As the root avatar twisted out of the way of Helen’s blow, the substance of the roots ripped from the torque applied by the sudden shift in direction. Flecks of plant matter sprayed sideways in an arc as the root avatar struggled to recover.
So rather than hurtling forward into the blow or dodging, it simply fell forward.
Both the root avatar and Helen were surprised by this and paused in their battle. A moment of shared confusion hung between them. But then the root avatar struck upwards in a vicious thrust and Helen slashed sideways with the knife she held in her off-hand. The blow was so quick that the second Randidly’s instincts screamed it was coming it had already cut toward the root avatar’s arms.
Randidly smiled ruefully; with the avatars, there was a split second of lag in movement. It wasn’t a lot but against someone of Helen’s caliber...
The knife knocked the spear to the side and with a deft motion, Helen spun her chain around the tip of the spear. Which allowed her to pull the weapon further down and spear the root avatar through the chest with her vicious harpoon.
After releasing a sigh at the loss, Randidly nodded his head thoughtfully. “That’s enough for now. Thanks, Helen.”
“Anytime,” Helen panted as she wiped some of the sweat from her forehead. Randidly hid a smile as he turned and allowed the waiting root avatars to dissipate. Although Helen was undoubtedly powerful, her Stamina usage couldn’t keep up with Randidly’s hyper-efficient Mana expenditure with the high-Level Grasp of the World Seed. The last eight hours had driven Helen to the edge.
Of course, she would recover to full strength much more quickly than Randidly would. But he could tell from Helen’s shocked expression that she couldn’t figure out how he managed to exhaust her like this while still seeming so at ease.
Truly, his Mana pool was on another level entirely.
Not that this was easy for Randidly either, but he simply had experience hiding mental strain. After all, fighting against Helen meant he had to use images the entire time to keep up with her. But since Randidly just had to focus his Willpower on a single root avatar fighting at the same time, it wasn’t more than Randidly could bear.
After all, basically all of his training projects these days involved forcing his mind to the edge. Slowly, in a way that wasn’t quantifiable by the System, Randidly could feel the limits of his will grow increasingly more vast.
“Are you…” Helen searched for the word she was looking for. “...evolving your Style?”
“Something like that,” Randidly said softly. He reached up with his right hand and enjoyed the feeling of the warm sun dancing across his skin. Today was a beautiful autumn day. Hopefully, tomorrow would be just as clear and bright.
That way the supreme power of a dominant image would be that much more clear to the audience. It would be so sharp and stark that it would darken the sky.
Helen frowned. “It’s a dangerous Style. Flawed too.”
“It’s not a Style I plan on teaching to anyone else,” Randidly said to reassure her. To be fair, Helen was right. The current blend of the two Styles was still not a balanced thing. The physical strain it put on the root avatars was enough that they often broke down after only five minutes of fighting. Which meant that Randidly’s body would need to endure that sort of exertion in order to use it effectively.
Some part of him was looking forward to it. Randidly’s instincts told him that if he forced his way down this Path, he would find a powerful Skillset waiting for him. But it still had to be a considered way forward. The Style needed to go through a few more rounds of refinement before he would be satisfied.
Luckily, he had several groups of capable training partners lined up for tomorrow.
“But still…” Helen said quietly as she wiped away a smudge of blood that had spread outward from a small cut. “It’s frightening.”
“Yes, isn’t it?” Randidly answered with a grin.
Helen chuckled. “I fucking feel bad for Donnyton. Are you going to take it easy until the challenge?”
Shaking his head, Randidly said. “No, but working out the moves was only half of it. I need to work on images for a while.”
Nodding, Helen said goodbye and headed back toward Donnyton. Randidly watched her go. It was nice to see that she had become much more agreeable after he stated she could participate in the challenge. Honestly, he should have started training like this much earlier. The gains from the last eight hours were double that of the previous solo training combined.
Mostly, it seemed that because Randidly was controlling both participants in the past, he had allowed some flaws he hadn’t noticed to grow larger and larger without addressing them. Helen had no preconceived biases and attacked those flaws maliciously.
Which put Randidly immediately on the back foot at the beginning of the training, sending his mind scrambling to cope with the barrage of attacks. It was from those emergency instincts that the bare bones of his new Style emerged. And although it was an imbalanced skeleton that he had made, it was at least a complete skeleton. One with the power to compensate for its relative danger.
...so All is Ash was the Skill to combine with Breath of the Spear Phantom, huh…
Randidly grinned at the ground. By merging the two together, it lowered the Mana expenditure immensely, while now costing a small amount of Mana, Stamina, and Health to compensate. And it was exactly the sort of move that could demonstrate its oppressive power against a large group of enemies.
Well, anyways… better take a break before I work on the image.
