His idea was a simple one, and both Shal and Marco were intrigued by the prospect. And, because they really didn’t have any other choice, they decided to run with it; to use the descent of the Judgement as a distraction to escape.
Marco seemed to want to ask a lot of questions about what a Judgement was, but some very direct looks from Shal silenced him before he could even open his mouth. Randidly admitted he wasn’t entirely sure how powerful it would be, but it would surely be some sort of distraction.
So while Shal upped the intensity of the training with Randidly, Marco left, heading into the Western area, to see if he could find any fish who would bite at the possibility of an escape plan. They didn’t have much hope, but with the number of guards they needed to force their way through, it would be better with more powerful individuals on their side. And as some of the people in the Western area were approaching the Adept level, it was well worth their time to recruit.
But months dragged on, and although Randidly had received many more Skill Levels, increasing and spending his PP, there was no change in the Heretic Path. Randidly held out hope that it would tick forward when he finished the Grace I path; it did not, although he received an interesting move for his completion bonus for the path.
Congratulations! You have completed the Grace I Path! Your steps are light and even, and although the path is slowly falling away around you, you maintain your pace. You have your goals, and although the trials may be difficult, you will not halt. Willpower +5, Stamina per level +2. You have gained the skill Body Control: Freeze Lvl 1.
Body Control: Freeze: Stop your current movement, becoming completely still. Time it takes to completion decreases with skill level. Stamina consumption decrease with skill level. Small health penalties may apply, that decrease with skill level.
The move sounded interesting, and after he finished it, he was able to experiment a little with it during fights. The first time he used it, even Marco was slightly taken aback, and Randidly was able to actually land an attack on him. He was swiftly defeated, however, and each subsequent use was less and less effective.
But still, it proved the viability of it as a move in high level fights.
After that, Randidly poured his PP into Fighting Proficiency II 0/100, which he unlocked by getting Fighting Proficiency up to Lvl 80. The constant battles were certainly dealing dividends in a lot of ways. He slowly pushed his way into the Northeast region, where there were a huge amount of spear users at his level, who used very different fighting styles. Some of them were even members of respected Styles of the Spearman School, and Shal encouraged (basically forced) Randidly to challenge them all, testing his limits.
The real problem was that there didn’t seem to be any change in the Heretic Path. But after thinking about it, it did indeed make sense. Usually, the Heretic didn’t really notice his quantitative increases. It was qualitative that was the issue. That last time, what brought down the Judgement was not the PP, but the evolution of his Soul Skill, and the creation of his unique skill.
Randidly was also aware that he was not training his self taught skill currently, and wondered whether that was a good thing. He consulted with Shal, who just shook his head in disgust.
“One thing at a time, my idiot disciple. You are not a genius. You simply have good teachers.”
So Randidly let it lie for now. Besides, Shal was right. The entire reason he had grown this strong was due to Shal. Which was why he would put himself through such hell in order to help him. They had been in the Prison for so long that Donnyton had faded from his mind mostly. Lyra was just a pretty face he had difficulty picturing. Meanwhile, his life as a normal person, before the system, began to fade into the shadows, at least partially.
As his life faded away, some parts of it began to stick out. His relationship with his parents. Sydney and Ace. His loneliness and frustration.
For much to Randidly’s surprise, that loneliness was beginning to come back. They had been in this prison for too long, with a lifestyle that was too austere. He had radically changed his situation, but his body and soul weren’t so easily swayed. During his brief breaks, he reminisced fondly of those days when porn was readily available. It would be nice, to have some sort of relief from the constant training.
But although he allowed small indulgences, Randidly never swayed from his path forward. Strength was always moving further away. Everyone else was reaching for the same survival you were. There wasn’t time to waste.
So he worked towards having the Judgement descend in a controlled fashion. He slowly began practicing the moves taught to him by Bert. He was a little rusty at first, but he swiftly regained the tempo for those exhausting moves. He focused on the powerful images of roots inside of him, even going so far as to create huge roots to look at and feel, adding detail. Slowly and surely, he felt the Aether within him beginning to pulse.
In order to see the changes, he stopped taking the black potion for a week, working tirelessly on the move. It was coalescing in his chest, and just as he received a notification that the self-made move was 99% finished, a notification popped up.
Warning, you have long walked upon the path of the Heretic, but you are rapidly approaching a crossroads. That path lies through a Judgement of greatly increased power.
This gave him hope, but he knew that this was just the first of two warnings. If he truly wanted to be sure, he needed to get to the second. So Randidly threw himself back into training, this time focusing on Engraving and spells, especially Incinerating Bolt still, in order to deal with the Judgement.
Marco Polo returned during this time with positive news, telling of a few individuals who would be willing, if Shal would demonstrate his strength, as proof it was possible. Shal snorted, but went along with Marco, leaving Randidly alone. The small spark of loneliness inside of him grew, but he continued to ignore it, instead throwing himself more violently into fights with nearby spear users.
There was something about battle… it was peaceful. It helped him come to terms with his situation, or at least work off some of the related aggression from being stuck in the same place for all this time. During those fights… Randidly started to realize that everyone else was the same. They fought and fought, with almost a crazed gleam in their eyes, but it was because the alternative was shutting down and just losing yourself to the unending boredom.
Randidly wasn’t sure if this imprisoning punishment would do much to teach spear users what they did was wrong, but it would surely act as a deterrent.
And it would drag out the ferocity and potential of those spear users thrown into the lion’s den that was the badlands.
There was a strange moment once, while Shal and Marco were gone. Randidly maintained his camp along the inward circle of the badlands, nearest the prison, although the competition was more fierce here. A group of people escaped from the prison, 4 of them, and hurried away, with light pursuit from the guards behind them.
As they ran towards his area, Randidly glanced over and activated Eyes of the Spear Phantom, looking to his North. As he thought, the individual above him, Teliph, a man with bandages over his eyes and an annoyingly firm defense, also saw the escapees, and also turned to look at Randidly. They smiled at each other.
Fresh meat needed to be taught the ropes.
So when they arrived, Teliph and Randidly moved towards the 4, walking casually towards where they were hyperventilating. The 4 quickly noticed them, and scrambled to their feet.
Randidly, doing his best Shal impression, lowered his voice and growled. “Produce your spear and take a stance.”
And for effect, he removed the huge obsidian spear that once belonged to the Devourer. The four just goggled, doing nothing. Randidly hesitated, unsure of what to do, but Teliph stepped forward and struck with his weapon, cracking the sternum of the closest one. That man fell backwards, moaning, but the others produced their spears and leapt to their feet. Randidly rushed forward, using a simple stab, and the leader stepped up to meet him.
It was a beautiful counter that man used, and had their weapons struck, it definitely seemed like the counter was so powerful that it would have overwhelmed Randidly and dealt him a grievous wound. But Marco had taught Randidly that was not how the game was played.
So instead, Randidly twisted his attack, and used Ghastly Slash, causing the other’s counter to miss, and shearing off the man’s leg.
The rest were easily dealt with, and Teliph coldly explained that the weak gathered in the South, the strong in the West, and how the circle worked, and then left. Randidly left too, but he couldn’t help but notice the bitter tears those men cried, as half-dead and sleep deprived, they were forced to get up and leave.
Back at the camp, Randidly sat for a long time, remembering everything that had happened to him since the system came. And even though he had come so far, there were still many individuals in the North and West more powerful than him. But he couldn’t deny that flash of joy in that fight, defeating an enemy who had superior Skill Levels.
He liked this strength.
Stoically, Randidly resumed his training. Because the other thing that those men reminded him of was that failure was not an option right now. Losing a fight sometimes meant losing your life, and that was everything.