Randidly was frustrated. A two-week time limit was more than he had expected. Which meant that he both wished that the fight would occur more quickly and that he had more time to prepare. It was a time limit that tantalized him with two separate series of benefits while providing him wholly with neither.
Which was its own sort of benefit, but… Two weeks meant that it was more than possible for Randidly to begin and likely finish an iteration of his replacement left arm.
Which made him upset because refining his other images into patterns worthy of Engraving on the arm would take far longer than the two weeks he had. And the mastering of the growing Engraving was an even larger task.
Should he just use Mana Engraving to add to add flat Skills to the arm…?
Sighing, he produced several valuable metals and set them on the table of his forge and considered his options. What he wanted was to be able to fight with his full strength with two arms for this challenge. But he needed to both have the capacity to perfectly control it with Aether engravings and design a functioning metal appendage in those two weeks.
And if he couldn’t rely on the arm and it failed him during the challenge against Donnyton’s Squads…
So Randidly decided to outsource it. Or rather insource it. After closing his eyes, Randidly concentrated and fell into the world of his Soulskill.
With a pop, he appeared on a low ridge above the capital, where the first Class Lighthouse was located. Humming a spritely tune to himself, Randidly traveled through the different groups in search of the remnants of the Spriggits.
It was somewhat reassuring that there was a great deal more talking and laughing out on the streets than there had been during Randidly’s previous visits. Much of the fear of that strange sickness that had overtaken a significant percentage of the population had passed when no new cases arose. In its wake, there was only the nervous fear of wild beasts and the bartering of commerce as natural resources flowed back toward the capital.
Thank god, because Randidly didn’t think he was ready for another political disaster like had previously occurred within his Soulskill.
He found the Spriggits in a hill to the South of the capital. They had cleared out some sort of enlarged rodent monster and claimed the animal’s burrow for their own uses. As it was, the rather cramped and twisting passages suited the slender and deft bodies of the Spriggits well.
Of all of the groups within his Soulskill, they were the only ones that were content to remain where they were without sending out very many groups to explore. Their focus turned inward, instead. Already they were experimenting with the effects of the System and what sort of Skills could be learned.
Luckily, Randidly was known by his look and stature and was swiftly brought before the head engineer that had seized control of this small colony after the transfer to this new world to explore. Only by this engineer’s leadership were the Spriggits able to form a cohesive whole to face the other developing factions with the united front.
“You want what?” The woman asked, wrinkling her nose in confusion.
Randidly was surprised to find that the head engineer was a woman, then chided himself inwardly for being so surprised. But part of that surprise was also that she was young. Probably only a year or two older than himself. Maybe even his own age.
It was honestly hard to tell how old he was these days, however.
There was a moment where Randidly thought it was somewhat strange for such a young woman to be placed in charge, but then he admitted to himself that this was rather hypocritical. After all, he was likely younger and the maker of such a world.
Putting his closed-minded reaction to the side, Randidly slowly explained once more. “A fully functioning arm. I’ll use runes to mobilize it, but I would like it designed with sophisticated joints and joints so that there is almost complete articulation. As capable and limited as a biological arm would be.”
The Engineer considered that. “...so the challenge is not really developing a unique design, but of faithful construction? Ah, not worth our time. I apologize, but we have other avenues that we need to pursue.”
Randidly blinked, then he laughed. He was surprised to be so flatly rejected, but it was somewhat refreshing. “I can make sure you are fairly compensated.”
The Engineer appeared to consider this. She eyed him critically. “What, do you think riches will change my mind? We are founding this world’s first research institute. We will pull apart the strange rules that govern the world. In the face of all-illuminating research, you wish to tempt with physical possessions?”
Randidly simply smiled. The Engineer’s frown deepened. But Randidly could see that behind her eyes the gears and cogs continued to click and whirr.
“... fine, but there is only one compensation I’ll accept.” The Engineer announced. “You must provide us with a Class Lighthouse. Unused, so that we may experiment on it prior to activating it ourselves.”
