After mocking the male spear attendant for a while more, Helen moved off to the side. There had been a strange feeling when she had dodged his attack. A fluidity and grace that almost seemed like a movement similar to the three she already had. Then she smiled at her own foolishness. To inexplicably have inspiration, now? After she had already improved so much in such a short amount of time. A 4th movement would be too much to ask.
But if she could parlay this into fucking raising her skill level even further…
The performance of Randidly and the other two at the Qualifier had proven to Helen that while she might be able to hold her own against them for a while, those individuals were cut from a different cloth. Whether it was pedigree, or the support of a powerful style, or an impossibly powerful skill…
Or the determination and willpower that made one’s eyes absolutely burn like green emeralds, even in the darkness, even in the face of despair…
Then Helen grimaced. God, she hated how fucking sappy she was getting lately. After a single night with a man. An enjoyable night, sure. But still. Just one night. Although she had been tempted several nights since. But Randidly hadn’t done anything but make moony eyes at her ever since and scratch his head, and she would be DAMNED if she was the first one to bring it up. If he wanted something, he could man the fuck up and say it.
So Helen distracted herself by moving through her three movements. And once again, taking her greatly by surprised, she gained skills levels. A lot. 7 in 4 hours of work, especially in the third movement, which was the most offensive of the three movements.
Helen let her form drop, and she stared solemnly at her spear. Before coming here, she would never believe the sort of results she was receiving, seemingly just by being around these training obsessed idiots. Even that worthless male spear attendant swiftly got over his humiliation from earlier and was now training, although he took the time to shoot glares at her.
When he thought she wasn’t looking of course. But that was just how Helen wanted it. Too many looks and he would be too dumb to even deal with. Too few and there wouldn’t be enough spirit within him to enjoy crushing. This was the perfect balance.
Still, Helen knew why he threw himself into training so viciously. Unlike Helen, and likely everyone, even the strange new arrival Teliph, the nameless spear attendant didn’t possess a Skill Set. Although this was a small thing, it determined a spear users future. It was a pretty accurate barometer of their future potential. A person with a skillset could grow much, much more quickly than one without.
The rarity of the Skill Set was important, but it was almost a bonus. A higher rarity skill set would increase the power of the skill, but make it more difficult to level, and make the image perhaps more unwieldy. Although a Common rarity skillset would be laughed at in terms of power, it would still be a skill set, and the image would be quick and easy. The growth speed would be fast.
If one still had a choice between a 3 skill Uncommon Rarity Skill Set and a 4 skill Common Rarity Skill Set, many would go with the Common Rarity. It just made sense, in terms of a person’s future potential.
After all, a Skill Set was technically only one skill in the eyes of the system. Spear users had been abusing this for generations to make an aristocracy among their youth, where as many skills as possible were Skill Sets, giving them that much of an advantage over everyone else. Not only were there path benefits, but the flexibility of the elites was a level higher than the average spear user. They had skill slots to spare for things like resistances and passive skills.
Which was why Randidly tempted her, in terms of sources of genetics for her offspring. Helen slowly repeated the phrase pounded into her head by her own mother. “A skill from the mother… a path from the father.”
Then Helen pursed her lips. Of course, the results were fucking random, and limited by prerequisites and the like. But typically, a child would be born with an innate skill from her mother, and have access to a path from her father. The skill would be direct inheritance; the child received a skill that the mother had. Which was why Helen had been innately talented in terms of Leatherworking from a young age, and obtained access to related paths way ahead of her peers.
She of course, took great joy in refusing to invest PP in those paths, and squandering her once-in-a-generation potential. Her mother’s disappointment was the sweetest nectar, and her father’s fury was how she learned to behave.
Which is why it made sense when she obtained the Building Fury Path on her 15th birthday. Which had proven to be a much more useful and fruitful investment, Helen believed. It certainly had fucking made kicking the asses of all the handsy leatherworking boys much more attainable.
