After saying her piece, Helen left. To his surprise, Randidly felt a strange warmth in his heart. It was clear from the way that Helen framed the issue, this was her way to try and protect him.
In a way, Randidly supposed her concern came from a place of truth. The end of the Northern Regional Tournament involved Randidly fleeing from a furious Skill Incarnation. Even with the help of Aethon Thai, Randidly had been wounded, although Helen wouldn’t know the extent of that. Remembering the agony he had suffered afterward, with his broken Skill...
Randidly shivered. Without Simon’s intervention, it was difficult to know if he could have even recovered.
This time, the foes that Randidly faced were even more powerful. Thinking of the wave of destruction left in the wake of Aylwind, Randidly couldn’t help but feel pressure. The dead and dry grasslands weren’t just destroyed, but they were filled with a deep image of a heat that bordered on parasitic. At that level, the heat bleached the color and moisture from the vulnerable land, leaving it a smoking ruin.
It wasn’t just a difference of stats, Randidly had realized while looking at the destruction. What separated Randidly from that tier of strength was also the resilience and clarity of the image. As such, Randidly knew he had to check out the Hall of Stances. It might not be contemporary, but it would be enough to get an understanding of the things powerful images could accomplish.
After heading down some obligatorily ornate hallways, Randidly arrived at the entrance to the true Hall of Stances. Two of the weird acolyte types were standing there and then bowed deeply as Randidly approached. The doorway was wide and tall, and carved of bone. As he approached, Randidly paused, but the acolytes remained perfectly bowed at the waist as he hesitated.
Honestly, it seemed like he could sit on them and they wouldn’t move. That was certainly dedication, although it seemed rather pointless. Shrugging, Randidly walked forward into the Hall of Stances.
The main portion was a wide spiraling ramp downwards. It was far enough across that thirty or so people could walk down in a line comfortably. The slope of the ramp was extremely shallow too, so it was easy to just think that one was walking down on a slowly curving all, rather than a spiral that led deep into the ground.
The first realization that Randidly had was that he had vastly underestimated the size of the Hall of Stances. The building above the actual Hall was huge, but Randidly assumed that it was because the organization that managed the Hall of Stances had grown to a ridiculous extent. But perhaps, if this Hall was truly this big, just housing enough people to mop the floor here would take up a hotels worth of space…
Then next thing Randidly noticed was the small altars. The first altar was about fifty meters down the Hall. It was a rather plain thing, a stone square with a thin and worn Tassle hanging from the front. On top of the altar was a disk of crystal that was a dirty red color.
With a sardonic smile, Randidly walked up to the crystal. This was exactly why he should have forced the issue and asked questions about the actual process of this place. Still, that was not Randidly’s way. Plus, no one was around.
This thought made Randidly wince. If the Hall of Stances was so huge, why had he avoided to keep away from people…?
Randidly reached out and lightly touched the crystal. Instantly, he felt a sharp impression fill his mind. A vague image of a middle-aged woman stood there, holding a spear. As if she was dragging a large brush across canvas, she drew her spear sideways in the air. Instantly, the wind curled and buzzed and thin disks of razor-sharp air exploded out away from her. From that simple stroke of the spear, those disks of air ran almost fifty meters in a cone in front of her.
Then the image stopped. Randidly stepped back on his heels and frowned. Then he touched the crystal again.
Once more, the woman stood still for a second and then dragged her spear purposefully through the air. This time, Randidly’s entire focus was on the way her seemingly casual strike with the spear managed to interfere with the air currents in such a way to cause such a reaction.
Unfortunately, it seemed that the Hall of Stances had some purpose to restrict access to the images here. When Randidly pushed all of his focus into looking at the image, his vision very quickly became mired in a strange blurriness. It seemed that the slow repetition of the image had led to its more profound points being lost.
Randidly’s expression was grim. Because what he saw when he looked at that first image was that the woman didn’t use any profound technique or rely on stats. She simply held an image of such power that it warped the world.
The more Randidly watched, the surer he became. It was easy to miss because of the fuzziness and the perspective, but the woman didn’t have an offensive image as she moved. Instead, she held a very simple concept: the wind is sharp.
When she influenced the wind in such a way, even the small breezes from a moving spear were enough to level fifty meters worth of scars in the ground. That incomparably sharp wind image drop those small buzz saws of air to rip up the ground for quite a distance beyond what should normally be possible.
After a while, it was clear that Randidly wouldn’t get much more from this crystal, so he began to slowly walk down the descending ramp. Purposefully, he kept his steps even and infrequent so he could take the short walk as a break to think about that use of images. Not a movement or attack, but holding a ‘truth’ about the world as an image…
Pondering, Randidly approached the second crystal. But before he touched it, he closed his eyes and looked at his Path screen. It wouldn’t matter much that he improved his Perception by a few more stat points, but it surely couldn’t hurt.
But immediately, some of his focus was shaken. Another 12 Levels in Talon Strike? 3 in Mana Engraving? 10 Levels in Engineering Savvy?
Randidly had been busy in the past week. Apart from speaking with Trentyon and looking at the destruction left by Aylwind, he had been honing his new ash based Skills. His Kata of Ashen Spear had received particular attention, and he had a few Levels in each of those Skills.
But his growth was being boosted in strange ways. Why was he gaining these Skill Levels?
