Randidly sat in a small side room, slightly nauseous from the constant bobbing of the boat, thinking very carefully about how he wanted to proceed.
As a man, Randidly was someone who always carefully returned favors to whom he owed debts. He owed Shal a very large debt. Shal had protected Randidly, trained him, taught him to use the spear, helped him learn how to distribute stats, and much, much more. Shal was the reason that he wasn’t still struggling in that small room in that first dungeon, stuck there forever. If he hadn’t come along… would Randidly have been able to train up to the point her could survive there…?
For, even if Randidly had managed to survive in the Dungeon, it would have taken him a long, long time to figure out the possible methods for leaving. He would have wandered for quite a long time. And without Shal’s strength, it would have been almost impossible to escape that dungeon.
There was a part of Randidly that wondered whether it wouldn’t have been better to have spent more time training in the time compression of the dungeon while he could take advantage of it. But if he had stayed there too long and a Judgement descended…
Shal’s interference accelerated things, sure, but they also focused him on more efficient skills. Plus the Spear Phantom skills were the basis of his close combat.
Randidly was very clear that Shal went easy on him in their brief spar, refraining from even using his skills. Even so, the thrusts that Shal attacked with were impossibly powerful, able to completely suppress one of Randidly’s strikes. In addition, as Shal stated, the Spear Phantom Style focused on speed and controlling space, aspects that Shal didn’t even need to leverage in order to defeat Randidly.
When asked how powerful the competitors in the Tournament would be, Shal informed him that there were 3 main categories: Under Lvl 25, Under Lvl 50, and Under Lvl 100. As Randidly would be entering in the Under 25, they would not be nearly as strong as Shal. But they would be strong enough to make Shal serious in a fight.
Which was not a place where Randidly was now.
And Qtal was a small city in the Northern Province. There would be 1000s of Spear Users participating in the Regional Tournament, fighting to gain experience against strong foes. Even if Randidly were to somehow approach a level of skill that would make him a contender, there was the very real chance that he would simply be ground down by the sheer number of fights that he would need to go through in order to reach the final 8 of the tournament.
Shal opined that a conservative number of required wins would be 100. Across 100 fights, one mistake would lead him to disappointing Shal’s expectations, and allowing the Spear Phantom Style to fall from the list. After all Shal had done for him…
But Randidly frowned and shook his head. It was pointless to think about now. The real question was whether he would be willing to consider getting a class in order to assist Shal.
On the one hand, Randidly was rather satisfied with the level his skills had reached. Not that he wouldn’t want more, but he believed that his current strength was enough to earn him a high tiered class. It might not be something like “Sovereign of Ghosts” that Glendel lucked into, but it would certainly be a level higher than “Knight” or “Brute”.
But on the other hand… Randidly’s expression darkened. The continued threat of Judgement certainly was a reason to avoid staying classless, but with his Aether situation solved, and the threat of Aether starvation a distant possibility, it was the only the cold threat of the system pushing him towards getting a class.
And Randidly really didn’t want to negotiate with anyone who could only resort to threats to get what they wanted.
Still, it would be a risk, to refuse to take a class. And in his heart, Randidly believed he owed enough to Shal that he should consider the option.
Ultimately though, as he had always known in his heart, that was not his path. Perhaps if he failed in the tournament, he would have time to revisit the class issue and try again, but for now, Randidly wanted to continue down this path of strength.
Then Randidly laughed aloud, because he realized that Shal was the one who had set him walking down this path in the first place. The more he thought about it, the more he believed that Shal wouldn’t even want him to make a decision he was uncomfortable with in order to assist him, even if the honor of the Spear Phantom Style was at risk.
Shal was the one who had taught him that all he could do is hold tight to his spear and advance, pushing forward to the future.
Chuckling, Randidly brought up his status screen. It was a long time coming, this use of the PP, and he was somewhat eager to see if he had gained a lot. Unfortunately, the screen came very slowly, and flickered in and out of view, causing Randidly to frown. It seemed that the strange potion also interfered somehow with the display screens. Which was slightly disturbing. How was there a biological function related to the screens, that something ingested could have an effect on the output…?
But Randidly let that train of thought drop; likely pointless to dwell on it at this point. Slowly, flickeringly, the Status screen came into focus, and Randidly counted his gains. His hands slowly balled into fists.
First, Randidly noticed that he had gained two skills: Mana Engraving and Mental Fortitude. The first was rather obvious, from his work with Sam, but the second made him slightly curious, so he clicked on the description.
Mental Fortitude: Ability to handle mental strain caused by overexertion. Ability to recover from mental tiredness increases with skill level. Ability to utilize multiple spells at once increases with skill level.
Nodding slowly, Randidly figured this was probably related to him pushing much more aggressively on learning to control his Root Manipulation and Summon Pestilence. It also seemed like he was 30% of the way through creating another skill, based on the strange exercises given to him by the old turtle. It was nice to see that it was actually working, and that the turtle wasn’t just hiding somewhere, laughing at him.
With that problem solved, Randidly turned to look at the amount of skill levels he had gained. As he looked at the total next to PP, he couldn’t help but grin.
In order of increasing magnitude, Randidly had gained 3 Skill Lvls in Manual Labor and Cooking, 4 Lvls in Potion Making, Refine, Meditation, and Mana Strengthening, 5 Lvls in Circle of Flame, Calculated Blow, and Agony, 6 Lvls in Pierce the Skies, Shatter the Earth, 8 Skill Lvls in Mental Fortitude and Incendiary Bolt, and 10 Lvls in Ghastly Slash and Fighting Proficiency.
