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A note from puddles4263

2/3

As a minor spoiler, this arc is coming close to ending. Although still a few more chapters for you guys. Going back through lets me smooth it out a little.

Randidly smiled at his path screen, looking at all of the PP he had accumulated in the last day. There truly was nothing quite like almost dying to boost PP accumulation.

Randidly had gained 3 Skill Levels in Spear Mastery, 2 in Heavy Blow and Dodge, 1 in Fighting Proficiency and Block, 4 in Haste, Empower, and Idiosyncratic Cut, 3 in Battle Intent and Struggle, 5 in Body Control: Freeze and the Golden Roots of Yggdrasil, 2 in Stalemate Breaker, 3 in Spearing Roots, 2 in Root Control and Wall of Thorns, 1 in Physical Fitness and Meditation, 3 in Grace and Bacterial Regeneration, 4 in Superiority and Second Wind, and 2 in Flexibility of the White Hunters and Living Blood.

Of course, the greatest gains were the 9 Lvls gained in Phantom’s Embrace, and the 17 gained in the Spear Advances, Ash Trails.

Not included in the list of benefits was the fact that Randidly had apparently crossed the threshold of the Artisan level during his Spear Advances, which meant that soon, most of his skills would receive a large boost in utility as they grew to meet that threshold as well.

There was apparently a certain potency of Willpower that was required for this, a certain discipline. Once you had proven to yourself that you possessed that, it would soon pervade every part of your fighting style, which Randidly was looking forward to very much.

After he had finished the Anguish I Path, Randidly had started putting points into the Intermediate Battle Intent Path, which had given 1 Willpower every 10 PP. Randidly poured all of these new points into that path, before falling short of the goal of 200 at 117. Still it was a significant step towards the end of the path, which Randidly predicted would have a nice boost on his Battle Intent.

His Soul Skill also finished another complete rotation, and a notification popped up.

The world of your soul skill turns! The denizens of your inner world evolve. After the descent of your two blessings upon the world, word of your existence has spread from the White Hunters to all races. All begin, in their private ways, to whisper your name.

The Matriarch grows old, and her daughters bicker, the White Hunters’ power beginning to splinter. For this reason, their population grows as they spread apart, but also their previously united strength wanes, and they become drawn into the struggles of the other races.

A Swampling Champion has risen, wielding the Hammer of Dawn, to defend the The Great Weave. Their power becomes increasingly consolidated, as their spells grow more esoteric, their influence on the world more insidious.

A long and bitter war has raged between the Earth Golems and the Spriggits, over control of the Scepter of Dominance. Populations of both of both have taken hits, but Spriggit fertility had given them an overwhelming numerical advantage. But the Earth Golems have the Scepter in their grasp, and an Emperor is rising, one who dreams of the world under his control.

The monster variants, taking advantage of the world, grow stronger and more bold. Boss class monsters are occasionally spotted, with enough strength to require an army to defeat them.

Underneath this all, the gears of the world start to turn… Ambient Aether in the world has slightly increased.

It has been three cycles since this world’s creation. Would you like to add anything to the world? (Warning, the added qualities will be taken from a skill. A single skill level will be consumed in the taking. Other side-effects are unknown).

Randidly winced. Adding those skills as specific items of power to the world certainly had effects. Effects that didn’t appear particularly positive. Randidly made a mental note that he really needed to check out that Godling Path after he had some downtime in the wake of the tournament. Being able to influence the world in a more direct way would make him feel slightly less guilty about what he was doing to them.

Although to be fair, it was likely that he would just fuck it up worse… maybe it was smarter to create more Soul Seed plants that seemed to have some more subdued influence. Although they were now causing boss class monsters to spawn, so it’s not like it was a gentle thing either…

Randidly had a headache. Truly, it was not easy having a small world floating in his chest. But ultimately, he believed that improving the world was for the best, so Randidly chose to add Bacterial Regeneration and the Spear Advances, Ash Trails. The former to hopefully mitigate some of the damage dealt by the fighting, the latter because… well, honestly because Randidly was proud of it, and it was his own skill. Maybe that would add something… meaningful to the world.

Both were split into a fine mist that drifted downward over the world, settling over everything. There also didn’t seem to be any immediate effects, which was reassuring.

