Flickeringly, the completion notification appeared before him.
Congratulations! You have completed the Path of Carnage I! You have started down a bloody road, but sometimes it is a necessary path. You walk forward, and you are haunted by your choices. You have encountered an Extending Path! Continue, or receive your current rewards?
Randidly figured he would continued on this for a while anyway, so he clicked on the continuing path options. However, it was slightly annoying to see that he received no completion bonus, other than the additional point he got in Strength.
In addition, his previous Path of Carnage I 25/25 shifted to become Path of Carnage II 25/50. Gritting his teeth, Randidly put another 25 points into it. For this, he received a point in Perception at 30, 40, and 50. Then a notification popped up in front of him.
Congratulations! You have completed the Path of Carnage II. As you continue forward, the bones begin to form piles. The path ahead of you is desolate, and the future seems bleak. To your left, you see a small altar of skulls. Shall you depart from this path here? You have encountered an Extending Path! Continue, or recieve your current reward?
Randidly’s eyelid twitched. It did not seem like this would be a very efficient use of PP. But he was the stubborn type, and now that he had gone down this path, he wasn’t going to stop now. After all, pushing all the way through on the Pathless Path had led him to his Soul Skill, which continued to pay dividends. Better to just bear the cost. So Randidly selected to continue.
You have passed the Chieftain’s Alter. The rewards for choosing the Chieftain’s Alter: +5 Str, +3 End and Agi, +2 Vit and Per, +1 React.
How generous of them to remind you what you gave up on, Randidly thought with a bit of acid in the back of his throat. Instead, he opened the path menu back up. What he saw caused his eyes to bulge. He now had Path of Carnage III but it was at 50/100. So the cost increased too…?
Unhappy, Randidly poured most of his remaining 62 into completing the path. He received something at 75 and 100, but it was 2 distributable points at both, so he was a little mollified. All 4 of these Randidly put into Perception, in an effort to raise his ability to contend with the spear-users he would encounter soon.
Congratulations! You have completed the Path of Carnage III. The bones flow like seas around you, silent and still swamps of blood dotting the landscape. This is a path you walk alone, you realize. You wonder if it is truly necessary, or if you enjoy the road you walk. That answer is very important. To your right, you see a wooden cup filled with blood. Shall you depart from this path here? You have encountered an Extending Path! Continue, or recieve your current reward?
Resisting the… admittedly large temptation of the very unappetizing sounding cup of blood, Randidly elected to continue.
You have passed the Bloodseeker’s Cup The rewards for choosing the Bloodseeker’s Cup: +8 Str, +7 End and Agi, +1 Vit and React. Bloodseeker Strike (Un) Lvl 1
Randidly shut his eyes to the rewards and looked at his path page. He almost wished he hadn’t. Path of Carnage IV was at 100/200. It would require 100 more PP before he was able to accept the reward again…? Would it be worth it to take the next one, if it seemed interesting…?
But Randidly shook his head, refusing to give in, his stubborn streak still strong. So he put his final 12 PP into this next path and struggled to control his breathing.
After all, soon Shal would come, and it would be time for them to leave Qtal for a time. He needed to handle a few small tasks first. For the moment, Randidly stood. It had been a week since he had personally met the merchant Claptrap, and he supposed it was polite to tell him what was going on.
Claptrap’s eyes widened when he once again, in a strange sense of deja vu, opened up his door late at night to find the Ghosthound waiting on his doorstep. He quickly ushered him in and offered him some rather nice tea. The Ghosthound politely declined and spoke, explaining how he would soon go away for a time, training in preparation for the Regional Tournament.
Nodding rapidly, Claptrap brought out another 100 of boots and breast plates, and 200 of bracers. The members of the Crashing Wave Style were extremely pleased with the bracers over 60%, and were very interested in obtaining more after seeing the strange Rain Engraved bonus attribute that all of the armor had begun to possess. Although it only provided a negligible amount of mana and a point in focus, as that process continued to be refined and focused, those rewards would only grow.
It also seemed to cement in the members of the Crashing Wave Style that this engraver would soon be cracked down upon by the guilds, and they began offering more money. As such, Claptrap had profit projections that left his head spinning. Even though his attitude cooled somewhat when he had been approached by various other larger Styles, who seemed to somehow have caught wind of what was going on with his armor.
At the moment he wasn’t sure whether to start a bidding war or to remain faithful, but Claptrap knew he had to act fast. But when he produced the large amount of armors, the Ghosthound frowned, his brow furrowed.
