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Randidly sat back on his heels, looking at the notification. Although he had expected the theme of the final Blessing, its form still had some pleasant surprises in it. But more than that… the fact that his Soul Skill appeared to be evolving was more interesting. The connection to Arbor and Thorn even more so.

Curious, he brought up his menu relating to them, and was shocked to discover that the menu was grayed out. As he focused on it, the menu displayed a tip that his connection to them was blocked by their connection to his Soul Skill. Which did explain why he hadn’t seen a level from either of them in a while, but…

They had added things to his world? And now he had the possibility to add something to the world, based on his skills… But it would consume a skill level, and have some other side effects… It was a slightly intimidating, but Randidly didn’t want to pass up this chance.

The prospect of “side-effects” to any of his skills were slightly intimidating… but ultimately, Randidly decided to risk it and use his Farming Skill to influence the world. It was a relatively noncommittal skill, and shouldn’t rock the boat too much. It was also a skill he hadn’t used much, but he was willing to risk it, because its concrete usefulness was much less than it had been earlier in the dungeon.

It was a sad realization, that he was so far beyond that level. His strength was legitimate. He could truly rely on it to live, currently. Well, perhaps not to survive in some environments, but if he wanted to stop and step back from the violence, he wouldn’t have a problem. That was within his grasp.

Randidly’s smile was barren like a desert. That might be so, but he would not choose this path. He had gone too far, he felt too much responsibility for his town on Earth, and too much cold fury for the System and its progenitors. The being at the top… and the creature that was hiding from it. He would grow until he could rip it all to shreds.

So Randidly selected Farming and watched as his Skill Level dropped by one. Grimacing, Randidly was forced to grab ahold of the wall to steady himself. It was a decidedly uncomfortable feeling to lose a skill level. Truly, it was a sense of loss. His heart felt empty and bitter, and it was a jagged, soulful pain that throbbed in his chest. But some strange energy flowed out from that and into the World of his Soul Skill.

Intrigued despite the pain, Randidly focused on the Soul Skill, and his attention shifted to his inward world. There, he watched as that energy spread out into seeds that dotted the landscape, and very slowly, small plants grew from that ground. It was different types in different areas, but universally, those plants began to flower and show fruit. Slowly, the four indigenous populations took note and began to investigate.

Randidly came back to himself, a strange expression on his face. So just like that… farming was introduced to his world…? It all seemed… too easy. But he supposed the translation of that skill was much easier than some others, which would explain why everything happened so fast.

One of the great limitations of population sizes was food. These plants, combined with the small animals introduced by Arbor and Thorn, would likely spur population growth. Which was good by itself, but…

Randidly feared that war would quickly come to his Soul Skill.

Then he laughed and shook his head ruefully. He was getting awfully far ahead of himself. One problem at a time. The changes in his soul skill were interesting, but they weren’t worth dwelling on for too long. They did very little to help him overcome the challenges at hand, now that he had spent all of his PP.

On the other hand… Randidly looked at the diary of the Spear Phantom, his eyes glowing.

****

Was this… fear…? Shal wondered, looking at his hand. His fingers trembled slightly, so he let them drop to the table.

His time in the other dungeon had done a lot to address the issues of his Aether Sickness, but it was only a shallow covering. He could now go about his day quite easily, but if he drew too much on his truth strength, to fight, that crippling weakness would soon return…

But there was a more pressing problem. Shal’s fear of the very weakness that was now plaguing him had driven him to leave the prison and bring his disciple back to the tournament, and it was now clear that it had been done prematurely. Although Randidly appeared to have hit a wall in his training, it would have been better to allow the fool to slam his head against that wall a few more times, to push his boundary even higher.

Randidly was not currently equipped to fight against opponents at this level. He was at a decided disadvantage. Sighing, Shal leaned against the wall.

In his desperation, he had told the boy to read the entire diary. But what would that accomplish? Shal himself had attempted that very thing, but… even after all of these years, he had been able to accomplish little. It wasn’t as noticeable in the past, but that really rankled now.

Shal had also come to the conclusion that something very strange had been going on with him these past 30 years. It was like he had been living in a cloud, barely noticing the world around him. But then, out of the blue, he had an impulse to enter into a dungeon…? And coincidentally, he had met this boy there, a boy that he had decided on a whim to train, a boy who had somehow solved his problem that kept him locked in a dungeon for a few weeks…?

Although Shal admitted that he had problems with handling Willpower attacks, mostly due to never facing them, it was still exceedingly strange that he had been so hit by them… especially now. His Willpower stat hadn’t improved by much, but his Battle Intent now cut through those attacks like a hot knife through butter. What had happened to transform him so fully…?

Or more likely… what had been holding him back in the past-

There was a knock at the door. Shal blinked slowly, and then walked over and twisted the lock. The door swung open to reveal the determined face of his student.

“Shal,” The fool, always so serious, said with a concerned expression, “What are the 6 skills of the Spear Phantom Style?”

Shal frowned, annoyed, and waved his fingers. “Do you not have the diary? Can you not read? Don’t ask me questions that you can answer yourself.”

But to Shal’s surprise, his student shook his head. “No, this is important. Please.”

‘I must really be worried if I’m indulging this…’ Shal thought sluggishly to himself, but let Randidly into the room.

“Fine. The first skill is, as you know, the Thrust of the Spear Phantom. A skill you have.”