Although the biggest gains had come from the Spear Advances, Ash Trails, it had been because Randidly had suddenly had a profound sense of inspiration about what he wanted to accomplish with the image. Everything had come together. Repeating that… would be extremely difficult. If he could, then finishing off this Path before the next match was possible, but..

Not that he necessarily needed it, but every edge would be something. Still, 80 or so PP in the week break before the next match… 50 would maybe be doable, with the assistance of Azriel, with Divvet giving pointers as well.

Even if Shal was here….

Randidly’s face scrunched up in annoyance. That… was something he needed to deal with. How to handle Lucretia, if she were to turn up again-

Then Randidly sighed, because there was a strange tickling on the back of his neck. He turned around slowly, much more prepared this time.

“Speak of the devil.”

Lucretia blinked at him. “What does that mean?”

After a second of floundering, Randidly shook his head, smiling slightly. Of course she wouldn’t know, it was a saying from his world. “It means… that when you speak of an unlucky star… it will hear, and come find you.”

With her lovely eyes, and flowing, lavender hair, Lucretia smiled a small smile of shock and satisfaction, pointing to herself after a small hesitation. She almost seemed to be… flattered by the thought of it. Randidly nodded.

“Speak of the devil… and she will hear and come find you. I like it...” Lucretia said, humming. Then she turned to him. “So… have you thought about my proposal?”

“I have.” Randidly said firmly, squashing his nervousness. “Let’s trade?”

Randidly looked for a long time at Lucretia, who just smiled at him. Again, the room around them was extremely dark. The inn around them was completely silent. The water in the basin under the mirror was still, not even the slightest ripple.

Lucretia’s smile stretched wider. “Well? State your terms.”

Gritting his teeth, Randidly hesitated for several more seconds. He just didn’t have any confidence in being able to get what he wanted, because he had no real understanding of what was going on with Shal. What was her influence over him…? What was the deal with the final gift for Aemont? Had it been given already?

Randidly had seen Shal in his vision, and he seemed deeply in a trance. But…

What Randidly didn’t have was time. There was too much going on at once, too much pressure from this situation and from the tournament, and the bonds pulling him towards the two people that have assisted him, Azriel and Shal. He knew this would impact his reasoning skills, but in the moment, he couldn’t see any way around taking a gamble.

Which probably was further proof it was a bad idea...

“...Shal must be released and brought here. All your influence on him should be removed. And…” Now Randidly sputtered out, but then he forced himself to continue. Even if this was the wrong answer, it was better to act confident than to let Lucretia have anymore clues that he felt out of his depth. “... Aemont’s final gift… don’t hold Shal accountable for it.”

That… was hopefully general enough? This was also counting on Bertarn’s impression that Lucretia was heavily bound by her word. If that wasn’t true… all of this was worthless. But she was stronger than him, and he had nothing to offer but this.

Smiling sweetly, Lucretia snapped her fingers. Shal appeared, standing, then swayed and fell onto the bed, then sliding off onto the floor with a crash. Chuckling, Lucretia rolled her eyes and snapped her fingers. Shal sighed, then seemed to fall into a more peaceful slumber.

“Done. All previous debts are eradicated. All current influence has been removed. Now…” Lucretia’s eyes began to glow lavender, a sickly imitation of the powerful violet of Aether. “It’s time that you make good on your promise. Give me Aether, child.”

****

Lucretia left, filled with a strange mix of anxiety and excitement. She watched the whole process with her magical vision very closely, but she was no closer to understanding how he did what he did, or what the source of that Aether was than she had been before. But what she did notice is that there was a strange, faint connection between them now, a gossamer thread drifting in the wind, remaining constant even as she teleported away.

It was… something she knew she could use. But she also was careful of his awareness. This was not a process Lucretia understood, and she didn’t want some sort of backlash to be unleashed on her just because she had rushed into something foolishly.

Sitting down in her clearing, Lucretia petted the head of the Yeti, its eyes focusing on her hatefully. “I know you are lonely, but it had to be done. It’s fine though, he will come back all on his own. That little disciple of yours Shal… I’m starting to wonder if he knows anything about you at all.”

Lucretia had very white teeth, and flashed them to the Yeti head. “Then again… poor Shally doesn’t even know it yet himself. But… soon he will. And then he will come back to me, seeking answers. Or I’ll just go find him myself. I haven’t decided yet~”

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puddles4263

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