It was a positive thing, but… Could Neveah have something to do with it? He sent an inquiry her way and soon received confusion and denial. She had nothing to do with it, as far as she knew. Strangely, Randidly felt a sharp heat in his chest as he scrunched up his brows. Sighing, Randidly pressed his hand to his chest and smiled ruefully.
The Ashen Image acting up again was a good reminder. This might not be something he understood, but it was benefiting him. His attention should be directed toward more pressing problems.
With the boost from the strange PP he received, he had enough to finish the Fighting Proficiency III Path.
Congratulations! You have finished the Fighting Proficiency III Path! Through constant trials and challenges, you have persisted down the path of violence. You have not engaged in slaughter and you were not hunted like an animal. Yours was the noble pursuit of physical contest against your peers. The violence you have found had refined your body to a new sort of perfection. You sense in your body the possibilities to evolve beyond your current understanding. The Path stretches onward into deep red mists. To proceed is to challenge the unknown with your body. Good Luck.
Congratulations! Your Stamina has increased by 500. All Physical Stats are increased by 10. Your Skill Fighting Proficiency has shifted to Fighting Experience (Un). All Skill Levels have a slightly larger effect in increasing your abilities while fighting. Skill Levels retained.
Tapping his lips, Randidly looked at his Status screen.
Class: Planting of the Forest of Enmity (+x5)
Level: 35 (???%)
Health(/R per hour): 3522/4343 [+730] (2357 [+165])
Mana(/R per hour): 4109/4696 (898 [+9])
Stam(/R per min): 3211/4376 [+60] (714 [+45])
Vit: 500 (+15)
End: 173 (+20)
Str: 482 (+52)
Agi: 554 (+24)
Perception: 434 (+20)
Reaction: 507 (+15)
Resistance: 408 (+45)
Willpower: 505 (+10)
Wisdom: 374 (+9)
Focus: 352 (+4)
Progenitor’s Influence: 27911
Skills (Soul Skill): Seven Lands of the Spectral Tree Lvl 2493
Combat: Spear Mastery Lvl 191, White Phantom’s Half-Step (Un) Lvl 86, Heavy Blow Lvl 107, Iron Skin Lvl 47, Dodge Lvl 102, Fighting Experience (Un) Lvl 145, Block Lvl 75, Phantom Onslaught Lvl 42, Calculated Blow Lvl 97, Roundhouse Kick Lvl 74, Idiosyncratic Cut (Un) Lvl 110, Stalemate Breaker Lvl 41, Talon Strike Lvl 80, Counter Lvl 79
PoFE Class Skills: Grasp of the World Seed (L) Lvl 199, Spray Holy Sap (Un) Lvl 25, Sharpness Lvl 87, Call Grove Defenders ® Lvl 34, Earthquake (Un) Lvl 47, Invigorating Call (Humanity)(Un) Lvl 14, Grasp of Lava ® Lvl 95, Erode Image (L) Lvl 10, Spriggit’s Tinkering ® Lvl 84, Aether Understanding (A) Lvl 56, Summon Lava Golem (Un) Lvl 46, Aether Infusion Lvl 45, Volatile Ash (A) Lvl 29, Visualization ® Lvl 90, Fruit of the Planting of Enmity (L) Lvl 22, Absolute Timing (Ru) Lvl 22
The 7 Kata of the Ashen Spear (L): The Spear Advances, Ash Trails Lvl 95, As the Sun Stills (A) Lvl 69, When a Shadow Departs, Fireflies Dance (Un) Lvl 46, All is Ash (L) Lvl 74
The 6 Signs of the Spear Phantom ®: The First Sign- The Inevitable Phantom Arrives Lvl 106 (Un), The Fifth Sign- The Wild Phantom’s Embrace (A) Lvl 187, The Sixth Sign- The Breath of the Spear Phantom ® Lvl 68
Aether Skills: Aether Detection Lvl 110, Aether Manipulation Lvl 105, Living Aether ® Lvl 108, System Interference Lvl 25
Spells: Yggdrasil Soul Seed ®, Inspiration ®, Incinerating Bolt Lvl 100, Circle of Flame Lvl 76, Plantomancy Lvl 35, Burning Footsteps Lvl 23, Touch from Beyond ® Lvl 37, Influence of the Molten Core ® Lvl 74, Incendiary Eruption Lvl 65
Crafting: Potion Making Lvl 73, Farming Lvl 34, Analyze Lvl 29, Refine Lvl 72, Extract Lvl 58, Mana Engraving Lvl 149
Yggdrasil, the Tree of Upheaval: Glittering Leaves of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 124, The Golden Roots of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 146, the Emerald Sap of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 143, the Yyrwood Flesh of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 155, the Deific Mien of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 141, the Cruel Indignation of Yggdrasil (L) Lvl 133, Crown of Yggdrasil: Cataclysm and Gloom (L) Lvl 79
Auxiliary: Sneak Lvl 56, Acid Resistance Lvl 22, Poison Resistance Lvl 21, Pain Resistance Lvl 79, Fire Resistance Lvl 102, Sewing Lvl 11, Digging Lvl 5, Cooking Lvl 77, Clockwork Mastery Lvl 25, Aether Connection (A) Lvl 15, Soul Bond Lvl 106, Chef’s Palette Lvl 33, Nether Resistance Lvl 20, Child of the Rain (Un) Lvl 45, Chosen of Ash (A) Lvl 110, Engineering Savvy ® Lvl 98