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Warning! Your Soul Skill has become unstable! If you continue to feed it, the effects will worsen. Calculating effects….

Error, unrecognized Soul Skill. Adjusting Parameters….

Expanding Search…

Isolating comparable Soul Skills…

Match found! Adjusting Parameters…. Calculating Effects…

Warning, death may result from the usage of an unapproved Soul Skill. Consult with a Village spirit for further assistance.

While the notifications appeared before Randidly, the pain in his chest continued to worsen. Gritting his teeth, he closed his eyes and rode through the pain, refusing to fight against it, but also refusing to lose consciousness. He just let the experience flow through him.

He did this because he could see what was occurring within him, and was worried that cracking down too forcefully would worsen the situation. In his image of what was occurring with his Soul Skill, the constant rotation of grass, rot, and heat burning it all to ash had produced a thick layer of those small, emerald crystals, which now filled the soil. At the moment, those crystals were glowing, emitting a strange green light, seeming furiously hungering for something.

That power they emitted excited the forces of rot and ash, causing them to rotate faster, almost attempting to give those green crystals what they wanted. As they rotated faster, a powerful suction force was created, drawing nearby items in Randidly’s consciousness towards the Soul Skill. Fortunately, his actual skills seemed to be immune to the strange happening. Randidly looked wildly around, inside himself, but both the small golden pellet he had gotten from the lonesome spear style, and that strange, murderous death energy were completely still; locked in place by familiar, tiny gold chains.

Randidly expression turned grim. Someone was forcing him a certain direction. He wasn’t quite sure exactly was, but he abruptly regretted choosing the Rain Path. Because if they were trying to get him to do something very specific…

Because if they were trying to strong arm him down a path that he didn’t feel was of his own choosing...

Well, Randidly wouldn’t be able to help himself. After all, he did not negotiate with terrorists. His stubbornness wouldn’t let him.

But for now he could only stand still and bite his lip to keep himself from screaming. This was an entirely different sort of pain than Shal’s tortures, one that stemmed from the fact that the two forces that made his Soul Skill were rotating so fast that it was threatening to tear him apart from the inside out. They pulled and pulled an pulled, and the suction grew and grew…

But nothing was shaken free. Randidly’s consciousness was relatively clean. So after a time, the suction passed, the energy and light faded from those emerald shards. The forces of rot and ash slowed in their rotation, until they returned to something like their normal speed. Sighing, Randidly relaxed slightly.

Whoever had caused this… well, he kept his face carefully casual in the aftermath, in case that individual could spy on him. After all, he had felt those hands within his body. If those hands were related to the golden chains that had forced him to the reward for the Carnage path… and had caused the reward to turn into a strange energy that currently hovered within him…

It would lead him somewhere. And with gleaming eyes, Randidly hoped that at the end of the road, that individual was ready to play hardball, because he wouldn’t hold back. He would break their plans and burn their carefully prepared path to the ground.

But he needed to let that burning resentment go, and carefully added the remaining 14 PP to the path. There was some activity, as the emerald shards seemed to pulse slightly, but it didn’t set off a chain reaction, which relieved Randidly. At least for now, he wouldn’t have to experience that mental anguish again.

After adding all of the PP, he relished in the fact that Randidly had gained 1128 Skill Levels in his time in the Prison. It had been two years, so any less than that might be embarrassing, but it meant that he experienced a huge amount of progress, both in terms of skill levels and stats. Most of that was in his combat oriented Skills, but he also had a large amount of improvement in the passives, as well.

Randidly looked over his status screen, pleased.

Randidly Ghosthound

Class: ---

Level: N/A

Health(/R per hour): 556/1307 [+8] (470 [+12])

Mana(/R per hour): 12/1439 (130.75)

Stam(/R per min): 601/1450 (201 [+4])

Vit: 137 [+4]

End: 66

Str: 105 [+12]

Agi: 126 [+12]

Perception: 100

Reaction: 90

Resistance: 74

Willpower: 115

Intelligence: 100

Wisdom: 56

Control: 185

Focus: 140

Skills (Soul Skill):  Cycle of Rot and Ash Lvl 1514

Combat: Spear Mastery Lvl 108, The Inevitable Phantom Arrives Lvl 68 (Un), Spear Phantom’s Footwork Lvl 92, Eyes of the Spear Phantom Lvl 74, Phantom Half-Step Lvl 43, Heavy Blow Lvl 59, Dagger Mastery Lvl 10, Iron Skin Lvl 47, Dodge Lvl 56, Fighting Proficiency Lvl 81, Block Lvl 45, Haste Lvl 69, Phantom Onslaught Lvl 37, Sweep Lvl 54, Spear Deflect Lvl 10, Empower Lvl 77, Calculated Blow Lvl 64, Roundhouse Kick Lvl 36, Edge of Decay Lvl 39, Idiosyncratic Cut (Un) Lvl 59, Pierce the Skies, Shatter the Earth Lvl 33, Battle Intent Lvl 61, Struggle Lvl 39, Body Control: Freeze Lvl 6, The Golden Roots of Yggdrasil (A) Lvl 4

