“Fucking 2000!??!” Randidly bellowed.
The surgeon patted his shoulder absently. “Worry not, the larger pieces are already removed. This would be easier if you could lower your natural toughness, eh? Just how high is your Endurance, anyway?”
Randidly didn’t bother to answer him as his monologue turned inward. 2000 PP was an almost impossible number. He had come a long way, of course, from the days where he had Paths for 25 or 50 PP. And Randidly’s ability to gather PP had vastly grown, so the difference wasn’t too intimidating. But to jump all the way up to 2000…?
That was only a little less than the amount of PP he had spent so far since gaining the Soul Skill, Seven Lands of the Spectral Tree. Theoretically, if he spent time learning meaningless Skills with his freed up slots and grinding them up to 50 or 60, he would have a lot of that filled up, but…
Randidly didn’t have time for that. Since the System arrived, it had largely been him turning his attention from one threat to the next. As such, it was extremely difficult to imagine that he would be able to gather enough free time to grind up less useful Skills.
Aside from the big Path, Randidly had a few other options to choose from, some of which he had available for a long time.
Heretic XXVIII 0/???, Nexus Traveler Cohort 5 0/50, Experimenter I 0/50, The Fighting Proficiency III 0/???, System Transgressor 0/1, Steps of the Godling II Path 0/200, Friend to Humanity 0/100, War Leader 0/200, Path of the Patron 0/500, Metallurgist 0/300, Advanced Mana Engraving 0/400, Aether Convergence II ???, Perfect Soul Bond 0/1000, the Bell of Doom Tolls 0/600, Chosen of Ash 0/200, Growth of Yggdrasil III 0/2000
But of them all, Randidly instantly chose Chosen of Ash. The strange accident that happened earlier during his time on Tellus as he investigated Ashes to Ashes made Randidly keen on figuring that out as soon as possible, lest it end up being an issue. That piercing headache he had in the wake of using that Skill still haunted him.
The first batch of 70 PP he dumped into the Skill, which he earned from the growth of the Yggdrasil Skills, earned Randidly nothing. His mood immediately turned depressed. So it was, with the Patron of Ash. No matter what Randidly sacrificed for him, what he received in return was somewhat underwhelming.
With a wince, Randidly straightened from the operating table. It was an effort of will to prevent the blood that Randidly had shed on the table and the surrounding area from hissing and eating through the material of the triage center. The damage would be significant, and some questions might be asked. So he did his best to gather his blood back on his skin as best he could as the doctor scribbled away on his notepad.
“That healing Skill of yours… it's very useful.” The surgeon announced, “Most of my patients these days die during procedures like this.”
Randidly didn’t say much as he thanked the man and fled from the hospital.
Sergeant Platton clenched his hands into fists. The Lieutenant in front of him sighed dramatically and then waved his hand.
“Look Platton, you have been rumor mongering your entire career. What do you expect? That you somehow discovered a conspiracy to bring an actual Propagator, which some believe are simply myths, into Tellus? And you somehow fought it and escaped?”
“Yes,” Sergeant Platton growled, his eyes glowing red as he glared at the Lieutenant. But all the ill will that Platton managed to concentrate and shoot at the man seemed completely ineffective against his condescending smile.
“Well… perhaps I should defer to my peers. I am only a Lieutenant after all. What say you?”
Sergeant Platton was speaking before a tribunal of five. It had been difficult to get even this much, as all the activity going on at Southpoint Beach increased. But what was largely infuriating to Platton was that a Lieutenant was selected as head of the tribunal. The other members of the report committee were Captains.
Although this particular Lieutenant was adjunct to a Colonel, technically Sergeant Platton outranked him. The ranks when Sergeant, Captain, Colonel, Field Marshall, and Auroch. The highest in command at Southpoint Beach was Colonel Euthna, to which this Lieutenant was subordinate. It was due to that relationship that these Captains had the impulse to fawn over the man.
Not that Colonel Euthna was the type to accept that sort of behavior. She was from the Central Domain’s elite, but she had fought on the front lines for years. She was a practical, no-nonsense woman. But she had a family that had fallen on hard times, so she had conceded to having several less than stellar Lieutenants.
And when shit arrived, flies gathered around it.
There were mutters from the Captains of agreement. The Lieutenant gave Sergeant Platton an expectant smile. There was pity there, but also smugness. “Well then, there you have it. Your story is without merit Sergeant Platton, and therefore, I can’t waste the good Colonel’s time with this. In fact…”
After a pause, the Lieutenant’s face changed, as though something just occurred to him. “In fact… perhaps you just don’t understand the seriousness of your foolishness, Platton. No, I cannot condone such reckless lies. The Colonel would be aghast to learn of that. We need to set an example; this command structure will not stand for your lies. As such, we, the tribunal will have to punish-”
“You aren’t a Tribunal, Lieutenant,” Sergeant Platton bellowed with flashing eyes. “This is a debriefing. I am simply reporting-”
“And I am telling you,” the Lieutenant cut across, his face twisted in annoyance. It was clear to Sergeant Platton that these fools around him never challenged him or spoke over him. “That I sentence you-”
But then a sharp voice cut across all their attention.
“All hands, battlestations. Prepare for assault. We are being attacked.” The voice was almost a low rumble. Sergeant Platton had heard rumors about Colonel Euthna’s powerful command abilities, but this was the first time he had felt them. It was almost as if the Colonel could speak and the entire army heard. “I repeat, prepare for assault. It appears… a Propagator has come to Southpoint Beach.”
The Lieutenant seemed to deflate like a rotten tomato.
Sergeant Platton didn’t bother to deal with the Lieutenant as he left the report tent and looked around the kicked beehive that was the camp. Men and women holding spears were running to and fro, yelling and shouting at each other. A few carried some of the new tower shields that were being shipped to the front lines to keep the Psychic Poison off of the fighters.
It wouldn’t be enough. This place was a glorified supply depot. It was not made to withstand an attack. And it couldn’t be denied that the spear users of Tellus were much better at attacking than they were at defending points. Likely, Colonel Euthna knew that. If at all possible, she wouldn’t have their forces turn to fight against the Wights without fortifications.
Which meant that the attack was imminent. Sergeant Platton swore as a strange notion struck him. Did the Propagator follow them back…?
Instantly, he sprang into action. Including those two that survived their penetration into enemy lines, Platton had another 10 people underneath him. He sent messages detailing where they should meet and sought out his other four charges: the representatives from the tournament. They were waiting for him with their spears in hand, ready to fight.
Well, Randidly, Skarch, and Azriel were there. Silo was nowhere to be seen.
“Do we know where Silo is?” Sergeant Platton asked. The three looked at each other and shrugged.
“If he wanted to be found, he would have shown up,” Azriel said shortly. The other seemed to agree.
Sergeant Platton sighed and looked over Randidly and Azriel more closely. Even now, he had no doubt that his Skill was slowly eating at them. It might even be in such a small way that they wouldn’t notice for a while. A week, a month… but the System Rarity Skill would eventually catch up to them. Should he tell them…?
But no, he recognized the determination in their eyes. They would fight no matter what. If they wouldn’t slow down, then all Sergeant Platton could do is put them in a situation where they could make the best of their remaining time.
“Alright then,” Sergeant Platton grunted. “Let’s make the Wights bleed for every inch of land they try and take.”