‘They are having us fight in this war for them, huh…’ Randidly thought to himself, considering the three people standing on the stage in front of them. After finishing their spiel and naming the teams, they continued to stand there, as if waiting for questions. A few of the spear users in the hall walked up and greeted the administrators of the competition with friendliness.
It was a far cry from the absolute lack of reaction that he, Helen, and Azriel received. The people from other Schools kept to themselves for the most part, and the people from the Spearman School avoided those from the Northern Domain like the plague. It seemed that everyone knew of the sour rumors about the Northern Domain, although Randidly couldn't’ for the life of him understand what they were so twisted up about.
“It is lucky we are on the same team,” Azriel said at his side. Helen was standing nearby, wearing a frown that was a shade more violent than her usual scowl.
Randidly nodded at Azriel. “We will still need to actually head to the front lines and fight… I don’t think it will be easy.”
Dubiously, he looked down at the Soulstone that he had been given. He could barely make out the Engraving symbols on the inside of the closed crystal container. It seemed like the Engraving Guilds likely used a material that was cloudy on purpose in order to keep others from being able to figure out their symbols.
It did a lot to show the attitude of the Engraving Guild and reminded Randidly that he would need to keep an eye out for them while he was back on Shal’s world. Then Randidly grimaced. More than keeping an eye out for them, he had a debt to pay for when he was given the encyclopedia of Engraving knowledge his first time here. If he had enough power…
Then Randidly blinked, “Ah before I forget, is there a Dungeon nearby?”
Azriel gave him a sidelong glance and then shrugged. Luckily, Helen had an answer.
“Yes… but the demand for dungeons is extremely variable these days. It is the only reliable way of obtaining energy now that we have lost the Spear-source… but on the other hand, if you fail and get injured it will take months to recover. Only the most extreme spear users go in there… those that believe there is more to Skill than Levels.”
“Well that seems like an obvious truth,” Randidly said, as he cracked his neck. “Having Levels is fine, but you need to use them correctly.”
“It’s actually messier than that,” Azriel added. “Many believe that having the Levels gives you the know how. But are you saying your… Skill will also assist us-”
“Yes,” Randidly answered shortly. His emerald eyes glittered. In theory, they could go into a Dungeon for an almost indefinite amount of time with his supply of Mana and work on sharpening their Skills. Well, the only one amongst them that really needed it was him, but they could all benefit.
“Nearby… there isn’t anything overly powerful... Not that we would have access to,” Helen said with a thoughtful frown. Around them, people were beginning to go towards the numbered banners and meet their team after conversing with those they came with. “But there is one Dungeon where an hour is a full day. LIkely, we won’t leave until tomorrow. A week or two of sparring… is for the best.”
She gave Randidly a meaningful look. He shrugged his shoulders helplessly.
“Don’t look at me like that! You are the one that keeps on making up rules for the duels! If we fought normally-”
“She’s very good at designing rules that won’t allow you to simply steamroll over her with your higher Stats,” Azriel said primly. “Yet you fail to win even once against her. Perhaps you really do need something more to use Skills and you are missing it.”
Randidly rolled his eyes. “Fine, two weeks of sparring. Tonight after this?”
“Let’s meet in two hours by that big fountain out front,” Helen said. Then she paused. “And Randidly… be careful.”
Frowning, Randidly asked, “Is there something I need to worry about?”
“Well no, but… Fuck, can’t I just be concerned?” Helen glared at him. “And let’s be honest; when was the last time you went somewhere without making a powerful enemy?”
Silo Rune was surprised to find that Skarch Top was actually a woman. She rather tall, with a black waterfall of hair that made it to the small of her back. With her, she carried a heavy parcel wrapped in canvas. Inwardly, Silo shook his head. This was the problem with the Spear School people, they emphasized the power of their Engraved Spears to the detriment of all else. And due to the fanatical reverence with which they viewed their weapons, they did not keep them in an interspatial ring.
The first thing a trainee in the Spear School learned was that your spear always had to be carried.
