Randidly frowned, confused. That had been way too easy. Why had the man not even blocked…? Well, it wasn’t that he hadn’t blocked, but the block had been rather…
Divveltian slapped his knee, laughing. “It’s not worth your time to practice against that idiot. He’s challenging you directly with images. And your Battle Intent is to the level that his can’t even touch you. You should-”
But then Divveltian stilled, and he looked out across the boats. “-well nevermind. It seems we have company. Move to the side, this is no longer a probe. It seems your absence has made them become serious.”
A group of 7 ran off of nearby boats and leaped, aiming for their boat. Divveltian’s face tightened, and it seemed for a moment he was locked in an internal struggle. But then he gazed at Randidly and his gaze softened.
“I suppose it really is time to stop playing around,” He muttered, and then he raised a finger. With a delicate motion, he waved it back and forth.
That strange music filled the air, and spears condensed, moving back and forth to a strange rhythm. These spears smashed against the leaping seven spear users. But before the spears could land, there was a soft tinkling of laughter. A woman with a long, dark pink dress with sleeves that covered her hands stepped up on the far boats.
“Don’t you think your reaction is a bit too violent, Divveltian?”
An image of a spear growing upwards like a vine out of the earth appeared in the air, smashing into the musical spears. Raising his hand, Randidly hid his shock at how powerful the shock wave between the two moves was. Was this the power of Adepts…?
The seven were buffeted by the winds, but the leader seemed able to disperse most of the force. However, the momentum of their leap was destroyed and the leader was forced to produce a small boat that they landed on, bobbing up and down on the water.
For several seconds, the woman, Divveltian, and the 7 spear users looked at each other. It was a long, dragging silence. Then Divveltian cleared his throat.
“To dare attempt to board a boat without permission… That sort of behavior is best nipped in the bud.”
The leader of the seven’s face darkened. “You fool. You usurped that boat from Uncle Izzie, a close personal friend. Those who dare behave like thieves should not complain about the decency of others. You even sabotaged his enterprise by dumping his wares! This will not stand. It is the opinion of the First Spear of Qtal-”
“If the First Spear had such an opinion,” Divveltian drawled. “Then why hasn’t he appeared and made it known? Do not casually use the name of your betters, boy.”
The man flushed. His boat began to slowly drift forward, towards their boat. Divveltian folded his arms behind his back and spoke quietly so only Randidly and his 3 spear attendants could hear. “Listen very carefully. That man is Jacktat of the Thunder Hammer Style. He is a kept spear user of the Merchant Association here, but before he sold out and lost his edge, he did have the legitimate power of an Artisan. Shal will be… busy with his training, and I-”
The woman in the dark pink dress waved brightly at the group, as if she knew exactly what was being discussed, even across the water.
“-have an old friend to deal with. I will not be able to assist with these seven.” Divveltian tilted his head to the side and squinted his eyes. “I do not know any of them aside from Jacktat, which leads me to expect that they are simply common bullies. But it will still be 2 v 1 for you three. Be careful.”
Helen smiled wickedly. Teliph just snorted. The male spear attendant just stood with his jaw hanging open, his eyes wide.
Randidly breathed in and out very slowly, clear on what Divveltian was saying. If Shal really was occupied, then that meant the pleasure of entertaining Jacktat fell to him. He spared a glance for the woman and her long pink sleeves. Who was this, that it made Divveltian, with the power of an Adept, so serious? Why were so many Adept level people squirming out of the woodwork?
As the truth seemed to hit the male spear attendant, he asked, “...but how can we manage 2 v 1? I can’t even-”
Divveltian sighed. “Fool, stop comparing yourself to the spear users you train with. Helen has a grace that is almost genius. Teliph is implacable and methodical. Randidly is unrelenting and is willing to brutalize his mind and body for power. You are just a spear user with an average amount of talent. But talent doesn’t mean everything. Where you train is often the more determinative factor in terms of outcomes. Be confident. Now quiet. They are arriving.”
Randidly smiled at the compliment, and even Teliph seemed to lightly flush at the praise. Unfortunately, the male spear attendant didn’t seem to understand what Divveltian had said to him, and his face twisted in horror, and panic could be seen at the edges of his eyes. But Randidly shrugged inwardly. The man would either realize the truth of Divvit’s words, or he wouldn’t.
