In his dream, Randidly was in his bed, struggling against the darkness. The ticking was eternal, a constant companion, the slow passage of time. His sheets were heavy like lead, all of the strength he had gained from the System swept away, leaving him with only his weak, human body.
His hands felt thin and frail, trembling as he tried to wrestle with the covers. The soft silk eluded his clumsy fingers, sliding away.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
In front of the bed, Lyra sat, her legs crossed, regarding him closely. But it was not Lyra, it was just the Creature, wearing her face like a trendy scarf. Although there was a small smile on Lyra’s face, the eyes behind the mask were dead and alien, considering.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
“I could kill you at anytime.” The creature whispered. “You are weak. You cannot escape. But this is what I want. For you to come to me on your own, begging. Give me control. I’ll save you. I’ll fix everything. I’ll-.”
And then the ticking stopped. Randidly straightened, his eyes blazing emerald, dragging up the strength to overcome the covers from the depths of himself.
“Fuck…” He breathed in, and then breathed out. “You…”
But the creature just laughed, because this is exactly what she wanted the whole time.
Randidly’s eyes snapped open, his dream interrupted by a pounding headache, a vicious pain at his very soul. He winced as he sat up, deactivating Mental Strength, Mental Fortitude, and Torment, which had all come active in the dream. In fact, the dream might even have been caused by Torment. He still didn’t have a great read on what that skill did.
It was disturbing though, for other reasons. Randidly didn’t sleep much, but now he vowed to sleep even less; what if he activated Agony while asleep…? Or Circle of Flame? The damage-
He shook his head, putting it out of his mind, as he grabbed some of the Mending Fluid that Simon had prepared yesterday, drinking it all down. Then Randidly sighed, and focused his attention inward, and began the arduous process of removing shrapnel from his skills.
About an hour later, he relaxed, and chided himself for drinking all of the potion at once. He would need to go find Simon to rid himself of the aftereffects of the headache. But it was quite a bit less severe than usual.
He had managed to free up Empower, Dodge, Block, and Calculated Blow this time, in terms of combat abilities. Those final three were most of the reason that Randidly had to experience constant pain while fighting; he couldn't avoid triggering Dodge and Calculated Blow, and there were times that Blocking was just instinct.
Empower would enable him to take another step towards having the same instantaneous power he had before his injury, if not the same Endurance. He also freed up Mana Bolt, which was almost amusing to imagine him using it again, after so long. Still, it was much less Mana intensive, and would be effective against this level of opponents.
The other great bonus was that his status screen was finally back, most of the chaotic Aether remnants cleared in this round of healing. At this rate, Randidly would be back to full power in a week or two, at which point he would be forced to make some decisions on what to do. So for now, gathering information was what was most important.
Engraving too, had been cleared, which would give him something to do in his downtime. Randidly’s only real worry now was overuse. Because yesterday, during the fighting, he noticed that when the pain grew to a certain point, it created a feedback loop.
As he discovered previously, the problem was activating skills with shrapnel present created a vibration back through the shattered fragments, which caused the damaged skill area to resonate, causing the pain. However, at a certain point, the vibrations at the damaged point became enough that the wound itself began to vibrate, exacerbating the pain. And due to its connection to all the pieces, everything started to vibrate.
It was a scary thought, but if Randidly pushed too far, he suspected that everything would vibrate out of control, driving him to the point where all of his skills with shrapnel were shattered, effectively destroying himself. Which was probably why the Village Spirit believed he would die in the future.
Small blessings that Simon’s fluid calmed it down, somehow.
Randidly flexed his hands. The headache was annoying, but he had grown used to worse. So for the first time in the last several weeks, Randidly opened his Path screen, slightly excited to see what he had gained.
The results did not disappoint. Randidly had gained 6 Skill Levels in the Spear Advances, Ash Trails, 9 in the Golden Roots of Yggdrasil, 12 in Second Wind, 13 in Bacterial Regeneration, 6 in Stalemate Breaker, 5 in Phantom’s Embrace, 5 in Empower and Haste, 15 in Fighting Proficiency, 9 in Spear Mastery, 7 in Spearing Roots, 13 in Mental Strength, a staggering 20 in Mental Fortitude, 9 in Pain Resistance, 5 in Hammer of the Dawn and Dodge, 3 in Block and Calculated Blow, 6 in Meditation and Flesh Eating Virus, 9 in Battle Intent and Struggle, 10 in Superiority, 6 in Grace and Flexibility of the White Hunters, and 8 in Living Blood.
In addition, Randidly had two other things of note. The first was he had gained the skill Talon Strike, which Randidly supposed was what the System considered him to have used to strike the skeletons the previous day, and gained 13 Skill Levels. And also, there were several levels in a skill that just appeared to be gibberish to him, which he assumed to be his broken skill. Randidly sighed.
Still, it was a huge amount of PP, totalling 223. Which was a tempting haul, that would make a huge dent in the strange Path he had chosen, the Ash of Aemont, the Spear Phantom. But…
Randidly was hesitant whether to use it. This was for two reasons. The first was that he didn’t want to advance his Soul Skill before he understood the state of it. He supposed he could put his senses in there now, but he was afraid of meeting Lucretia before he was ready, especially in terms of Mental Strength and Fortitude, as well as Battle Intent, which were all lousy with with Aether shards.
