill level, and with increases in Vitality.

But increased Mana Regeneration all the time would also be extremely useful, especially for training. Especially combined with Meditation-

Randidly’s thoughts were cut short as a guard ripped through a nearby Wall of Thorns, cursing. The man didn’t appear to see him, likely due to the continued influence of the shadow engraving, and Randidly also had something he wanted to test out. Randidly lowered his stance, switching the skill to its active component. Immediately, those thin golden tendrils of energy thickened and swelled, rushing up towards him through his feet.

At the same time, his legs began to trembled from the exertion of staying in such a posture. Raising his spear, Randidly used the Inevitable Phantom Arrives. Hopelessness filled the air, a layer of bitter frustration. Clocks began to tick, and the guard looked up, finally noticing, his face twisted in confusion. But then he saw Randidly’s mother, half of her face ripped and rotted away, smiling sweetly, and his eyes became filled with horror.

She drifted forward, and Randidly’s large obsidian spear ripped forward, filled with the inevitable power of time. Gritting his teeth, the man shifted, raising his spear in a defensive posture, but Randidly felt those golden rivers of power rushing up through his feet move to his spear point, concentrating there. Their weapons crossed, and there was a sudden gasp as Randidly’s thrust shattered the man’s spear.

He watched, shocked, as the attack penetrated his chest, ripping through his heart. Immediately, his eyes dimmed, and the man slumped downward.

Chest heaving, Randidly shakily stood, taking off the active effects of the skill. Based on the speed of the response, Randidly guessed that the guard was actually quite similar in skill to himself. Not an Artisan yet, but with high stats and skill levels. But, with Randidly’s skills, with one attack...

Randidly had realized before how important skills were. But finally, after all this time, he made the logical connection with how everyone else struggled to make skills, and this Aether within him, freezing cold and scalding hot, and singing with a strange ethereal energy, made it simpler for him to create his own skills.  If he could continue to create powerful skills with it…

But then a beam of pure frigid energy crashed down, hitting the top of the tower and destroying most of his Wall of Thorns, and Randidly was forced to focus on more immediate matters.

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