The start of the tournament was 3 days away, and after signing himself in and claiming a spot, Randidly didn’t really have anything that he needed to do in the city. So he continued to train.
Claptrap’s information about perseverance was somewhat useless to Randidly. Perhaps useless was the wrong world. It wasn’t something that could be focused on and improved in the short term, and also Randidly believed that of all his qualities, perseverance was the one in which he had the most… dedication. It wasn’t that his perseverance was all that impressive, but it was a necessary part of his time in the post-system world.
Still, this was compared to the elites that had made it into the Regional Tournament, so Randidly did his best to temper expectations. But still, to his mind, his great strength was his tenacity and recovery speed. And these things directly impacted his ability to persevere. It seemed that a higher power truly wanted to give him a chance in this tournament, if this was the criterion on which he would be judged.
So during that 3 days, Randidly instead focused on prepping his mental state to be incredibly fresh and robust. This mostly involved involved long periods of training with the diary of the Spear Phantom, and then taking the time to sit in his Weeping Cloud Skill and allow those healing rain drops to flow over and through him, cleansing him. This repeated cycled did wonders for his Mental Fortitude, which Randidly supposed was another quality that would help him persevere.
Between training sessions, Randidly continued to research Engraving in the technical manuals given to him, Engraved a little on the side, and also went upstairs to the area above the inn to train. He mostly focused on activities designed to increase his physical fitness at this point, rather than attempting to improve his Active skills, and also used it as a chance to get some experience fighting with the Golden Roots of Yggdrasil.
But the real reason that Randidly headed to the roof was to watch with fascination as the elderly man trained the youths in the art of the spear. Part of his fascination was that the training style was so different than what Shal employed, but Randidly also learned a bit about proper stance and form from listening.
Truthfully, these were things that Randidly had already learned with his body, due to the brutal sessions with Shal, and had internalized. But he had never addressed them directly, or systematically. It was usually small things that Randidly had missed during his training sessions with the Root Avatars he had created. But once he heard the small tips and tricks, they made a lot of sense, and Randidly’s understanding of how and why he did things grew immensely.
As he spent more time up in the training area, Randidly came to the conclusion that there weren’t that many powerful individuals who used it; he didn’t even witness anyone who seemed close to the Artisan level training there. But even though they were not particularly strong, and their skills were basic, most people trained with a dedication and zeal that took Randidly slightly aback.
Some people even seemed to have quite low skill levels, at the point where they wouldn’t be allowed into the Squads of Donnyton. But for an hour a day, they came and trained, dutifully dedicating themselves to the pursuit of the spear.
Feeling particularly foolish, Randidly asked Helen about it. She gave him a look like he was an idiot. “Well of course they would fucking dedicate themselves to the spear. It is the only way to tap into the Aether, you must know the feeling of a spear in your hands.”
Randidly frowned. “What do you mean?”
“To use Aether. You need a spear. Are you… mentally damaged?” Helen said testily, and then walked away.
Randidly pursed his lips, but decided not to pursue it. Instead, when Claptrap stopped by to take some of the armor that he had Engraved recently, Randidly asked him if he knew why this was. Randidly believed that this would be a much more kind source of information.
“Are you not…. Well anyway. It’s the same reason that everyone obtains a class related to the spear. It is rumored to be different on other worlds, but the Aether of this world is particularly inclined to the spear. It has been since the Spearman defeated the Calamity. It is believed that it is a direct result of that clash, it shaped our entire world. So if you have a powerful image about using…”
Claptrap frowned and thought hard for several seconds, leaving Randidly rather confused, before continuing. “...Well like a kitchen knife. I know it’s silly, but imagine using a kitchen knife as a weapon. Or a shield. A shield might be easier. If you have an image of using a shield alone, it is very hard to create a skill, even with your own pure Aether. Because the Aether doesn’t take those sort of images well. But if you involve the spear in your image… even if it is a tenuous connection, skill creation is possible.”
Randidly left the conversation with more questions than he had began with. First, it was slightly ridiculous to Randidly’s mind that most everyone had eerily similar classes here. One of the great draws of the system was the potential to obtain a powerful class with different stat growth rates. Was that just not available on this world? Was it a difference of the Cohort, like Earth obtained an updated version of the system?