The second reason was related to his weakness, but came from a different source. This was a path from the Patron of Ash, and Randidly just wasn’t in the shape to handle it if there were some sort of ridiculous tests that he so often used.
This weakness was incredibly frustrating, but then Randidly smiled, his expression wry. Although he was much weaker than usual, it was changing slowly. And his weakness, compared to everyone else’s…
It was incomparable. Slightly amused, and feeling better, Randidly looked at his Status.
Health(/R per hour): 1764/1764 [+118] (716 [+27])
Mana(/R per hour): 1700/1709 [+5] (222 [+9])
Stam(/R per min): 1623/1758 (255 [+9])
Vit: 187 [+9]
Str: 135 [+17]
Agi: 176 [+17]
Perception: 153 [+10]
Resistance: 128 [+15]
Willpower: 215 [+10]
Wisdom: 88 [+9]
Focus: 188 [+4]
Equipment: Average Leather Tunic Lvl 5: (+2 Vit), Gloves of Quickness (Vit +1. Agi +3), Necklace of the Shadow Cat Lvl 20 ®: (Vitality +1, Strength +2, Agility +7) Master’s Fine Leather Belt Lvl 49 (Vit +5, Str +5, Agi +5, WP +10, Resist +15, Wis +9, Focus +4, Per +10, Health +100)
Skills (Soul Skill): Four-Shaded Clockwork World Lvl 766
Combat: Spear Mastery Lvl 138, White Phantom’s Half-Step (Un) Lvl 50, Heavy Blow Lvl 70, Dagger Mastery Lvl 10, Iron Skin Lvl 47, Dodge Lvl 78, Fighting Proficiency Lvl 113, Block Lvl 54, Haste Lvl 89, Phantom Onslaught Lvl 43, Sweep Lvl 54, Spear Deflect Lvl 10, Empower Lvl 108, Calculated Blow Lvl 69, Roundhouse Kick Lvl 36, Flesh Eating Virus (Un) Lvl 63, Idiosyncratic Cut (Un) Lvl 69, Pierce the Skies, Shatter the Earth Lvl 39, Battle Intent Lvl 133, Struggle Lvl 9, Body Control: Freeze Lvl 25, The Golden Roots of Yggdrasil (A) Lvl 74, Stalemate Breaker Lvl 25, Talon Strike Lvl 14
The 7 Kata of the Ashen Spear (Ru): The Spear Advances, Ash Trails Lvl 51, As the Sun Stills ® Lvl 1
The 6 Signs of the Spear Phantom ®: The First Sign- The Inevitable Phantom Arrives Lvl 85 (Un), The Fifth Sign- The Spear Phantom’s Embrace ® Lvl 160
Spells: Spearing Roots Lvl 48, Mana Bolt Lvl 28, Mana Shield Lvl 26, Root Control Lvl 99, Arcane Orb Lvl 22, Fireball Lvl 30, Magic Missile Lvl 4, Healing Palm Lvl 12, Pollen of the Rafflesia Lvl 20, Summon Pestilence.Lvl 53, Mana Strengthening Lvl 65, Wall of Thorns Lvl 19, Soul Seed ®, Anguish (Un) Lvl 59, Inspiration ®, Incinerating Bolt Lvl 73, Circle of Flame Lvl 45, Plantomancy Lvl 35, The Weeping Cloud ® Lvl 64, Hammer of the Dawn Lvl 11, Burning Footsteps Lvl 10, Ashes to Ashes (A) Lvl 22, Torment Lvl 4
Crafting: Potion Making Lvl 37, Farming Lvl 20, Plant Breeding Lvl 9, Mapmaker Lvl 7, Analyze Lvl 24, Refine Lvl 17, Extract Lvl 23, Mana Engraving Lvl 74
Auxiliary: Physical Fitness Lvl 89, Meditation Lvl 93, Running Lvl 39, Sprinting Lvl 19, Sneak Lvl 46, Acid Resistance Lvl 22, Poison Resistance Lvl 21, Pain Resistance Lvl 41, First Aid Lvl 16, Equip Lvl 25, Pathfinding Lvl 18, Mental Strength Lvl 44, Curse Resistance Lvl 15, Fire Resistance Lvl 23, Sewing Lvl 11, Cutting Vegetables Lvl 2, Manual Labor Lvl 6, Digging Lvl 5, Cooking Lvl 35, Grace Lvl 65, Bacterial Regeneration Lvl 116, Superiority Lvl 56, Mental Fortitude Lvl 76, Second Wind Lvl 71, Weather Affinity Lvl 43, Clockwork Mastery Lvl 16, Rejection Lvl 42, Aether Connection (A) Lvl 3, Flexibility of the White Hunters ® Lvl 44, Living Blood (Un) Lvl 42
Shaking his head, Randidly pulled out one of the Engraving encyclopedias. Patience was annoying.