So Randidly returned to his small hut while whistling. There were a few things that he wanted to try out before the challenge against Donnyton. Some part of him considered Leveling up further, but all Randidly would obtain was another Skill or two. He didn’t want to let himself be distracted by a shiny new toy before the challenge.
Another part of Randidly suggested heading into a Dungeon and training his new Style up to a high level of proficiency before the challenge. He would have plenty of time then. But there were two reasons why he didn’t.
The first reason was that the pressure of a time crunch spurred him into desperate motion. If he had more time, he would take longer to test things. But somehow, Randidly sensed that careful testing was not the way of this Style. This was a monster born to grow on the dangerous edge of battle.
The second reason was that he wanted to send a message to Donnyton. And nothing would send that message more critically than if they could watch him forge an image of great power, in the middle of their fight.
Besides, Randidly had planned to head into Dungeons after this challenge, to prepare himself for the descent of his Final Judgement.
But the first thing Randidly needed to do right now was accustom himself to moving with all of his new equipment.
With all the equipment worn, Randidly certainly looked strange. His circlet was an ashy grey, while he had a glowing golden belt. His glovers were a dark, almost liquid seeming, purple-grey. Meanwhile, his greaves looked like brightly condensed moonlight, luminescent white and flawless.
But altogether, Randidly grinned as he looked at the combined Stat bonuses he received.
Health +300, Stamina +300, Stamina/R +50, Vit +20, End +20, Agi +140, Str +75, Perception +20, React +45, Resistance +40, Focus +20, Int +15, Willpower +80, Wisdom +15, Control +15.
Certainly a fair amount of Stats from this… especially with that boosts to agility… puts me up to almost 750…
Then, to test how the bonuses felt, Randidly moved through some basic Skills and movements. Immediately, Randidly discovered several things that hadn’t been immediately clear from simply reading the item descriptions.
The first and most obvious realization came from the greaves. Sam had woven leather padding into their constructions, so they were extremely comfortable. And when Randidly moved faster than a certain threshold, pale blades of moonlight spread out behind him, leaving deep cuts in the ground and trees that he passed.
It seemed like the one option provided by the greaves simply created an area attack whenever Randidly moved fast enough to activate it. Which was an extremely useful skill, considering the violent nature of his combined Style he was slowly creating.
The second thing was how light and deceptive the gloves were. As stated in the description, the long sleeves of the gloves were much longer than Randidly could use, so they hung down over his hands, billowing in an invisible wind. There was a slit along the side, so they hung down back over his gloved hands like a long banner. It seemed as though the gloves themselves purposefully shited to cover whatever Randidly was holding in his hands.
Now, it wasn’t very effective if Randidly was holding onto a spear, but if Randidly was holding a handful of Emerald Essence…
Which led Randidly to the final discovery. When Randidly used Ignition of Emerald Essence a certain amount, the ambient energy in his body would ignite the ashy-grey circlet, like it was made of charcoal. Suddenly his forehead was wreathed in emerald flames.
Randidly stared at himself in the mirror. It sorta looked like there was a halo of fire hovering around his head. And when he condensed his Crown of Upheaval and Gloom above it…
Randidly grinned at his reflection. This will certainly be a fun challenge.
Which left one last thing to test with the equipment. Three Wishes. Eruption of the Blazing Leyline.
Randidly chose to detonate this Skill on a hill further Northeast of his current position, away from Donnyton. But even still, Randidly had a sinking feeling that someone would complain to him when he saw the white-hot eruption that ripped out of the nearby hill.
The ground immediately shattered underneath the force of the spell. A plume of flame about ten meters tall erupted upward. Rather than its usual emerald color, it seemed that the infusion of the sun’s wrath caused the flames to be a lime green, wreathed in golden swirled of fire. The heat quickly melted the top of the hill and parted the clouds above.
After ten seconds, the flames slowly faded away, leaving a pool of molten metal. Randidly’s Grasp of the World Seed senses slowly recovered in the area and surveyed the extent of the damages. Randidly grimaced; it seemed that this Skill ran much deeper than the regular variety.
Honestly, if he didn’t know better…
Randidly walked closer, right up to the lip of the lava pool. The molten liquid below him bubbled expressively as if greeting its father. And as Randidly stared at it with his emerald gaze and scanned the depths, he couldn’t deny that his Skill had marked the Earth so deeply that it legitimately created a passage for lava to come to the surface.
Randidly had made a small volcano.
Sighing, Randidly returned to his hut and tried to justify the fact such a small volcano couldn’t possibly be a danger to the town. He quickly returned inside his building. As they say, out of sight is out of mind.
In terms of power, the Skill was about five times more powerful than the regular version, while costing the same amount of Mana. And at Randidly’s Level, an improvement of five times was quite a lot. Enough to form a small volcano. Even if it was only three uses per day, it would be more than enough.