Second… the fact that the Aether could be better suited to certain types of images for skill creation was disturbing. Was it really just that the Spearman was such a powerful individual that he had changed the Aether of an entire world? And what did that entail, shifting the Aether like that? From conversations he had overheard, Randidly had gleaned that there was an Aether Spring at the core of the world, that fueled growth here. Was it a change in that spring that affected the world?
But it did reassure Randidly that refusing the System was the right thing. It was pretty clear that although the people of this world revered and embraced the change, a lot of their potential was being restricted by the System itself and its insidious Aether. Just like at this very moment, within his chest, his Soul Skill was still sealed off to his perception…
The other thing Randidly did was learn some things about the strange emerald wisp of energy that had taken up residence inside of himself.
When he turned his attention inward after an extended period of time training and studying, he found that the emerald light had grown exceedingly dim, and had faded to a tiny spec. It also responded very lethargically to Randidly’s ministrations for a long time. But the longer Randidly focused on it, poking it and cajoling it, it slowly revived itself, burning with a slightly brighter light. After a half hour, it had returned to its previous bright self, and danced around happily.
Curious, and with nothing really to do at 1 AM, Randidly continued to play with it, pushing it forward. It grew brighter and brighter, moving faster and faster around him, becoming a sizzling, burning line. It was impressive, and slightly intimidating.
Also, while his attention was focused within himself, Randidly was able to confirm that the small locks remained around the cold energy he should have received for the Path of Carnage, and the other drop of energy that remained from his Lonesome Spear Path. In addition, although he could produce a blurry image of his Soul Skill, it remained isolated, away from his influence.
It was infuriating.
Luckily the emerald streak was distracting, or else Randidly would probably dwell on this issue and begin to brood on how he would get the person who did this back for what they have done. As it was, he was able to stay away from those thoughts, barely.
Then, something very strange happened: the streak stilled, trembled, and then split in half. Randidly simply blinked.
The light immediately faded, and Randidly leaned closer to see what was going on. But it just seemed like the wisp had really split in two, and two very dim wisps floated around, listless. Rolling his eyes, Randidly slowly touched and prodded again, nurturing them back to health. They were, Randidly admitted to himself, extraordinarily adorable, as their droopy and dim selves slowly livened.
Then, to his amusement, they began to chase each other around his inside world, dodging through his skills. Shaking his head, he left, and opened his eyes. It was a nice distraction, and he made a mental note to check in on them periodically, but it was of secondary importance.
Some of Randidly’s anger towards Shal abandoning him had cooled, but it simply left him extremely confused. Why had Shal simply left…? Sure, he was likely trying to address his Aether Poisoning, but wasn’t Randidly’s performance here just as critical. Based on Shal’s attitude towards him, Randidly was dubious that Shal had left because he was confident that Randidly could handle himself. That didn’t sound like Shal at all.
But there didn’t seem like there was any other option. Perhaps something pressing arouse…? The more time Randidly spent with Shal, the more he realized how fickle and intense his teacher was. Not just in his brutal training style, but also personally. He was harsh, and then he was laid back. He was apparently so weak willed those shamans held him back in that dungeon, and yet now he had the ability to fight against Adepts.
Randidly did know that his all rounder capabilities weren’t the typical path people tread. Each stat was valuable, and Shal only had around 50 Willpower, or at least he had when they were in the dungeon originally. Shal also didn’t have room in his skill list for any mental skills, so he could only rely on his raw stat totals to resist it. And to be fair, the issue wasn’t surviving the attack, it was surviving the attack while withstanding the mental attacks from the Shamans.
All these things Randidly knew. It was just…
Then he sighed and shook his head ruefully. Who was he to judge Shal? Randidly too had a problematic childhood, and his was apparently very peaceful compared to Shal’s. Besides… although Randidly had a hard time believing that Shal trusted him… in his mind…
He really could succeed. He would. That was his promise for all the assistance Shal had given him, which just seemed to grow and grow. He was definitely transformed from what he had been previously. For that… Randidly would earn the top 8 finish and maintain the Spear Phantom Style’s high status.