 

The 7 Kata of the Ashen Spear (Ru): The Spear Advances, Ash Trails Lvl 13

 

Spells: Spearing Roots Lvl 32, Mana Bolt Lvl 28, Mana Shield Lvl 26, Root Control Lvl 87, Arcane Orb Lvl 22, Fireball Lvl 30, Magic Missile Lvl 4, Healing Palm Lvl 12, Pollen of the Rafflesia Lvl 20, Summon Pestilence.Lvl 53, Mana Strengthening Lvl 48, Wall of Thorns Lvl 16, Soul Seed Lvl ®, Agony Lvl 37, Inspiration ®, Incinerating Bolt Lvl 64, Circle of Flame Lvl 39, Plantomancy Lvl 29, The Weeping Cloud ® Lvl 56

 

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 60

 

Auxiliary: Physical Fitness Lvl 64, Meditation Lvl 62, Running: Lvl 39,  Sprinting Lvl 19, Sneak Lvl 46, Acid Resistance Lvl 22, Poison Resistance Lvl 21, Pain Resistance Lvl 29, 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 30, Grace Lvl 39, Bacterial Regeneration Lvl 64, Superiority Lvl 18, Mental Fortitude Lvl 38, Second Wind Lvl 29, Weather Affinity Lvl 32, Clockwork Mastery Lvl 8, Rejection Lvl 11

It was hard to remember what it was like when he started out. Now, he really felt like the system was an important part of himself. It had helped him find his strength, and his relationship with the world. Slowly, he felt himself growing as a person. Again, the image of those guard’s bodies, falling below, crushed in the tower as they escaped appeared, but Randidly frowned and forced it away. Not yet.

He stood slowly, and then stretched. Now was time to find Shal. His teacher had challenged him the previous night, personally, in a way that was aimed to unravel Randidly, to get at any flaws in his character. Luckily, it hadn’t worked. But… Randidly wasn’t perfect. He wasn’t sure what to do with his talent for violence. So he could only do one thing; seek help from his elders.

****

The First Spear of Tomkat’s face was grim as he heard the news.

Most of the guards inside the prison were dead. It was confirmed that the warden had been slain, prior to the escape too, likely by Shal. In addition, a strange creature calling itself a Judgement had set up camp in the prison, and was waging a slow, cold war on the surviving prisoners, who had banded together with the guards to survive. The creature was getting pushed back, but was a powerful mage, which was making things difficult. In addition, there was a constant flood of tiny minions from its position which was complicating things greatly.

They were making headway now, but weariness was growing among the men in the prison. Although it was probably too late for the First Spear to intervene, with the time difference...

It was not an ideal scenario. The First Spear tried to remember that no matter the losses, if he had another Adept in his employ, he could recoup them. But this was progressing past a loss of face; this was a significant blow to his city in a way that didn’t make him angry, just worried.

But as he dismissed the guards, what was driving the First Spear insane was the why of the situation. Why had Shal gotten himself thrown in prison on a small matter in the first place? He had read the report, his disciple had killed a guard, a foolish move that was designed to annoy his officials, but because of the disciple’s age and strength, they found it prudent to throw them both into the prison for the 100 year term. Let them strengthen there, then come out and be miserable from Aether Starvation for several months, at which point the First Spear of Tomkat could recruit them.

Why had Shal remained a captive? The prison was not designed to hold Adepts. Adepts could attack with their images without moving. If one was an Adept, escape was child’s play; all the restraints simply blocked movement. If you were powerful without it, the cage held no meaning.

Why now? Why were they moving now?

At least for this question, the First Spear was able to obtain some answers. The Spear Phantom Style had to accomplish certain goals in the next few months in order to maintain access to the light blue color spectrum that Shal used. But of course, the youngest generation of the Style had to be the one to accomplish it. After a bit of research, it seemed that youth, a fellow called the Ghosthound, and made it through a qualifier and would be going to the Northern Regional Tournament. A top 8 finish there would be sufficient result for the honor of the Spear Phantom Style.

So perhaps the prison was chosen as a training ground in order to give the youth real battle experience against other spearman…? Which seemed like a reasonable method, if one that was extremely reckless, in that it offended the First Spear of Tomkat, a slight he would not soon forget.

But Shal’s face as he tendered his promise… this was not a reckless man. If anything… he seemed desperate.

Sighing, the First Spear beckoned over a servant. There was one thing he wanted to investigate. Although he didn’t know where the term was from, those who fought against the strange Judgement creature, testified that it kept referring to a Heretic, which stirred a half forgotten memory in the First Spear. So he would consult with his contacts in Deardun and figure this out.

Why had all of this happened to him...?

The First Spear of Tomakat’s face was grim as he stared down at the blade of his spear. His grip tightened on the shaft.

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