Randidly didn’t receive further news until 8 AM the next morning. Stan had continued to sleep, long after the Sleeping Powder wore off, simply lying there. After briefly examining him, Randidly realized that something was changing about the Soul Skill, even while Stan’s consciousness was dormant. The creature in the cage was producing increasing amounts of mist, that billowed outward.
Soon, the entirety of the cage would be masked by the mist’s presence. Which was one type of solution, but it was one that Randidly found incredibly frustrating. It was hard for him to understand why something that was clearly so true would fill Stan with such fear. What sort of monster was he hiding, burying deep in his chest…?
The other part that was frustrating was that Randidly knew that what the Soul Skill was unconsciously doing was covering up a portion of Stan’s potential, although which portion he wasn’t clear on. The mist obscuring the cage would call for a weaker effect, although it would probably slowly shift towards Stan growing to understand that portion of himself, as his Soul Skill grew.
Or at least, that’s what Randidly had expected. It was so hard to fully comprehend what they were learning everyday, and tough to know which portions were speculation, and which portions were proven evidence. Lucretia and Neveah had both been very quiet in the wake of Stan’s bad reaction, although both seemed to tacitly agree with his assessment.
But the fact that they had to wait so long to have that agreement…
With the rest of the night and morning, however, Randidly had not been idle. He had been furiously training his other Skills, specifically, his spells, refining them with images and new utilizations, in order to get more PP, and improve further. After all, he still had a bit of leftover PP from his previous improvements, and now, with a few extra Skill Levels in a few spells, Randidly thought that it was time he considered the question of what Path to use next more directly. Honestly, anything was better than dwelling on what happened to Stan.
He had gained 3 Skill Levels in Spearing Roots, 2 in Root Control, 5 in Incinerating Bolt and Circle of Flame, 4 in Hammer of the Dawn, 7 in Burning Footsteps, 2 in Ashes to Ashes, and the most impressive growth of his spells was in Touch from Beyond, which grew by 8 Levels.
The performance of Touch from Beyond was also swiftly becoming the most impressive, as the extra destructive power that it added was unmatched in speed and ease of cast. The only problem was the slight amount of recoil damage that his body sustained after use, but with his high level of regeneration techniques, he could overcome that given a short amount of time.
In addition, Randidly had passively gained a lot in his work with Aether. Aether Manipulation had increased by 7 Skill Levels, while Aether Detection, the Indomitable Spirit of Yggdrasil, and the Cruel Indignation of Yggdrasil had increased by 4. The big winner over here was Living Aether, which had jumped up 12 Skill Levels, mostly due to the moment when Randidly released a small amount of the Aether that was sealed up in his body, letting it flood the portion of their Zone surrounding Donnyton.
Even now, the Aether inside of himself seemed much more alive and jubilant, seemingly happy to flow within him, off through his connections to distant individuals, strengthening them. It showed a certain amount of… sentience, that was disturbing. It was also confusing because one of Randidly’s earliest theories about where Neveah came from was that she was basically the consciousness of the Aether Crossroads. But that became increasingly unlikely as the Aether itself flowing from it came alive. It couldn’t both have a central sentience, and be that every shred of energy was alive… could it?
When combined with the PP that he had saved up previously, it was over 100. Which meant whatever path that he chose would take a significant hit from using this. Intrigued, in spite of himself, Randidly considered the Paths open to him.
Heretic XV 0/???, Nexus Traveler Cohort 5 0/50, Path of Control 0/200, Experimenter I 0/50, The Phantom’s Embrace 0/150, Fighting Proficiency III 0/???, System Transgressor 0/1, Steps of the Godling II Path 0/200, Basic Soul Bond 0/75, the First Legend 0/???, the Road to Mastery 0/500, Seed of Yggdrasil 0/150
Randidly was initially confused about the fact that Heretic had reached 15, yet no Judgement had descended. It was good, in a way, because right now was an extremely inopportune time for a Judgement to descend, but it also meant that something was building. If it followed the pattern set up by the System’s treatment of the Journeyman/Adept Paths, this later Judgement would be… perhaps even more powerful.
Everytime a Judgement descended, Randidly believed that his power had increased by such leaps and bounds that there was no way that the opponent could still be his match, and everytime, more and more Skills were revealed by that strange Yeti thing, suppressing Randidly’s ability to resist. If not for the fact that it seemed like its abilities were designed for the actual Heretics, and were relatively useless on Randidly, he would have been crushed in their previous engagement.