It was basically such a lesson that they didn’t have room for any true knowledge beyond that point. They were helplessly fixated with solely that one tenant. And they didn’t even keep their spears in a battle-ready state; if a fight were to break out, they would take the time to carefully unpack it before they could be of any use.
“Hello,” Silo said shortly.
“A pleasure,” She responded with a soft voice. Her nose was soft and her lips were full. Although well sculpted with muscles, her arms and legs were slender. “I have heard you amongst all in the Spearman School understand the role of the spear?”
Wincing, Silo said. “...perhaps. But rather, my spear has some sentimental value to me. It was given to me by my grandfather.”
Skarch nodded sagely. “You carry the weight of your ancestors. It is a heavy burden, but a powerful weapon. Use it well, companion.”
Silo’s face turned solemn. “Yes… I have a great weight on my shoulders. And it’s only when I have the support of other righteous spear users that we can accomplish it. I hope-”
Pausing, Silo turned to look at the new arrivals. His eyes widened a fraction with recognition. These two were another two that ignored his plight earlier when trying to enter into the city!
The woman was slight, with pure white hair and a spear that looked like a needle. The man was tall and intense looking, with black hair and deep emerald eyes. Together, they struck quite the figures. But as he looked at them, Silo felt a sinking sensation in his chest.
They look the part, but… why do I get the feeling that we just aren’t in the same league…?
“Greetings,” Skarch bowed slightly. “You are…”
“Azriel. Let’s not pretend like we are best friends.” The woman with white hair said, waving her hand airily. “But I’ll protect your back with everything I have.”
“An auspicious greeting,” Skarch said with a smile.
It was a small thing, but after she spoke, Azriel looked sideways at Randidly. Although others would have missed it, Silo’s sharp eyes caught the movement easily. Was she… afraid of him?
Before he could follow that line of thoughts further, another voice cut into his reverie.
“Silo! Finally showing your true colors, eye? The traitors associating with the trash. How appropriate.”
Althumber Veir sidled up to the group, a twisted smile on his face. And even though he was as evil and slimy as they come, his genetics and strong jaw made the expression come off as attractive and charming.
Silo clenched his hands into fists. “Leave, Althumber. If you threaten these people, I’ll-”
“Oh? Threaten?” Althumber’s mouth stretched into an even wider smile. “Do I seem like that type of person? Perhaps in your world, Silo, such things are common. But at our sophistication, we trust that laws will see justice done. Those who subvert the establish rules and norms… are doomed to be outed as fools.”
To the side, Silo heard Randidly say, “Do I seem like the type of person that has time for this?” and Azriel responded. “Do I seem like a you-expert?” As Silo opened his mouth to reply, Skarch said in an excited voice, “Do I get to play this game, too?”
Struggling to keep the tension out of his jaw, Silo spat out, “Leave it, Althumber. It was just my grandfather’s spear. You lost, fair and square.”
Now Althumber’s eyes burned. Slowly, he leaned forward until his nose was only a few centimeters away from Silo. Because he was a bit taller than Silo, he could sneer down his nose at him. “You little shit. You don’t know the first thing about what’s going on behind the scenes here. If I had it my way, I would kill you myself. But let me assure you; you will not live through this tournament.”
“Can he say that?” Randidly asked from behind him while yawning.
Skarch hummed for a second and then said. “I have never been too proficient with trash talk… but it is something like a tradition in times like this, is it not?”
“Ha! I find this girl quite pleasing. Maybe we can be best friends, Skarch. I can’t tell if you are naive or playing us. It intrigues me,” Azriel said.
Frustrated by his teammate's whimsical attitudes, Silo turned away. “Let’s go, team. Let’s not waste time with a fool like this.”
Althumber snorted and turned away to walk back towards his own team. Frowning, Silo tried to prepare himself for this next month. Althumber would not let the indignity of his loss go without retaliation. It already started with the rumors about his grandfather’s spear, but also…
It seemed his rival had a much more dangerous plan in motion.