Frowning, Azriel considered the man in front of her. “Liam. Don’t you know not to disturb someone during their training?”
Liam’s smile was very tired. The man had acted as an intermediary between Azriel and Drak for several years now, and never failed to smile, although it seemed that something had shaken the edges of his confidence. “Now, now, I’ve given you up to the limit; the dinner is in 20 minutes. It’s time-”
“I’m very fast, perhaps you’ve seen?” Azriel interrupted. “I could make it to his temporary residence in a handful of minutes.”
“Perhaps, Miss, but I think Drak had something different than spear-user casual dress code when he sent the invite,” Liam said, eyeing her training equipment skeptically.
“Did he? If only the previous invite had mentioned it, I would have changed.” Azriel said.
“I’m mentioning it, right now.”
“And you are pulling me out the door in your insistence I arrive early. There simply isn’t time,” Azriel said, walking past Liam. The man could only sigh and follow behind her.
Randidly’s body was trembling. His control of mana and Aether were both frayed, although they were starting to recover. That flood of emotions into his body… He could only sit and feel them, allowing them to sink into himself. The furious angers, and the vicious cold fears, the love, the wide acceptance, the regret…
Deep, endless seas of regret flowed through him, filled with grasping hands and discouraging whispers, pressing, pushing, pulling, attempting to wear away at the will. But also from the emotions was the determination and focus, slowly seeping into Randidly’s soul. It was… a strange experience. And one that Randidly wished to have avoided.
But Randidly had already gained several levels in Battle Intent, and there was so much more fragments of emotions scattered through him.
Still, the strange trembling made things very difficult. He couldn’t train, and he didn’t really want to walk out like this, in case that there were people who would just see a member of the top 4 trembling, falling over his own feet. So Randidly decided to remain here and ride out the emotions as best he could. In the meantime…
Randidly positioned the ivory spear on the table, in a well lit area. Then he began to study the complicated engraving on the spear, a flowing thing that spanned almost the entirety of the shaft, curving around and twisting together in strange ways.
If what Randidly understood about the spear was correct, it was an unbelievable piece of artisanry. It could be fed Aether to absorb meaning from the world, or it could absorb thoughts and emotions to produce dirty Aether. And it seemed that these processes didn’t actually consume what was given, but stored the fuel inside the spear itself. These emotions flooding Randidly, keeping his only movements to trembling, felt just as real as his own emotions, although he knew they weren’t. How was this possible…?
Over the next 8 hours, Randidly brought out more and more of the Engraving encyclopedias, checking and rechecking. His training with Azriel was temporarily on hold, as he continued to tremble, although now it was more intermittent than persistent. Still, wild waves of emotions crashed against him, and he just gritted his teeth and focused on his research.
The main accomplishment of this time was to divide the Engraving upon the spear into 4 parts. At the center was what Randidly could only guess was the place that the consumed substances were stored. It was the most intricate piece, the most mystifying, filled with strange eddies of energy and weird twists and turns.
Surrounding this central storage region was the second most complicated work, that seemed to act as the portion that allowed this process to be reversed. It almost must somehow be the production portion of the spear, but again, Randidly was completely out of his depth. Shadow IV as a rune continued to cause him to struggle, and this was much, much more refined than that, filled with Engraving techniques that Randidly didn’t recognize from any of the volumes.
The final two portions were positioned on the outside of the intricate engraving, and were what Randidly believed to be the absorption portions. They were similar, but slightly different. Still, after his run-ins with the Creature and its strange constructs, Randidly had some familiarity with how to shape Aether, and could identify with a strong degree of certainty which side did what.
Both were dense, but they were not complicated, which was somewhat mystifying to Randidly. Based on what he could guess, this is the type of equipment that would legitimately make someone a Heretic. Yet it was rather… unimpressive.
‘Well,’ Randidly supposed, ‘Not everything about the system is perfect, I guess…’
With a much lowered frequency of tremors in his body, Randidly went up to the roof and once more called down the Weeping Cloud, and began to Engrave. It seemed that the rain drops also did a lot to expedite and smooth the process of absorption too, which was a big help, but still, it wasn’t enough to prevent Randidly from ruining a dozen spears, trying to Engrave.
It was at that point that the emotions finally seemed to break, and calmness returned to Randidly’s inner world. With a sigh, he leaned back, laying out on the ground, just letting the raindrops hit him. That was… profoundly unenjoyable. But Randidly drew a lot of benefits from it, he knew.
However, now that he was done…
Randidly once more began to Engrave. All he had was an old dagger he stored away in his ring, so that became the template. At first Randidly thought it would be more difficult to Engrave on the relatively smaller dagger, but it somehow seemed like the shape of his Engraving naturally changed. It was almostas though the Engraving had to be a certain size, relative to the weapon.
This smaller size made the intricate and dense, although simple, patterns of this rune easier, as the strokes were quick, and it was easier to hold an even amount of mana for that time.
And he succeeded. Randidly inspected his new dagger.
Basic Steel Dagger Lvl 13: Serviceable steel dagger made by a competent smith. Vit +1, Str +1.
Engraving of the Devourer 39% ©: An ancient, cruel rune that can suck away the essence of life from others, at the cost of the user’s soul. The absorbed energy is raw and rough.
Randidly was a little annoyed at his relatively poor showing on such a simple pattern, but was more pleased that he had succeeded, and his hypothesis was right. But then his face twisted a bit. It was just ironic to him, that after being called a Heretic for so long, he had finally become one…
Which, he supposed, was just the way of the world.
Putting that out of his mind, Randidly turned and made another dagger, this one based on the rune on the other side of the spear. To his chagrin, he succeeded again, basically making him one of the fastest learning Heretics in existence.
Basic Steel Dagger Lvl 13: Serviceable steel dagger made by a competent smith. Vit +1, Agi +1.
Engraving of the Inquisitor 47% (Un): A desperate rune that consumes the user’s life to extract meaning from the world. A portion of this is lost to the void, and the world becomes a little darker.
That certainly… was not a very encouraging explanation. The world became just a little darker, huh….?
After brooding for almost an hour over these strange daggers, Randidly came to a decision. Against his better judgement, it might be worth it to use them… on Shal, to try and figure out what he was struggling against in his dreams. Specifically the Engraving of the Inquisitor…
Still, best use the spear; it didn’t show signs of Randidly’s shoddy workmanship.
“WHAT DOES THAT MEAN!” Shal bellowed, all semblance of control lost, gasping for breath, looking at the shade of Aemont standing in front of him. “What the fuck was that!”
But Aemont remained silent, only raising his spear. Shal gritted his teeth.
This unending spar stretched on and on… but Shal had been slowly getting better. He could see it now, the way his Style was morphing into something different than Aemont’s, the Phantom Viper, something quick and brutal and vicious.
Yet Aemont continued to show how his own Style was superior, by putting hole after hole in Shal’s. Which Shal then corrected and attempted again. And again, and again.
Until Shal finally landed a blow on the upgraded version of Aemont, and saw a vision, a memory. Of the 2nd gift of Lucretia, and the tragedy surrounding it.