After a moment of trembling focus, Randidly forced himself out of that ideal suspended state, following the thin warning of enemy that came from his soul skill. Immediately, his return threw off his focus, and he faltered, switching from one skill to the other. The weight pressed downward, and his shoulders dropped two inches.
Growling, Randidly switched to the active version of Golden Roots of Yggdrasil, strength flooding through his limbs. He had gained quite a few skill levels since the last time he had used the active skill, and it showed by how much warm, powerful heat flowed through his limbs.
But he knew intimately that this warm power was fueled by Stamina, so after pressing upwards and righting his equilibrium with the weight, Randidly let it drop and glanced around, chest heaving, Mana Strengthening pushed to its limit.
Orangey was there, even more drool coming out of his mouth. But the drool had pooled on the ground, and frosted over slightly. The temperature… had definitely gotten cold.
Randidly turned to his right, where the female attendant was standing bored, and then to his left, only to discover a figure walking slowly towards him and Orangey. He blinked slowly. The figure was composed entire of ice.
His eyes focused. It was a female figure, slight and short, with hair cropped short, falling around her face to the base of her skull. Other than that, most of the features were indiscernible, but it noticed Randidly’s gaze, and turned to meet it. An instinctual hatred rose up in Randidly’s gut, and he felt very instinctively that this was an enemy. And the system confirmed it.
Warning! You have encountered an Initiate of Frostbite. As there is currently a Judgement of Frostbite hanging above your head, unvanquished, this Initiate will experience increased power and regeneration while fighting you. In addition, the Judgement will be informed of your location. Vanquish your foe if you wish to continue to flee.
Randidly’s expression soured. He supposed it was foolish to think that his spell would have killed the Judgement, but it would have been convenient. And if it was still looking for him…
And it had all this time to grow stronger and spawn minions while stuck in the prison…. If it came for him….
But the ice girl smiled at Randidly in a way that forced his focus back to the problem at hand; she was coming. She began to run forward, her ice toes tapping lightly on the ground. In her hands was a long and thin spear made of ice, and she pointed it towards Randidly’s heart.
Then she accelerated, becoming a blur of ice. Randidly’s eyes narrowed.
When the strike came, it was faster than he could believe from the strange ice statue. But it wasn’t as fast as Shal or Divvet could move. Roaring with all his strength, Randidly’s feet twisted as he activated Footwork of the Spear Phantom and moved to the side, while still maintaining the weight up in the air.
His strength exertion meter dropped to -6% at a point, but he was able to get out of the way and support it again before he dropped any lower.
Then Randidly froze.
“Circle of Fl-”
“Too late,” Came the whispered reply from the ice statue, as the ice spear took Orangey in the throat, ripping a large hole in his flesh and causing his eyes to spring open. Randidly saw him tremble and reflexively go to reach for the wound, but then Orangey resisted that urge and continued to support the weight.
Blood oozed up from the wound, dribbling out and quickly soaking his shirt. Randidly hastily canceled the spell, realizing it would injure Orangey just as much, and turned his attention to the ice statue.
The thing shrugged at him. “No hard feelings I just need to obtain the reward for lasting the longest. Surrender, and I’ll spare you-”
“I reject.” Randidly hissed, his heart beat rising quickly. A strange, furious heat had filled him. The Aether in his chest was roaring and spinning. The heat grew and grew, mixing with the anger. Orangey remained stoic, even as he eyed them both.
“Then you have my permission to die.” The ice woman raised her spear, but her ankles were crushed by roots that had wormed their way upward through the contraption beneath them to seize the ice creature. Although it was harder than typical ice, it was still child’s play to shatter it to pieces.
The ice woman yelped in surprise, and then began to twitch and curse. “IT HURTS, IT HURTS GOD DAMNIT. I’ll KILL-”
Randidly crushed the skull. The rest turned to water and flowed away from them, quickly disappearing. Already, Randidly could feel the temperature rising, and he turned to Orangey.
