Randidly learned 3 things in the ensuing conversations with Neveah and Lucretia.
Number one, the idea actually seemed real. Upon further discussion, and examination of Lucretia’s Class, because hers was the most easily accessible example, it really seemed like a Class was actually just a larger version of Skills. It was THE Skill, for a person’s body and internal world. While other Skills related to the ability to accomplish certain actions, the Class related to people’s ability to interact with the System.
Which made a bit of sense, but also didn’t make sense. What did that really mean for Skills…? How did they work? Aether was the substance of them, but how did they improve…?
These questions were set aside, however, to deal with the actual relevant information more directly. The inner soul world of most people didn’t grow, like Randidly’s did, due to the lack of fresh Aether to fuel the growth. In terms of its relation to the System, the Aether of the Class itself settled around the soul world, almost like an inner armor, that would grow and spur growth.
It gave shape to the soul world, but also was an extremely dense and intricate construct of Aether, that incorporated images into the very fabric of it. It reminded Randidly of the way that the Creature had spoken words made of Aether against him when it was trying to convince him to found his Soul Skill for it, and included thick images of huge, ancient battlefields rife with death.
Of course, there were drawbacks to the Classes. Although they came from the Villages, there was still only a certain amount of rather impure Aether that they were made of, and only so much Aether flowed along the connection. The Class provided shape, but it was a strain on the Soul World, which they began to suspect was the reason for the additional Class restrictions. Which didn’t necessarily make sense, due to the fact that weaker Classes had fewer slots for additional Skills.
Or at least it didn’t make sense, before Neveah matter of factly suggested that it was because the images were too general, and therefore required more Aether to build. It was much easier to build a specific image of a Class than a general one, that would cover a wide variety of possibilities that would allow an individual to grow.
Spear Witch had a more elegant shape than the Warrior Class. And if the Class had been even more specific than that…
“Is it possible to practice creating a Class by… adjusting mine?” Lucretia asked, a winning smile on her face. Randidly could feel a tickle of discomfort at the prospect, at the same time as feeling that the opportunity would be pretty valuable experience. Especially because the prospect was one that they wouldn’t likely get anyone else to agree to…
But Neveah spoke up. “No. Idea bad. You warp.”
Along with the brief phrase was a string of very specific mental images that arrived at Randidly, involving the way that the specific connections between the huge Aether construct that was a Class and the Soul Space would change and be strained by the change, although her further thoughts clarified that it should be possible.
Which brought Randidly to his 2nd realization; Neveah was a fucking genius.
Her ability to quickly view and intuit Aether was ridiculous, to the point that Randidly wasn’t able to even touch her more unexpected insights. Perhaps it could be explained by her growing up inside of the Aether Crossroads… but it was more than that. The longer he examined her ideas… the more his own comprehensions increased at a rapid clip, and the more he recognized the gulf of differences between them.
Even Lucretia, who at first was extremely dismissive of Neveah based on the way she spoke, was becoming increasingly silent and accepting of Neveah’s pronouncements. Although it was somewhat intimidating, Randidly felt a surge of pride. After all… the two of them were intimately connected to each other.
At first, it was a shock, that she was growing so fast, and that her intellect was monstrous underneath her rather ineffective communication style. He had treated her… well basically like a mount. But she was… so much more than that.
And she was beginning to design him a Class, although they would still need to see how the Stone of Genesis and also Thea’s reward worked, to see the way the constructs of Aether were assembled and changed.
The 3rd thing Randidly realized was perhaps the most perplexing… but also, it was the most useless. And that was simply that… what was experience? It was perhaps more explainable at the Skill version, where it would mean you had improved. But in terms of Class… what were you gathering to advance it….? What was the fuel that drove it forward?
But there was no answer, and they had more important things to focus on at the moment.
Still, Randidly had a direction now, even if it was one where he felt dangerously out of his depth. But his Skills were rising to the occasion. Although the previous few weeks were an extremely slow period of growth for Randidly in terms of Skills, the combination of rushing over, fighting against the skeletons, his final duel with the Skeleton Knight, and now all the research into Aether, had jump started his Skill growth.
