They arrived, and cloth bags were put over their heads. Their hands were bound with a strange metal that felt extremely cold to the touch and resisted even Randidly’s extreme strength. They were hurried off on what Randidly could feel were cobblestone streets, and then they finally arrived at a place where their bags were removed.
It was a courtroom. They were tried as bandits who assaulted the soldiers of Tomkat and were found summarily guilty. They didn’t ask for a defense, but did ask whether Randidly, as the perpetrator, would claim any style as his own.
Randidly was standing up front, as the one who committed the crime, so he could not see Shal’s reaction. So he stood silent, considering for several seconds. But this was a world where you bore your strength and pride everywhere you went. This was the land of the Tassle.
So against his instincts, Randidly lifted his head and said. “…I am the youngest generation of the Spear Phantom Style.”
There were some mutterings amongst the guards, and the group was quickly rebagged and whisked off. In his brief time with vision, Randidly was delighted to see that it seemed none of the women from the Willow Tree Spear Style had been captured, or the other big bandit group that belonged to Dehark. It was only the loners and the weak that had been swept up.
Although he felt a small amount of pity in his heart for these people, Randidly couldn’t bring himself to care overmuch. He was just glad he had not immediately brought doom to the Willow Tree Spear Style immediately after they had given him a gift.
They were brought to another room, or at least Randidly was, and he was roughly searched. They appeared to be looking for an interspatial storage device, but although they were extremely rough, they were not thorough. Tucking the ring under his tongue worked. Which honestly made him wonder about how this prison continued to be effective, but the bag was once more placed over his head, and he was whisked forward.
He felt it, when they passed into the area where time had been altered. It was like stepping outside on a humid day. Even if the heat hadn’t started to get to you, the very air seemed to cling to you. Further and further he was dragged by guards, until he was thrown roughly into a room. The door closed, and there was silence.
Randidly lay there, uncomfortable with his hands bound behind him, but waited a bit longer to move. After a while, realizing he was done being moved, Randidly stretched his arms and brought his legs to his chest, getting his hands around his feet, so that he was now bound by the metal handcuffs in front, not in back. Then he removed the cloth bag from his head.
The room was dark, so dark that even with his improved eyes, and Eyes of the Spear Phantom, it was very hard to see. But he could faintly make out complicated lines drawn on the floor in a strange formation. It seemed oddly familiar, but Randidly couldn’t place it. Instead, he straightened and sat down to meditate.
That first night passed slowly, as Randidly, almost curiously, experienced his first night in prison. He focused on meditating and Mana Strengthening, straining against the handcuffs. But it truly seemed like they were made of a very powerful material. It was far beyond his ability to break at present.
The only activity of note was that at one point, footsteps began to draw closer. Randidly instinctively tensed, waiting for this “Battle Intent Torture” to begin. But the footsteps came to his door, and there was only a soft click. Then the footsteps went away.
Randidly blinked, confused. But then, the floor began to glow; the formation had been activated. Increasingly nervous, Randidly settled down to wait.
After 12 hours of waiting, he had at least one answer; he knew why he recognized the formation somewhat. It was a variant of the one that Shal had. It isolated Aether in the air, allowing none into the small chamber. At this point, Randidly felt slightly dizzy, and the Aether inside of him began to stir. Carefully, extremely carefully, Randidly reached for it, removing only a thread, and drawing it into his body. More began to rise, countless threads reaching to bore into his body, but Randidly concentrated and pushed them back.
Some of what Shal had said made sense now. This was why this wouldn’t work on him. This was likely an Aether starvation type torture, coupled with the Battle Intents that were to come. He would be weakened, and then assaulted. After all, the physical toughness of most warrior’s in this world was high, but Endurance couldn’t completely block damage done with Battle Intent. That had been impressed upon Randidly by how he had been knocked unconscious by that furious wave immediately after he had killed that soldier.
Still, after repeated exposure to Battle Intent, wouldn’t-
Then Randidly froze, finally seeing the cruelty of this type of torture. Being exposed to this would fuel rapid growth, especially because it would involve pain and a powerful desire to escape that pain with strength. But to fuel that growth…
The body needed Aether. Randidly wasn’t sure what would happen when a body wanted to grow without Aether to fuel it, but he suspected it would be similar to what would happen to a starving man if he tried to perform a high intensity cardio workout. The body would be driven into the ground.
Equally chilling was the mental effect. When you realized it was your desire that was causing you this grief, it would likely slowly chip away at your will, as you flinched away from the pain.
