Randidly opened up his Status screen and looked at what he had gained through training.
First was Ash to Ash, which although costly, had increased by 12 Skill Levels. They had made a concerted effort to work on that while they could, and that had lowered the mana cost by a pittance, but it had also given Randidly a marginally larger amount of control and deftness with its use.
What the problem was for combat was how powerful the image already was, so the very air changed when it was used. Drak wouldn’t recognize it at first, but if Randidly failed in its use, then all that mana would be wasted.
The match… Randidly shivered. He was looking forward to it.
But he had also gained 6 Lvls in the Phantom’s Embrace, 3 in Spear Mastery and Fighting Proficiency, 2 in Haste, Empower, and Block, 4 in Dodge and Bacterial Regeneration, 3 in Living Blood, 5 in Grace and Flexibility of the White Hunters, 6 in Anguish, 4 in Struggle and Golden Roots of Yggdrasil, 3 in Torment and Rejection, and 5 in Mana Engraving.
Perhaps due to the vicious flood of emotions that had crashed through Randidly during the use of the spear, his Mental Strength had increased by 8, his Mental Fortitude by 10, and Battle Intent by 16.
The amount of PP he had earned for his battle related skills surprised him; he didn’t think he had much more to learn in those regards, or if he did, it would require long hours of training to hone himself to a point. He had reached a plateau. But it seemed that there were still some things that Randidly had yet to work through from his earlier training sessions with Shal in the prison. But in his heart, Randidly knew that gains like this wouldn’t happen again for a while.
All in all, Randidly had a pile of PP to spend, and he used it first to finish off the Intermediate Battle Intent Path.
Congratulations! You have completed the Intermediate Battle Intent Path! This is a lonely path, of constant sharpening and strife. Yet you advance, don’t you traveler? Your path leads through pain, yet you step forward. This path has no end, you know? Endurance +5.
Branching Path! Your Battle Intent grows stronger. Shall it expand, becoming more multifarious, or condense, becoming more dense and solid?
Randidly paused here, but only briefly. Although he knew that heading towards a solid Battle Intent was the better option, giving him another, surprising avenue of attack, when he looked at that option, all he saw was the word brittle.
Randidly would not be brittle. The other path might lead towards becoming an Adept, and almost definitely defeating Drak, but… that was not how Randidly wanted to improve. Physical condensation of Battle Intent was impressive but… Besides, although being an Adept was an advantage, it was not everything. A solid Battle Intent that was weak would be useless. Better to focus on his own path now, and not over think short jumps in power.
Congratulations! Your power grows and swirls. The range of your Battle Intent has increased. Shifts in your Battle Intent now happen more quickly. Injuries to your Battle Intent are more easily healed, although still not simply.
Randidly nodded at this notification, pleased. There wouldn’t be any initial bonuses based on this, but maybe Randidly could refine his control in the remaining few days in his spars with Azriel. It was too bad it didn’t earn him another skill, but Randidly supposed it was greedy and pointless to get another one at this point anyway.
Then he looked at his options for paths with his remaining PP.
Heretic XIII 0/???, Nexus Traveler Cohort 5 0/50, Path of Control 0/200, Basic Mana Engraving 0/100, Journeyman 0/150, Experimenter I 0/50, Steps of the Godling I 0/50, The Second Seedling 0/50, The Ash of Aemont, the Spear Phantom 0/???, The Phantom’s Embrace 0/150, Mentalist I 0/50
Grimacing, Randidly acknowledged that Heretic had went up again. He supposed that was only natural, he was continued to gain strength, even though he didn’t have a Class. But he wasn’t sure at all how the previous Judgement resolved. Based on the fact that Lucretia still had the Yeti head, it was possible there was a trap still waiting for him out there.
Randidly sighed. So many fucking loose ends to worry about…
Then he focused, looking at the list. Again, Heretic, Nexus Traveler Cohort, Basic Mana Engraving, Experimenter I, Steps of the Godling, Mentalist I, and the Second Seedling were ruled out because they didn’t seem immediately helpful, or were confusing as to their effects.
Aside from those, Path of Control and Journeyman were also set aside for now; they were more general improvements, and Randidly was looking for more concrete, specific ones, especially after he chose to just expand the flexibility of his Battle Intent.
Unlocking a skill for the Phantom’s Embrace was an obvious choice, although the cost was high, but Randidly couldn’t tear his eyes away from a path that left him very confused.
The Ash of Aemont, the Spear Phantom 0/???
As he focused on it, he felt the heat of that strange, other world where he was tested under the watch of the Patron of Ash. Then a voice rumbled in his ear.
All that dies returns to Ash… just as all that is living will become Ash. We move in a cycle, where meaning is fleeting, and lives are worth nothing.
But… the Ash will remain. You have eaten a portion of his remains in that spear… there is a path there… if you wish to take it.
Be warned. At the end of this path… you will be tested. Not by me… but by Aemont himself, and his Ash.
Also, although Ash is the basis of us all… individual instances are fleeting. If you do not choose this now, while the remnants are fresh… this path will no longer be yours to walk.
Randidly pursed his lips. Really, Patron of Ash? Buy now before we sell out, and you lose your chance entirely to purchase this wonderful item…?
Shaking his head, Randidly couldn’t deny, however, that he was powerfully tempted. It seemed like a good path. And if it ended up giving him some of Aemont’s strength…. That would be invaluable, both in the long and short term. He was given some pause by the question marks that prevented him from being able to see the total length, but still. If he had to…
Looking at the other options, there was nothing he could really finish quickly, so why not take a gamble? The Path wouldn’t likely become relevant until later anyway, it would be a good idea to take back one last gift from Shal’s world to Earth, on the 7th Cohort.
So Randidly selected it. Then his expression turned ugly for two reasons.
First, it was a 500 PP path. This… would take a while. And second, he had put his remaining 24 PP into the path… and received nothing.
Fucking Patron of Ash.
Randidly swore to himself that he would never trust that molten piece of shit ever again.
Azriel was surprised by how pleasant the dinner was. Simple, polite, almost to the point where she was annoyed that Drak had nothing to press, no issues to force. They knew what was at stake. They would fight in the finals, and if she lost, she would become his wife. Not only due to the agreement of their respective Styles, but because of a bet she had made for another man.
‘Ah, That’s it,’ Azriel thought to herself, watching him closely. ‘He’s struggling to understand it. Now that it has made his life more convenient… he fears it, for it was not something he expected.’
This realization made the dinner all the more enjoyable, as Drak’s discomfort became obvious.
Finally, after they had eaten their meals and the table was cleared did Drak make his move, giving her a deep look. “Azriel… I hope you realize how much this means for the both of us. Even if you win, we can still unite our families, with the North behind us.”
She said nothing, just looking at him.