Randidly breathed slowly in, then out, feeling the flow of air through him.
He felt… sharp. There was no other way to describe it. He had been training until late last night, fighting time after time with Azriel. They had trained until both of them were ragged and out of breath, and then for the first time in several weeks, Randidly allowed his body to relax and sleep. Because today was the day of his match with Drak.
A part of Randidly’s subconscious wanted him to feel panic that even by the end, Randidly had never once managed to beat Azriel. But there was another part of him, one that rang more true to his ears, that Azriel was the type that could instantly recognize and predict an attack after she had only seen it once. It only took a single glance for her to reduce its effectiveness against her by 50%.
Yet every match they fought lasted longer and longer, became bloodier and grittier. Their struggles became more intense, even as Azriel kept categorically making some of his maneuvers obsolete.
But Randidly continued to improve at a rate she couldn’t predict.
She said nothing as he left, just nodded at him. But there was something in her eyes, a strange sadness that Randidly couldn’t put his finger on. Perhaps it was just that they had both realized that their impromptu alliance was ending today. After this match… it would be up to her.
Randidly took another breath, savoring the morning air. He stretched out his arm and summoned the ivory spear into his hand. For several long moments, he simply looked at it, running his fingers over it, savoring the feel of the bone. It was… somehow dear to him, at this point.
There was a strange connection growing between them at this point. It was part Aether, and part of the same sort of connection that formed between himself and Lyra all those years ago, in the village of Donnyton.
Randidly’s mouth quirked up. Of course… it hadn’t been years to her…
Very quickly, he forced those thoughts out of his mind. Better to focus on this connection that was forming, because it was his one lingering doubt about the upcoming match. Randidly didn’t like relying on a spear like this that he couldn’t understand. And Randidly had believed he had understood the purposes of the runes on the spear, but his examination was crude. More secrets could be hidden inside of it, ones that he didn’t want to encounter mid match.
The emotions of Aemont were a grim reminder of what tragedy this spear could bring.
At the same time, Randidly had also discovered that he had the ability to store the spear… inside himself somehow, through the connection he shared with the spear. It was… convenient, in a way, because it gave him some ideas about how to fight against Drak Wyrd, but it also escalated his fears to another level.
Still… after confirming with Divvet that it was allowed, Randidly still planned on taking advantage of that small surprise. Every little bit counted.
Twisting his mouth in distaste, Randidly walked up towards Shal’s room one last time. He had certainly come a long way since he refused to use his spells, so he could experience a true “spear fight” in the qualifiers. He had learned things. His inflated pride had been popped, and he had learned to care less about experiencing something truly, and more about giving his all towards his goal.
Which was why he would fight and fight and fight to the bitter end today.
Randidly entered Shal’s room and looked at his mentor, who still slept. Although he had transitioned to something that seemed exactly like a natural sleep, he had still been like this… for at least a week, perhaps even longer. That… couldn’t be healthy.
The daggers that he had engraved in his hotheaded attempt to affect the sleep still sat there, on the bedside table. Picking them up, Randidly examined his work with a critical eye, before returning them to to table. Perhaps they would be… good luck.
And perhaps that strange impulse he had to put them there and leave them there was really the tug of fate.
Randidly left the inn and walked towards the arena, and was surprised to find the male spear attendant and Helen.
“If you go to fight with that sort of expression… you definitely need an entourage to go with you.” The male spear attendant proclaimed.
Randidly’s mouth twisted. Then he frowned. “Where is….?”
Damnit, he had forgotten his other spear attendant’s name. And he didn’t even know the male spear attendant’s name. Struck by this sudden stunning realization, Randidly opened his mouth to ask but was interrupted by Helen.
“...our letter that Shal was found just caught him too late. He was still traveling around the north, asking for news, and is only heading back now.”
Randidly looked at Helen, feeling his heart quicken slightly. It was amazing in a way, Randidly thought, that he had slept with this powerful, opinionated, independent woman. And her bright gaze now, as their eyes met, made even Randidly, who was uncommonly dense, realize there could be something more there.
He squirmed uncomfortably, but didn’t look away. It was a good feeling. As their gazes continued to remain locked, her eyes seemed to soften, and she took a step forward.
Randidly’s eyes were torn away as the male spear attendant ran up to him and threw his arms around Randidly, engulfing him in a hug. Tears streamed down his face. “I’m… I’m…. I’m gonna miss you so much….”
Patting his head awkwardly, Randidly quickly extricated himself. Almost instantly, the male spear attendant’s eyes dried and he straightened, adjusting his clothes. Randidly walked up to Helen, feeling a strange pressure in his chest.
With words eluding him, Randidly just blurted out something dumb. “Hug for luck?”
Strangely, Helen glared at him. Then she leaned forward, bringing their faces and bodies very close, and whispered, “There will be a lot more than a hug waiting for you… after you win today.”
Then she turned, spinning on her foot, and their bodies were so close that as she twisted, her ass brushed against his groin lightly before she took a step away. Randidly just scratched his face, briefly losing himself to memories.
Helen spoke, breaking his reverie. “They say he’s never known defeat… never even broken a sweat.”
“...I might not win, but you can bet I won’t let him off that easy,” Randidly said, looking up at the sky. “For every gallon of blood I’ve shed these past few weeks… I’ll make him pay. What I’m aiming to break… is his pride.”
On the walk to the arena, Randidly looked at his path screen. He really had only gained a few scant levels the past few days, mostly in Living Blood and Golden Roots of Yggdrasil. There was good news though, at 25 PP in the Ash of Aemont Path, he received 2 distributable stat points, that he immediately put into Perception. So at least that wasn’t a waste.
People flooded the streets already, an hour early, waving their mugs emblazoned with Randidly’s Tassle, yelling and cheering. In a way, it was already a win in a lot of people’s books that he had made it to the final 4, while just being from a small style. It gave people hope.
It really seemed that Claptrap’s strange absence from the inn was just a reflection of how busy he had been marketing products to the populace of Deardun. Everyone had memorabilia. To the point that Randidly couldn’t help but roll his eyes. Hopefully this fad would fade quickly, but not so quickly that Claptrap would find the ire of the populace turning against him.
Either way, Randidly was glad that he could have such a positive effect on Claptrap. That shy merchant that he had encountered, selling illegal product to, had really grown into an individual who had a lot of things going for him. Even without Randidly, Claptrap would be fine.
They arrived at the arena and were quickly ushered inside, while the surging and cheering crowd was kept at bay. Helen and the male spear attendant were led away, to a private area, while Randidly was taken to the familiar basement.
There was only one other figure down there, below the arena. Azriel’s match wasn’t until the afternoon, so even though it was only a silhouette, Randidly knew who the other individual was.
Drak Wyrd, more a blob of darkness than a man, looked up towards Randidly as he walked forward. Their gazes met. At the same time, the two men smiled.
But while Randidly’s smile was one of excitement and rising competitiveness, Drak’s was twisted and cruel.
It would, for better or for worse, definitely not be a simple match, Randidly somehow knew. But he simply sat. For now… it was just time to wait.