Randidly gritted his teeth. This was why he needed strength. Because people like this existed. Because methods like this existed to hurt people. Then again, he had murdered someone to get here, so it wasn’t like this was being used on innocent people…
Randidly smiled sardonically. Sometimes being too self aware hurt him. It hindered his ability to dedicate himself righteously to a thought process.like this, made him realize that there weren’t any true evils in the world. Everyone was struggling under the same yoke, although they went about it in different ways.
So Randidly sat still not conserving his Aether per se, but attempting to keep his Aether from exploding upward in force, filling him and igniting his growth like it had done previously. True, he wanted to train while he was here, but he could afford to take it slow. He could gain an understanding of how much Aether he needed, and only allow that much to flow up into him. It would just take time and experience to narrow it down.
Eventually, morning came, and with it his torturer. Randidly was surprised to find that it was a youthful looking man, who seemed rather bored with the procedure. The man would open the door to Randidly’s cell, while the formation remained active, jingle the keys to his handcuffs, and throw attacks at him. There was a physical component, which was painful, but possible to withstand, but there was also the much more dangerous Battle Intent component, which battered Randidly’s very perception.
Even though he had known what was coming, the strength and maliciousness of the strikes caught him by surprise. It was designed to slowly maim and bleed a person’s psyche, driving to madness and hopelessness.
Randidly had a lot of respect for the torturer too. Battle Intent relied very heavily on image, and the images that ravaged Randidly’s consciousness were off decay and death. Bodies decomposing filled his vision as he was hit with those attacks. Flesh dissolving, bones grinded to dust, all returning to the still and cold earth. In a way, it was extremely painful, for Randidly felt his body go through all of those physical sensations, even though it was a purely cerebral experience, while he was enduring the Battle Intent attack. Within his chest, Randidly could feel his own vastly weaker Battle Intent marshalling itself, and being wiped out before it could even move. But every time it was shredded by the powerful Intent of death, it reformed, more condensed, stronger and more full.
Still, that strength was far behind the torturer’s.
Eventually, after several hours, the torture stopped, the man growing bored and leaving. And Randidly collapsed, breathing heavily. Even though he had known, even though he had prepared for a dangerous way to gain strength…. Never would he have imaged that it was through being tortured. HIs lips curled upward. He supposed that all life was torture, why should this be any different? At least this was honest.
He was slightly concerned with how morbid his humor was turning, but it was hard to be concerned about it when he was struggling to control the Aether within his chest. He let several threads rush up and merge into his body, strength flowing along his limbs. He felt his mind settle into a more formidable structure, and he felt the energy of his Battle Intent purify itself, and grow more robust.
Randidly continued to meditate, channeling energy through his body. The day passed much the same as the previous one had, with Randidly using Meditation and Mana Strengthening to struggle with the bonds on his hands. At the same time as the previous day, during the following morning, the young man arrived again and once more struck Randidly with his Battle Intent.
This time Randidly’s own Battle Intent was able to defend his inner core from any damage, preventing too much dizziness and nausea. But even then, he felt his abilities being slowly ground away, until after an hour, his intent was depleted.
Time stretched onward, leading unto the future.
Randidly continued through this cycle, slowly memorizing the timing and schedule of the the guards, using the free time to practice other skills and moves. His mana based attack were simply absorbed by the formation, creating a more powerful isolating effect from Aether in the air. This was perfect, for Randidly’s purposes, because he was rapidly gaining experience in controlling the Aether in his chest, preventing enough from leaking upwards for the torturer to notice.
Aside from the torturer, Randidly only saw a small slave boy, who brought food around every week. This food Randidly ignored, because it was just slop and stray traces of vegetables. His Vitality was nearing 100, and it was more than enough to allow him to continue without sleep or food. But he did find himself fantasizing in his spare moments about his favorite dishes from before the change came to Earth.
He was a little too hesitant to produce a spear from his ring which he still kept under his tongue, but there was a point that Randidly grew tired of just using spells and he began to bring out bracers and Engrave them.
Weeks passed, and as his Battle Intent was continually brutalized, he finally got both the bear and fish Engraving over 60%. He even began practicing the new sigils he learned from the Willow Tree Spear Style. The animal versions he now had over 40%, although not much more than that. Meanwhile, he made a few attempts at the Shadow Rune, but its complexities continued to elude him, and even after these weeks of grinding, his Meditation wasn’t enough to give him the requisite amount of mana to accomplish the full Engraving in one sitting.
Tortured mentally, plagued by the vicious Battle Intent powerfully associated with death, Randidly continued to grow. He repressed his own intent at one point, after about a month, keeping it from struggling against the invading intent, because it was nearing the level of strength it needed to fight back.
But he resisted, struggling against his mind’s natural instincts to defend itself. But he needed more strength before he broke out. He needed to grow here. So he Meditated, Engraved, and his Battle Intent grew increasingly dense and viscous. All the while, time flowed slowly past..