She wondered what sort of skill a child would be likely to inherit from her. Ideally it would be the Skill Set, but anecdotally, that was incredibly uncommon. Although the Skill Set counted as one skill for the purposes of the class skill limit, each skill also counted individually, as well as the Skill Set seeming to have an even lesser chance of appearing.
Still, any of the 3 movements that Helen had would be a fucking blessing to a child. More so than Leatherworking. Even by the time the child was ready to get the spear-user class… their mastery over the Skill would lead to future accomplishments. More power early meant more opportunities, more dungeons, more pure Aether from which to focus on your own image… it was a cycle that reinforced itself.
But really, what Helen wanted to know was completely unrelated to her.
What sort of path would having Randidly as a father open for a child…?
Shal sat in meditation, watching as his disciple gritted his teeth and read from the diary of Shal’s father. Shal knew in his heart he hadn’t been fair to Randidly as they left the prison. The killing of the guard was unnecessary… but made sense, given what Shal had been teaching him about life. Given that Shal had okayed the battling and sometimes killing of those inside the prison. Given that Shal had encouraged Randidly to kill the guard originally in order to earn themselves a berth in prison.
Those had been necessary, in Shal’s mind, in order for them to go down this path. For at his core, Shal knew the truth. Shal did not fear that Randidly was becoming like his father. Shal feared that he, himself, was making that transition. A man who viewed his children and lessers simply as tools.
For he remembered something said to him a long time ago, in one of the brief times that Shal had seen his father after he had become the Spear Phantom. It was one of the last times he saw him, leading up to Shal’s father’s trip to see the Devourer.
“Why did you let him get like this?” Shal asked, tears in his eyes, wringing his 12 year old hands.
Slowly, Shal’s father turned and regarded Shal. Then, to Shal’s surprise, the most unrelenting and stiff man Shal knew sighed. The cruelty and the powerful aura of death that the man carried with him vanished them, if just for a moment. And he said, “It is easier to walk down the path of strength first, and then worry about integrity later, only once you have the power to defend it.”
That Shal found himself encouraging Randidly down a similar path 50 years later disgusted him. But there was a fire in his chest that he couldn’t put out. And it had a name.
His disciple gasped and dropped the diary. Calmly waiting, Shal watched as Randidly groaned, stretched, walked around a bit, then sat back down with the diary. Continuing along with Shal’s ridiculous request of keeping with just the 1st and 5th entry. The proper way would have been slowly immersing in the different Battle Intents for the 6 moves, one at a time, slowly building up a familiarity with the Style, and hopefully mastering them all someday.
But Shal had tried that path. When he trained in the moves of the Spear Phantom, he slowly pushed himself deeper and deeper, focusing on his foundation. And of course, that didn’t turn out well enough to be proud of. He had only managed to master 4 of the 6 moves.
What was perhaps even more frustrating about the whole ordeal was that those 4 stances were enough to absolutely dominate those below the Adept level. The sheer overwhelming power of the image that his father had created was ridiculous. And so very different than the father Shal remembered growing up with. Even then there was a darkness to him, but it manifested itself as a tiredness, not as the vicious, unrelenting authoritarian that he became in later years, even as he was rarely around.
In fact, Shal had only received one week of instruction in the Phantom Spear Style from his father, in real time. Some of that had been stretched through dungeon, but only up to a month. Perhaps if he had more, he could glean some secret, some trick or insight, that would allow him access to all 6 moves.
For all of this was for revenge. Partially against his father, perhaps even a sliver of revenge against his brother Pronto, but most of all, revenge against the woman who set them on that tragic path.
This was Shal’s gamble with Randidly. On the one hand, Shal hoped that Randidly would really be able to master the Phantom’s Embrace. That would increase his disciple’s chances of surviving in the tournament to almost assured. It was, however, his disciple, and there was always a chance he would fuck it up.
But the real goal was not to increase his disciple’s strength, but to see if building a bridge without the foundation is possible. If that was true…
Shal’s eyes burned. The third eye, lodged in his forehead, stirred.
If that was true, Shal would skip the 5th and proceed to the 6th, the Breath of the Spear Phantom.