The man immediately grimaced. But Randidly shook his head. The man was trembling, and it wasn’t the trembling of strain. It was the trembling of weakness.
“...if we continue, I will die. Do the honorable thing and surrender.” Orangey said boldly, his eyes narrowed.
Randidly just sighed at the other’s shamelessness. “...I cannot.”
“You covet the reward that much? That you would be willing to kill me? I suppose such an action is all too common…” Orangey muttered, but Randidly shook his head again. Taking the moral high ground now, Orangey? Really?
“No, it is not the prize. It is a promise. I gave my word, so I will achieve the top 8 in this regional tournament. That is the reason.”
Orangey blinked. “Are you aware of how unlikely that is? It is comment worthy when an individual from the qualifiers makes the top 50 of the regional tournament; it is completely dominated by those from the larger Styles. That is our fate. Why should you be any different?”
“Because I need to be… to keep my word.” Randidly said, breathing out softly. But his resolve was firm in this regard; it was necessary, so he would. That was all he could do.
Sighing, Orangey lowered his shoulders and stepped to the side, allowing his exertion to fall below -10%. Then he began to walk away.
“Thank you.” Randidly said quietly, although it was more for the man’s benefit than his own gratitude. Afterall, all Orangey had done was prevent himself from dying needlessly. But what surprised Randidly was that Orangey spun around and spat on him.
“I have no respect for fools like you who don’t understand their place in the world. Look at yourself. You are pointlessly holding a giant rock for the amusement of others, while the chosen wait ahead, refreshed and informed of your capabilities. If you truly had any hope of reaching the top 8, would you really be here, struggling under a rock?”
Randidly was silent. The red hot Aether in his chest demanded violence for the insult, but he ignored that. His arms trembled, and his body was covered in lines of sweat. He was exhausted, of all of this. It had gone on for too long, and he had to finish the 24 hour period still to finish. But for a split second, Orangey’s words caused him to waver.
Shaking his head, Randidly slowly spoke to reject Orangey’s worldview. “It is true that I won’t simply find the strength to accomplish my goal just by seeking it…. But I will surely never find the strength to be more if I don’t push myself to reach higher.”
“Mere platitudes.” Orangey hissed, turning away. “They will be a small comfort when you fail.”
Randidly allowed his head to drop and he sighed. He refocused, checking in on his Mana and Stamina, finding both to be extremely low. He smiled lopsidedly. It would certainly be a hard trek, this last part, which he didn’t really know the time of. He had no idea.
But he would do his best, because-
“If you make it to the top 8…. I will buy you a drink.” Orangey said without turning around, standing at the edge of the apparatus. Then he left, the attendants escorting him away.
The Aether in Randidly’s chest ignited. His grin was wide and vicious.
With eyes filled with brilliant emerald flames, Randidly whispered. “And I’ll use the trophy of this whole fucking tournament to sip and savor that drink.”
Far away, a pair of eyes slowly opened. Finally, the Yeti had located the target. He had become aware that the target had fled from the temporal dimension that it was isolated in, but that wasn’t a problem. It gave the Yeti time to build his strength.
Judgement would follow the Heretics to the edge of the world, and beyond.
There was something extremely strange about this Heretic, in that the holy weaponry appeared to have no effect. The Yeti was still struggling to come to terms with this information, but he set that to the side. There was no redeeming sinners. They simply must be punished. That was his role.
His gaze drifted outward, at the sea of chittering minions the Yeti had already summoned. Initially, the prisoners had put up a good fight, slowly driving the Yeti and his minions backwards. But against those that interfered in the Yeti’s Judgement quest, he received a larger portion of his strength; the restrictions were somewhat lessened.
When he took the field, he broke their strongest, and overwhelmed the rest. Now, he hunted the stragglers and spawned more minions, waiting.
And now he finally had the signal he had been waiting for.
The Yeti’s face twisted in a smile.