Randidly had gained 7 Lvls of SoulBond, 12 Lvls in Aether Detection and Meditation, 9 Lvls in Aether Manipulation, 5 Lvls in Battle Intent, the Weeping Cloud, and Calculated Blow, 6 Lvls in Struggle and Physical Fitness, 3 Lvls of Phantom’s Embrace and Spear Mastery, 4 Lvls in Empower, Haste, and Mana Strengthening, 2 Lvls in Grace and Flexibility of the White Hunters, 4 Lvls in Stalemate Breaker, 6 in Golden Roots of Yggdrasil and Spearing Roots, and 10 Lvls in Living Aether. All in all, it was a haul of 115 PP, which was enough to finish off his Basic Mana Engraving Path.
Congratulations! You have completed the test of Basic Mana Engraving Path! It is a path that not many tread, seeking to infuse the world around you with the strength of Mana, in the shape of Aether. But as time has gone on, you begin to see how even this path lays out before you, leading you onward. Mana +100. The efficiency and delicacy of your control while using Mana Engraving has greatly increased! A new host of runes are available to you, should you learn them.
Randidly grinned wryly. So he finally would be able to handle the Shadow IV rune, huh… Well, now that he finally had somewhat of a break, he would try and improve his equipment. Because he had to admit, although he was strong, even he could only be cautious when faced with the prospect of heading into a Lvl 49 Raid Dungeon. After all, the highest Levels he had faced in Shal’s world was only 25.
And Lvl 50… Randidly wasn’t sure, but it kept coming up, in different contexts. It seemed to him that there was something special about it. Another question, but not a pressing one, so he let it go for now.
Instead, he focused on his next options for a Path.
Heretic XIV 0/???, Nexus Traveler Cohort 5 0/50, Path of Control 0/200, Adept (+1) 0/250, Experimenter I 0/50, The Second Seedling 0/50, The Phantom’s Embrace 0/150, Fighting Proficiency III 0/???, System Transgressor 0/1, Steps of the Godling II Path 0/200, Meditation II 0/150, Greater Empower Path 0/100, Basic Soul Bond 0/75
The final 3 options were new ones, and Randidly was especially tempted by the final two, Greater Empower and Basic Soul Bond. But…
Everytime he had finished one of the “main” Paths, ie Newbie, Trainee, Apprentice, etc. he received a per level gain. Which, in his view, made the impending arrival of a Class for himself, which would let him gain levels, push for that option. 250 was high, but he already had a big chunk of it, and he would definitely be increasing the levels of at least his Aether Skills, in preparation for what would come after. Hopefully it would end up being enough.
Although in a way, it did drive Randidly slightly insane. After all… everything would be so useful…!
But he did his best to ignore those tempting Paths and poured his PP into the Adept(+1) Path, instantly putting 90 into it. It even had a nice benefit too, because every 10 PP he would receive 10 Health, Mana, and Stamina, which, all told, was a pretty sizable boost.
Satisfied, Randidly came back to himself and considered his next movements in the real world. While he, Neveah, and Lucretia were hammering out the details of creating a Class, he could still physically move around, and practice other Skills. During that time, there were several things he wanted to do. First was revisit Star Crossing, and drop off Simon, and perhaps Thea, but Randidly believed she would head to Donnyton, to investigate the Stone of Fate.
In fact, he was counting on it. Although it wasn’t exactly a Stone of Genesis, it seemed to be cut from a similar cloth. Seeing any of the weirder mechanics of the System in action would be useful, at this point, now that he was trying to decode the hyperdense Aether that seemed to permeate everything.
Which worked out in another way, because Star Crossing had apparently forged a portal between there and Donnyton, which would take them back home instantly. Aside from Randidly preparing himself to go into the Dungeon, the other factor to consider who would be the other 9 spots in the Raid Party.
Honestly, due to the high difficulty associated with a Lvl 49 Dungeon, he wanted the best. But to be honest… no longer did he know who that was, aside from himself. It was time to go home and take muster of their strength, because the System was rising.
It was time to crush it back.
There was another goal, but one that Randidly was slightly uneasy about. Although he had met Ace, he hadn’t seen Sydney. Perhaps it could wait until after the Dungeon was dealt with, but…
It weighed heavy on his mind. How would she react to seeing him…?