“You…” He said, hesitation in his voice. “…Is this not most of your supply…? I’m not sure where I’ll be going, but if Shal considers it training…”
The Ghosthound hesitated. “…there is a chance I may not come back. Perhaps you should keep some.”
Claptrap shook his head. “Without you, I would just go back to being a normal merchant. The Engraving is the profit bringer right now. No one out here cares about quality and craftsmanship; only cheap results. And your Engraving-”
Then Claptrap stopped, paling, realizing he had just referred to the process that undoubtedly took quite a bit of time and effort as cheap results. But the Ghosthound simply chuckled, and beckoned for him to continue. So, slowly, Claptrap said.
“Besides… maybe someone like you wouldn’t understand… but there are some things you can’t just get normally. For some goals… you need to risk everything. I have one of those goals.”
The Ghosthound stilled, looking at the table. Then he slowly moved, gathering up the container holding all of the armor pieces. “…too true.”
Struck by a sudden impulse, Claptrap blurted out, “My goal is a girl. I want to become the greatest merchant in the Northern Region, so I can ask for her hand in marriage. She is… quite like you Mr. Ghosthound; she is the cherished heir to a powerful Style.”
The Ghosthound chuckled. “…Do I seem very cherished…? Well anyway, good luck to you. If both of you feel that way, I’m sure you can convince the world.”
Claptrap shifted uncomfortably. “Well… we haven’t really talked much-”
The Ghosthound’s clear laughter surprised him. “You haven’t really even talked much and you already plan on marriage?”
“Well,” Claptrap said, feeling decidedly judged. “I’ve sold her armor before.”
This caused the Ghosthound to bend over laughing and smacking his knee, which did a lot to shatter Claptrap’s impression of the Ghosthound as a tense and intimidating figure. But then, as his laughter subsided, he turned sideways and gave him a light glance. “Oh, there was one more detail I wanted to discuss with you.”
Claptrap felt abruptly submerged in ice. How could he let this happen again…! This man was a master of using innocuous statements and questions to get his way. How could he have let his guard down, for even a second?
Trying to keep his expression easy, mimicking the Ghosthound’s manner, Claptrap simply said. “Oh?”
The Ghosthound nodded. “What can you tell me about the history of the Spear Phantom Style?”
Shal looked up as his disciple walked into the room. “Are you prepared?”
His disciple nodded. Of all his disciple’s faults, and there were many, Shal was pleased that laziness and hesitation were not among them. When there was a goal to accomplish, his disciple was willing to roll up his sleeves and address the problem, although he had no real competency at addressing the issue. They quickly went out and removed both of their Tassles.
Since they were departing, it was right to take them away with them. This would give Divvit some manner of peace for a time, at the very least. Then they began quickly gliding over the boats, heading for the large net of ladders that would lead to the cliffs.
Another positive quality of his disciple was that he did not tire easily. So even though Shal set what he thought would be a rather brutal pace for his disciple, he followed without complaint, keeping up with him. It seemed that his physical conditioning was acceptable. If only the fool knew how to use that during a fight.
They were given a glance by individuals watching the chains, but neither of their faces were well known enough by the wider populace to earn recognition in a place like this. Although Shal’s blue tinted skin did attract a little attention.
He still regretted allowing his father to convince him dyeing his skin thus was a good idea.
After they reached the plateau, Shal upped the pace even further, and they ran for almost 8 hours, until they began to approach a mountain range. When they had a good view of an ugly, squat castle on the largest of the mountains he stopped and turned to his disciple.
“…ahead lies a system village. At a high enough boundary, they allow for the purchase of buildings that allow for time dilution. At first, many villages thought this curious; why provide this option when dungeons were free? But soon, as the Calamity came, and its servants, many found the time dilution building incredibly useful. As a punishment.”
His disciple didn’t seem to understand, so Shal shook his head and continued. “In this world, stats grant you a greatly extended life. And power is king; those with power felt they were superior to those without. So when someone with middling power misbehaves, abusing it, the rulers were torn. Physical punishment and pain was easy to ignore with high stats. And they could not spare these men from their armies, when the Calamity came, all help was needed. But also, they couldn’t let it slide without action.”
“So imprisonment.” His disciple said.
Shal nodded. “Yes, these time dilution locations became prisons, a cooling off period to punish. I could not manage to get us in the backdoor, so…”
Drawing his spear, Shal began to walk forward, heading towards a series of carts on the path below them, heading up towards the mountain. “Let us commit a crime that earns us some jail time.”