Honestly, Randidly hadn’t even overcome that Judgement. He had simply locked it into the prison and run away. And to Randidly’s surprise, it hadn’t come bursting out of the prison, following him. If it was being strengthened even now…
A problem that he would have to face when he returned to Shal’s world. If he returned to Shal’s world. Randidly sighed. One problem at a time. Besides, that wasn’t really a Path option that he was considering anyways.
Nexus Traveler Cohort, Experimenter I, and the Steps of the Godling II Path were other Paths that although they seemed useful, they were permanently moved to the back of the Path queue. Which was unfortunate, because they were ones that he had had for quite a while. It just always seemed like there was a more pressing and useful Path. And as time went on, the difference between the useful paths and those that weren’t was growing larger
System Transgressor was an obvious no, which left Randidly with Path of Control, the Phantom’s Embrace, Fighting Proficiency III, Basic Soul Bond, the First Legend, the Road to Mastery, and Seed of Yggdrasil.
Path of Control was a strong contender, especially because when Randidly got access to it, he also got a +1 Control per Level bonus. There was possibly another boost like that available at the end of this Path, which would make leveling that much more desirable. The 200 cost was annoying, but it would likely further raise his Control Stat, which was one of the main reasons that he had been able to utilize such a strange fighting style thus far. His implicit control over his body allowed him to shift cleanly between magic and spear, to the point where even Azriel Blanche, the most talented monster Randidly had ever encountered, was slowed somewhat by his antics.
But at this level, there really weren’t any bad answers to what Path he should choose next, just better ones. Phantom’s Embrace was still the Skill he relied on most often in close quarters battles. Randidly just hadn’t been forced into many of those of late. Fighting Proficiency was similar. It would give him the sharp boost in fighting power that Phantom’s Embrace would, but it would provide an increase in efficacy probably that was more general. It also probably contained a Skill…
And now that his Skills had been consolidated, that was a much more valuable option…
Basic Soul Bond was the cheapest, and it also would likely provide benefits to his connection to Neveah, which was one of the pillars he relied upon for this whole creation of the Class thing, improving that was not a benefit to sneeze at.
The First Legend was a reward Path, and Randidly believed that the Road to Mastery was the final in the long line of “Main” Paths offered by the System. It would provide bonuses for leveling, which was something that Randidly wanted in the future, but it was harder to tell whether either would be as initially worthwhile, especially as he attempted to create the Class. In that regards, although both of these might be better long term, Randidly leaned towards the Path of Control and Basic Soul Bond.
The final option was the Seed of Yggdrasil Path, which Randidly thought was extremely strange. It was obviously a response to his consolidation of his Skills, and the Yggdrasil theme that emerged. It was slightly annoying to him that he had created all these high ranking, themed Skills, and a Skill set hadn’t emerged. One possible explanation, supported by the presence of this Path, was that an additional Skill was required, to bring them together.
Perhaps this Seed of Yggdrasil Path was exactly the Path to do that. Creating a Skill set was something that Randidly wanted very much to do, even though he already had one. After all, progress on the other Skill set had stalled, ever since the second Skill in it had shattered… And that was another problem that needed to wait until there was more time to deal with it. It was not something that he could take care of with his attention divided.
The reward Paths would have to wait, Randidly decided. The combat Paths too; at least on Earth, Randidly was reasonably confident in his ability to defeat most opponents. Which left Basic Soul Bond, the Path of Control, and the Seed of Yggdrasil.
Grumbling to himself, Randidly put his PP into the Basic Soul Bond. It was the least exciting of his options, he supposed, but that also meant that the benefit was more guaranteed, which is what he really should focus on right now.
After putting 10 PP into the Path, a notification popped up that raised Randidly’s eyebrows.
Due to increased Synchronicity, benefits have been obtained from your bonded partner! All Skills relating to Aether have increased!
Just…. Just like that…? There was a strange sensation of tightness, and then it was gone, and as Randidly looked at himself, he noticed the Aether Detection, Aether Manipulation, Living Aether, and even System Interference had gone up by a Level. This was… unexpected.
Would it really happen every 10 levels…? That would end up being quite a lot of free PP… Randidly supposed it made sense, since that was the main benefit that he obtained from Neveah. The body she had, that was so powerful and even now still growing, was one that she had received from him. That strength wasn’t what was flowing through their Soul Bond. It was just this, this powerful ability.
And at the rate it was growing… Randidly allowed himself a small smile. He supposed he shouldn’t be so negative about this, after all.