The seven climbed regally onto the boat, glaring around. Behind Jacktat, there was a large man with extremely thick arms, a pudgy man, a wispy looking fellow, two women whose similar features marked them as family, perhaps twins, and a grim faced man who carried at least 6 spears on his back.
Jacktat leveled his spear at Divveltian. “Now, old man prepare to eat your fucking words. I’ll make sure you fucking repay every cent that you owe Uncle Izzie-”
“Ah, you are confused. I get it, your rampaging teenage hormones.” Divveltian said breezily, shooing Jacktat away. “But I won’t be bothering with you. Perhaps you should fight one of the younger generation, so it’s more fair.”
Randidly stepped forward, summoning the huge obsidian spear that he now knew had belonged to Haelthing. Glancing at it, he admired how regal and imposing it was, but he couldn’t wrap his mind around the image the story had given him of Haelthing, in comparison with the spear. Sure, it was dark and dangerous looking, but it was the danger of a mountain path sunk in shadow. It was not an evil thing, just a brutal one.
Randidly’s reverie was interrupted by vicious laughter. “What- ahahahahah! Fine, I’ll crush this bug and then drag you out old man. You know what? Let’s crush them all. Gang up on them and make them all pay, boys.”
The disciples spread slowly, their smiles thin and evil. With a lecherous grin, the huge man and the pudgy one walked towards Helen. The wispy guy and the man with 6 spears walked towards Teliph. The male spear attendant supressed a dumb little smile as the two female twins slunk towards him.
“Don’t die quickly,” Jacktat hissed. “I want them to see every second of your pain, and regret letting me break you, Randidly of the emerald. There is a modest bounty on your Tassle too, in the right circles, so I’ll enjoy this.”
But Randidly wasn’t really listening to his words though. It would just distract him. Instead, he just focused on his breathing, reaching inside himself and touching on the Aether that waited there. Slowly, as Randidly pressed with his will, it began to slowly flow, like the deepest part of a frozen stream in winter. The movement was small, but it would make upping the ante in battle easier.
His heart rate increased.
It was strange, but Randidly was nervous. He had fought many people in his 2 years in prison, but that felt different somehow. Isolated from the world. And it was a wild and informal thing, those brawls. Done more for survival than anything else.
Here, however, there were rites and rituals, different ways of speaking. This was a battle for honor and respect. And as soon as Randidly thought that, he smiled, his nerves broken. He fell into a fighting stance. That was why this felt strange. Even from Jacktat’s words, although he wanted to crush Randidly, there was never any hint of killing intent. The purpose was to humiliate him, and strip him of his Tassle.
When the stakes were so low, it was hard to get serious. Like Divvit said, this was a man who had been bought, and long ago lost his edge. But that was just in the way he acted and fought. Skill Levels didn’t decay, as far as Randidly knew, so there would be within him still a hint of the man who seized the title of Artisan.
Randidly was pleased by the surprise in the man’s face when Randidly attacked first, activating Haste, Empower, and Mana Strengthening to leap forward and use Sweep, smashing into Jacktat’s defense. All around, Randidly’s move seemed to serve as the signal to attack, and his three spear attendant’s rushed forward in unison with him.
Jacktat grunted lightly, and took a step back, but it seemed more from surprise than anything else. His powerful thrust that he launched in reply proved that. It smashed Randidly backwards and ripped a chunk of flesh off of his shoulder. Randidly’s eyes narrowed. He had been far too careless, attacking him directly. It was an old, bad habit left over from his earliest fights when the system arrived.
But he had spent two years learning how to fight in different ways, and it was time to show the world how much he had changed. And not just the world, but himself too. To prove that he had the strength to stand up against the powerful youth he would be forced to fight in the regional tournament. That he had the strength to crush them.
So as Jacktat rushed forward, his blows heavy, not Shal level of heavy, but still clearly powerful, Randidly began to use Spear Phantom’s Footwork and moved around the attacks, getting in shots where he could. This seemed to annoy Jacktat, but he just growled and attacked more wildly.
Which of course, was exactly the wrong sort of thing to do. Jacktat might be powerful, but he was not as powerful as those Randidly had trained with, and that was all he had, power. He had none of the grace and speed of Shal, and none of the impossibly perfect attacks that Marco Polo used, combinations based on years of experience.
Randidly’s eyes began to glow as the Aether flowed more freely in his chest.
He could do this. He could defeat an Artisan.