When Randidly returned to the back of that cart on Tellus, there was a notification waiting for him.
Congratulations! Despite the odds, you have merged with the essence of your Patron, becoming Chosen. The Efficacy of all spells and abilities relating to your Patron have increased by 25%! At the long end of the road, you find the corpse of your Patron, and a mantle to carry forward. You garb yourself in the mantle and continue forward. Although it may be difficult, the Path goes ever onward. +500 to Health, Mana, and Stamina! +50 to Agility, Reaction, and Focus.
It may seem aimless, the many winding paths you have walked, but the further you go, the more you realize that all Paths lead to the same place.
Randidly tightened his hand into a fist. That last line was certainly disturbing, but most of all he was simply pleased to have made it out of the world of ash alive. Besides, he had learned much while he was there, both about the second Calamity and the third. More than that, his Skills had been empowered.
Randidly sighed. At least he hoped so. The changes to Plant Dominance had a huge drawback. Hopefully, it wouldn’t end up mattering.
The other shift that Randidly noticed was how cluttered his Soulspace had become with the charred remnants of Skills and the new Skills. His previous Skills had been neatly ordered, but the new arrivals were rather haphazardly spaced. Shaking his head, Randidly opens up his Path Menu. With the spare, he had leftover from before, and the gains fighting off the Ashen Image, Randidly had some more PP to throw around. He considered the open Paths.
Heretic XXIX 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, Growth of Yggdrasil III 0/2000, Mana Ghoul 0/200, Fiery Sharpshooter 0/350, The Ashes of Ulaat, Patron of Ash 0/1000
Heretic had gone up another one, which was worrying if only because reaching 30 would cause another Judgement to descend. Remembering the one that came at 20 made Randidly grimace. It had interrupted his training as they prepared to be connected to the New Earth, and had left a constantly foggy area in the North of their Zone.
Hopefully, this next Judgement would be possible to overcome on his own without attracting much attention. Otherwise…
Shaking his head, Randidly peered at his options. There were three new ones, Mana Ghoul, Fiery Sharpshooter, and the Ashes of Ulaat. The Ashes of Ulaat seemed the most immediately interesting, but it was a 1000 PP Path. Especially now that so many of his Skills were lost, Randidly wasn’t sure if he would be able to finish such a Path in less than a year. Waiting a year for a path was a bit…
Although Randidly admitted to himself that he was likely spoiled for choice when it came to Paths, he was still impatient for results. For now, he set that option to the side. Mana Ghoul obviously would help his Mana, but the word Ghoul in conjunction made him wary. Fiery Sharpshooter, on the other hand, seemed much more straightforward. Likely, he would obtain a Skill from it that would be an upgrade on his ranged fire spells. Or he would get a Skill that would improve them, either way would be satisfactory.
After cutting out the bad ones, Like Heretic, System Transgressor, the Steps of Godling, etc., that would have less utility and that didn’t take 1000 PP, Randidly had a much more manageable list.
Fighting Proficiency III 0/???, War Leader 0/200, Path of the Patron 0/500, Aether Convergence II ???, the Bell of Doom Tolls 0/600, Mana Ghoul 0/200, Fiery Sharpshooter 0/350
Path of the Patron and Aether Convergence also seemed to be not what he was looking for, which left Fighting Proficiency III, War Leader, the Bell of Doom Tolls, and the two new additions.
Fighting Proficiency Randidly had a for a long time, and would likely be one of the more predictable options. War Leader was possibly too focused on leading others to be immediately useful. The Bell of Doom tolls was 600, which was still a significant amount, and like Mana Ghoul it was oddly ominous. Fiery Sharpshooter would push him more towards using certain SKills in the future.
Finally, Randidly narrowed it down to either Fighting Proficiency and Fiery Sharpshooter. And Randidly believed that he would be focusing on his Spear Skills for the interim. Therefore, he chose Fighting Proficiency. When he put the first PP into the Path, he was delighted to see that the Path only took 175 PP to finish. It would likely be a quick Path, and hopefully, give him a positive benefit. It was also nice that it seemed that every 5 PP he put into the Path earned Randidly 1 Strength and 2 Stamina. After the Chosen of Ash netting him nothing, it was a pleasant surprise.
After distributing the PP and cracking his neck, Randidly walked out of the back of the cart and looked up at the night sky. Stars were sprinkled across the dark expanse like granules of sugar, sweet and cold up in the sky. On Tellus, it didn’t seem like any time had passed at all.
Azriel looked up at him as he walked out. “Ah, good, you are alive. Congratulations.”
Chuckling, Randidly nodded. Then he said. “Can we take a break here? I’d like to confirm some things.”
They were on a thin trail heading up a slope as they made their way around a canyon. Azriel nodded towards the canyon they were driving around. “The town we are heading towards is right up there. Since we’ve brought it this far, Skarch and I will bring the cart to the town to sell; feel free to jump off here and meet us when you are done.”
With a grunt, Randidly did just that. When he landed on the ground, he smiled with relish; nothing was as calming to him as dirt underneath his feet. Being in that ash world… it simply didn’t feel right.
Randidly had to walk some distance away from the track to find some plants. Not that there weren’t plants everywhere, but he wanted to see his new effect on plants from the beginning. Growing tiny plant bacterium wasn’t very satisfying. At the very least, Randidly was pleased to notice that his plant senses weren’t affected. If he simply used his Skills to feel through the plants, nothing untoward happened to them.
It seemed it was only his Mana that was poisonous to them, then.
After he found a gnarled tree, Randidly pointed and sent a sliver of his Mana into a branch. Instantly, the branch swelled and twisted, almost instantly doubling in size. Randidly’s eyes widened. He had barely spent 5 Mana, and it seemed well within his abilities to make the branch even larger.
So Randidly did so swelling the branch until it was as thick as a human torso. Without even his prodding, as it grew the branch produced crimson thorns that threw off heat waves. That raised some eyebrows. Then Randidly lashed out with the branch, striking the ground. Of course, the branch passed cleanly through it, shattering the ground to pieces. The thorns melted and then cut, with the branch itself was almost impossibly powerful, given its size.
Checking his Mana expenditure, Randidly swore quietly. The cracked ground was a testament to having power similar to 200 Strength, and that was still under 10 Mana. If he pumped more into it…
When the Mana reached about 25, the tree cracked and fell from the weight of the huge, hulking thorned branch that was swaying above the tree. It was explosive in its attacks, striking with an impressive amount of speed. And the power was likely four times what it had been previously. In terms of offensive ability, Grasp of the World Seed was incomparable to Plant Dominance.
So Randidly slowly withdrew his Mana and waited. He drummed his fingers against his thighs as he watched the branch slowly shrink back to normal size. After about 30 seconds, the branch began to smoke. Then, after another minute passed, the entire tree was aflame and collapsing. It looked like the fire had eaten it from the inside out, slowly reducing it to nothing but ash.
Then Randidly frowned. Would that happen with everything…?
To test it, Randidly used Wall of Thorns. After he withdrew his Mana, it only took a minute for it to collapse into a heap of smoking twigs.
This time, Randidly swore viciously. That was actually quite annoying.