In addition, Randidly also gained 13 Lvls in Haste, Grace, and Eyes of the Spear Phantom, 14 Lvls in Summon Pestilence, Empower, and Mana Engraving, 15 Lvls in Phantom Thrust, and 16 Lvls in Physical Fitness.
But to put the icing on the training cake, he had gained 19 Lvls in Bacterial Regeneration, 20 Lvls in Spear Mastery, 21 Lvls in Spear Phantom’s Footwork, and a monstrous 31 Lvls in Root Manipulation.
Even so, Randidly knew that he had gained something else too; or rather, it was something that he recognized; that he had the strength and execution to push himself farther than he thought he could go, and not just when his life was on the line. He had the discipline to continue for weeks under than harsh environment, reaching new heights.
All in all, his PP total read 282. Randidly quickly used 37 PP to finish off the Empower I path.
Congratulations! You have completed the Empower I Path! The Strength in your body is ephemeral, and you grow increasingly skilled in its manipulation. Although the path here was desolate and without reward, as you turn to regard the distance crossed behind you, you cannot help but marvel on how far you have come. Stamina +30. You have learned the skill Battle Intent Lvl 1.
Battle Intent: Your strength now flows slightly beyond the bounds of your body, and is discernable by others. Ability to gauge the strength of others of similar or lesser strength increases with skill level. Ability to influence others with your battle intent increases with skill level. Ability to resist the influence of other Intents increases with skill level. Ability to slightly control how strong you seem increases with skill level.
Randidly thought the skill seemed rather useless currently, but it had potential. Being able to “influence” was a rather general statement, but anything helped, especially in a tight battle. And if it could be used to resist the influence of others….
The one thing that gave him pause was the fact that it simply said you could resist other “Intents” without specifying Battle Intent. So there were other Intents available…?
But he could experiment with that at another time. For now… Randidly looked at the paths available to him:
Watcher: 0/??, ?????, Heretic V 0/???, Oathbreaker 0/25, Initiate of Ash I 0/75, Path of Carnage I 0/???, Fighting Proficiency I 0/80, Root Manipulation I 0/75, Advanced Phys Fitness 0/100, Nexus Traveler Cohort 5 0/50
Again, if he wasn’t going to take a class, he sure as hell wasn’t going to risk taking Heretic and somehow weirdly ending up with a class through it. Watcher he had for a while, but didn’t interest him, because he already had Eyes of the Spear Phantom. Oathbreaker was also one he had carried, but he wasn’t sure he wanted whatever rewards an Oathbreaker would receive.
Initiate of Ash definitely had some allure, but Randidly still wanted to power up a little further before he took that path. Which made him consider that he could ask Shal about Patrons, and some more information in general about paths. If they had some sort of database, to inform young individuals which Patrons to choose and not choose, it would make a lot of sense. Over time, there would probably be enough people who made it to the Apprentice path to unlock at least that much, and give them an idea of which ones were the best choices, based on bonuses and mortality rates.
Path of Carnage was still intriguing, but was likely a chain path, of an unknown length. Even though Randidly had over 250 PP left, it might be better to put it into subjects that he knew would be beneficial to him, taking advantage of the skills and stats in areas where he would use them more often.
Nexus Traveler Cohort 5 Path was a terrible name, but it was likely some bonus for traveling to a world in the 5th Cohort. It was hard to tell whether this bonus would be a big one or a small one… but it clearly was some sort of rite of passage or reward, so Randidly would probably put points into it eventually. But for now…
Randidly turned to the options that really drew him. Fighting Proficiency I, Root Manipulation I, and Advanced Phys Fitness. With his 245 PP, he would have enough to finish off 2 of them, but not 3. Which meant he had to pick which two he wanted immediately.
Although he believed that he would be focusing mostly on the spear in the future, he couldn’t not use the Root Manipulation I Path, even though it was counter intuitive. After all, most of his gains in the use of the spear wouldn’t have been possible without creating the root avatars and using them to check his form. And based on the results, it was incredibly useful.
So the next 75 PP went into the Root Manipulation I path. Every 5 Lvls he received 5 mana, totalling a sizable 75 mana addition to his pool. He also received the completion reward.
Congratulations! You have completed the Root Manipulation Path! Your will moves and the roots follow. Roots are the lifelines of plants, and you tread freely upon them, climbing ever higher on your path. For the deeper among the roots you go, the more paths stretch before you… Root Manipulation has been changed to Root Control. All skill levels have been retained.
Branching Path! You can see in the maze of roots a variety of roots like knives, that sink slowly into its prey and syphon the life out of them. You also see powerful roots that twist around enemies, shrugging off resistance and performing the will of their master. Towards which area will you head?
If it was a choice between some sort of life sucking root, and strong roots…. Randidly hesitated. As strong as the life sucking would be as an effect, he knew there would be a lot that needed to go his way in order to take advantage of such a thing. Anyway, fire was his offensive skill, while roots would primarily be used defensively, to pierce and bind.
As you walk deeper down your path, the roots around you grow large and ancient. You feel their awareness as you wind your way slowly deeper down this path, seeking their implacable strength. They have given you their approval. You have learned the skill Plantomancy. Wisdom and Control +10
Root Control: A more powerful version of Root Manipulation. Your ability to change the size and shape of the roots has increased.
Plantomancy: Due to your insights into the ancient, life giving roots, you can create beings of roots to serve your will. The variety and strength of the created plants will increase with skill level. Mana costs will decrease with skill level.
Seeing the notifications, Randidly simply smiled.