His disciple nodded, but there was a strange gleam in his eyes. So Shal continued. “The Second is the Spear Phantom’s Approach, which you acquired a bastardized version of, the Phantom Half-Step. The Third is Spear Phantom’s Whispered Cut. The Fourth is the Spear Phantom’s Weeping Execution. The Fifth, as you know, is the Spear Phantom’s Embrace. The Sixth is the Spear Phantom’s Breath…”

As Shal continued to speak, his disciple’s eyes grew wider and wider, but they didn’t lose their manic gleam. It was that confidence, Shal knew, that drew him to the boy. That willingness to believe in himself, and the guts to follow through on his instincts. What Shal didn’t expect, was for the idiot to follow up with an extremely strange question.

“Shal… where to skill rarities come from?”

“Skill rarities….?” Shal said grumpily, but sighed inwardly at the pleading look in his disciple’s eyes. So he just snorted, and then answered. “Rarities… are hard to predict sometimes. But they are related to complexity and the path the System predicts you take with them. They are also considered more rare the more… complete they are. The more parts are working together.”

His disciple’s eyes crinkled into a smile, and he stood and bowed, thanking Shal, before hurrying off.

Shal watched him go with dissatisfaction. It was good to be enthusiastic, but if he simply lost in the first round tomorrow, everything would be for naught. Shal huffed in annoyance, and then his eyes narrowed.

He didn’t truly care about the honor of Aemont. No, now that he smelled blood, all he cared about was one thing. The chance to crush the woman who had destroyed his family, piece by piece. Shal’s face curled up in a crooked smile.

Even he had been broken by the meddlings of Lucretia.

****

Sitting on the ground, Randidly’s heart was pounding as he flipped to the 5th page of the diary. Upon reading the diary as a whole, something struck Randidly; weren’t a lot of skills missing?

As Randidly read through the text of the page, the world slowly fell away, and a Phantom appeared before him, possessing the face reminiscent of Shal. Aemont slowly floated closer, his eyes oppressively powerful.

The footwork of the Spear Phantom, Ghastly Slash, Eyes of the Spear Phantom… Phantom Thrust, Phantom Half-Step… All of these skills were partially represented in the Book, but they seemed incomplete when compared to the rest of the skills.

Aemont floated closer, moving with an impossible grace and unpredictability. His presence filled the air, hitting Randidly like a physical weight, forcing him marginally backward with just his empty and mild gaze.

It could be true that they were bastardized versions of the skills, but perhaps… perhaps it was something else.

As Aemont arrived before Randidly, the weight of his gaze only grew more vicious, smashing against Randidly’s will, daring him to move backwards to expose him to the power of the Spear Phantom’s Embrace. But with gritted teeth, Randidly held firm. He refused to give in.

The final clue was the rarity information. All of Randidly’s skills he had inherited were common, completely basic. And Shal had told him that what mattered, partially, in terms of rarity were the completeness of a skill… the amount of parts.

Which was perhaps why the Spear Advances, Ash Trails, was part of such a rare Skillset. It contained multiple parts. The speed of movement, the piercing spear, the concussive force…

Aemont stood directly in front of Randidly, and slowly spread his arms, revealing his chest.

Perhaps, Randidly, as well as Shal before him, were trying to learn the skill from scratch. But they already had the pieces. They just needed to be used in the right way.

Randidly simultaneously activated Eyes of the Spear Phantom and Footwork of the Spear Phantom, floating forward, pressing vicious hopelessness outward with his Battle Intent. He also used the insights he gleaned from watching the Aemont Phantom in the past, striking at weaknesses in his stance to force him backwards.

It was a brief and brutal mental battle.

But within seconds, Randidly was suffocated and smashed backwards, instantly knocked out of the intent world left within the diary. He hadn’t even lasted long enough for that strange face to come out. But notifications were waiting for Randidly, and they made him smile a wide smile. Finally, he had it. Or at least he hoped so. A weapon of his own that could clash against the disciples of the powerful Styles.

Congratulations! You have inherited the Skill Set “The Six Signs of the Spear Phantom ®”. Your skill “The Inevitable Phantom Arrives Lvl 79” has been accepted as the First Sign. Your skills Eyes of the Spear Phantom Lvl 77 and Spear Phantom’s Footwork Lvl 102, as well as a partially created skill, have been combined to form the Spear Phantom’s Embrace ®. Some level decay has occurred. You have gained The Spear Phantom’s Embrace ® Lvl 133, the Fifth Sign of the Spear Phantom.

Randidly looked at a new line that had appeared in his Status Page.

The 6 Signs of the Spear Phantom ®: The First Sign- The Inevitable Phantom Arrives Lvl 79 (Un), The Fifth Sign- The Spear Phantom’s Embrace ® Lvl 133.

It was now his highest level skill. And it might be a small thing, but… It also included a Rare tag, which Randidly believed was a testament to its power. Randidly stepped, and almost teleported sideways. He opened his eyes and focused, and the details in the room became incredibly clear. In addition, he felt the heavy feeling in the air as he looked, as if his gaze would slowly strip away the surrounding and reveal all to him.

It was satisfying, having all of his skills improved by combining them. But Randidly knew that his image was still weak.

But he also knew the night was young, and this discovery seemed to wash away all of his physical wariness.

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