“Is there any meaning to obtaining access to a Class if you didn’t earn it?” Randidly asked with a small smile.
The Engineer raised her eyebrows. “Do you feel clever, spouting shit like that?”
“There are benefits to having touched upon godhood,” Randidly responded cheerily. For whatever reason, Randidly liked the Engineer. And it was amusing to respond so flippantly.
This set the Engineer’s teeth on edge but Randidly could tell she was calculating how far she could push him without him responding by forcing her hand more aggressively. LIkely she was also calculating what he could really do to force her hand.
Apparently, she didn’t trust his self-control very much at all, because she eventually hissed through her teeth and bought some time by looking down at the stacks of papers that were scattered haphazardly across her desk.
“I don’t dislike the arrogant types,” the Engineer suddenly stated. “But this is simply too basic of a problem to dedicate any resources toward.”
“Then think of it as a challenge,” Randidly responded easily. “Complete it quickly. If i is as simple as you seem to believe and the end product is flawless… I’ll owe you a favor. And trust me, I pay back all the interest owed on my favors.”
For a split second, Randidly recalled Alta’s face, twisted and burnt as it was before her fire’s consumed her entire body.
In contrast to that hideous visage, Randidly looked at the woman in front of him now. The Engineer’s eyes were light brown, like warm honey. It was somewhat strange that the two Spriggit women, united by their genius and leadership abilities, could meet such different ends. The Engineer considered Randidly for fully five minutes. The two sat silently in her office, locked in a contest of stubbornness.
However, at the end of five minutes, Randidly smiled.
“Fine,”The Engineer extended a hand. “The name’s Wendy Vuss. Don’t forget about that favor, Mr. Ghosthound.”
Pleased, Randidly returned to the real world. With that problem hopefully addressed, he could focus his attention on the delicate minutia of the mechanical arm: the control runes and the specific Engravings he would use.
After careful consideration, Randidly felt like he had almost no choice but to set aside the possibility of creating a functioning Engraving that could Level. He simply didn’t expect himself to get lucky enough to manage it, even with him being intimately familiar with the images that he would have to use.
He already had a pretty firm handle on the Ignition of the Emerald Essence portion, although he was well aware that it could use further refining. That was a worthwhile endeavor, but ultimately Randidly chose to focus most of his Engraving time on another image.
There were two reasons for this. The first was that Ignition of the Emerald Essence likely wasn’t extremely impactful in this type of fight. Unless he created an overwhelming offensive Skill. The second thing was that honestly, it was hard to image something that could be placed in an engraving that Randidly couldn’t do anyway with his Skills.
Instead, he wanted to focus on an image that he had spent the most time refining, yet were the least weaponized of the Skills he possessed.
Namely, his Phantom image.
Randidly’s fingers flexed; it had begun with an image of his mother, but as ash and fire had invaded and shaped it into something even more dangerous. In that image was all of the hate and implacability that he had inherited from his distant mother and Shal.
Yet before he could begin, Randidly leaned back from his work table with a sigh. Someone was coming up the hill. But his expression abruptly brightened when he realized who it was. Sam was making the slow trek up the hill.
And there was only one reason that Sam would come to see him.
His new set of equipment was ready.
In spite of himself, Randidly was excited. He already possessed Acri, who continued to grow toward becoming sharper as a plant than any metal could equal, and Sulfur, who thrived off of dispersing and absorbing force.
But that left most of his body uncovered by equipment. Many times on Tellus his arms or legs were covered in gashes as the opponent’s strikes were able to tear at his flesh. Because of that, it was easy for Randidly to receive small wounds that sapped his Health and Stamina over the course of a fight.
Of course, his monstrous regeneration was enough to smother such small concerns. But his last few fights in Tellus had taught him a valuable lesson in how important those small wounds add up to be. If he could avoid those losses, he should work toward doing it. It was slowly perfecting the small details that enabled one to grow to a new tier of ability. That was what Randidly was seeking.
The Earth would need it soon.
In typical Sam fashion, the man’s face was locked into a constant state of disinterest even as he walked calmly up the hill toward Randidly. Randidly couldn’t help but roll his eyes. Certainly, Sam wasn’t one to be swept away with emotion, but shouldn’t he be at least a little excited to reveal his new creation to Randidly?
When Sam arrived, he simply nodded. Then he waved his hand and produced a chest. “Open it. The thing functions as a set, so you’ll receive bonuses for wearing more pieces. Oh, also, don’t tell Clarissa I can add set bonuses. She will drive me crazy pestering me for the how, when I have already informed her that I do not know how to make a magician’s wand or staff..”
Interesting, Randidly thought excitedly as he opened up the chest. Within, he found an extremely heavy and dense… curtain…?
Confused, Randidly carefully reached in and pulled out the inky black curtain. It was only when he felt the material between his fingers that he realized that it was an extremely fine sort of chain mail, with extremely small and thin bits of metal looped through each other.
Grunting, Randidly lifted the chain mail out of the chest. To his surprise, it was much heavier than he was expecting. So much so that it would even affect his movements while wearing it. But for all that…
Randidly’s hands flexed as he gripped the metal links. The material rippled and flexed, but didn’t distort. Randidly raised his eyebrows. He applied more strength, drawing on the Yyrwood Flesh of Yggdrasil. There was still no response from the metal even as Randidly’s hands began to tremble from the exertion.
Not that he believed he would be able to simply crush a finely wrought armor. But to think the thin bits of chainmail didn’t even warp...
“Darksteel,” Sam said with a sniff. “There is a big push toward using the stuff these days. It has a powerful dampening effect on Skills, so it’s the best equipment for defense out there. The key ingredient comes out of East End, but if the market grows… well, you’ll see quite a bit of Equipment like this, I expect.
Randidly peered back into the chest and noticed pants and gauntlets within. Each was made with dyed leather and the darksteel, and feature short, sharp spikes that bristled from the joints.
Slowly, Randidly put the armor on. He heaved the curtain of chain mail over his head and then slid on the gloves and pants. He flexed his still free toes in pleasure. As he did so, Sam snorted. “You look like a demon king, wrapped up in black metal like that.”
“Don’t act like you weren’t the one who designed this armor,” Randidly replied. Then he considered the Stats of the armors.
Imposing Darksteel Shroud Lvl 68: An extremely powerful defensive equipment that covers the upper body of the wearer. Weaker to attacks from the side, but this weakness provides the wearer addition mobility. Due to the material, Skills will have a difficult permeating the armor. Health +1000. Strength +25. Dark Before the Dawn IV. Set of the Black Knight III.
Marauder’s Darksteel Gauntlets Lvl 62: Effective gauntlets designed to decimate and wound an opponent. Not only provides protection for the forearm, but the meticulous design increases attack speed. Stamina Regeneration +50. Agility +25. Dark Before the Dawn IV. Set of the Black Knight III.
Bloodsoaked Leather Pants Lvl 71: Leather pants that have been processed to the point of being impossibly soft. Will fit to the body of the wearer. Quite comfortable, despite the darksteel woven into the equipment for defensive purposes. Reaction and Perception +30. Agility +50. Dark Before the Dawn IV. Set of the Black Knight III.
Dark Before the Dawn IV: Forged in the moments before Dawn. Due to that, a strange grudge is present within the steel. Somehow the metal seems to understand it will never truly know the light of day. While the bearer is immune, that unwillingness will increase the wearer’s ability to ignore Skills. Resistance +100, Wisdom +20.
Set of the Black Knight III: A portion of the equipment made by a master artisan while thinking of a loner knight who seeks vengeance against the world. For each piece of the set worn, increase Endurance, Strength, and Willpower by 25.
In terms of stats and attributes, the gains were ridiculous to the point of Randidly being shocked. And yet…
Randidly shifted uncomfortably within the dense armor. He felt… isolated. Numb. When he moved his body to test out the mobility, it wasn’t so bad that it was impossible. But…
A line of text stuck out to him. Skills will have a difficult time permeating the armor. Randidly frowned.