To pass the time, Randidly studied the shattered remnants of his 2nd Self Created Skill in the Ashen Spear Skillset. Randidly had done his best to ignore the thing, as it reminded him of the deep wound that he struggled with for several months. Even now, after everything else was more or less dealt with, and the quality of his inner world was much higher, he couldn’t suppress a shiver, thinking about the echoes of that pain.
It was because it was a different sort of pain, than any he had ever experienced. It was a strange pain beyond the physical, and the mental. It was something that threatened to wrest away control of his body from him. Had it became too powerful, that resonance would begin activating other skills, slowly warping him until he died.
Or became an unstoppable monster, his personality shattered, running on pure instinct. And constantly activating his Skills.
Forcing himself to chuckle, and dispel some of that dark thinking, Randidly carefully looked at the floating pieces of himself. They swirled in a circle, hovering in the general area of where the skill once was. Among them, he could intuit their previous shape, knowing how they could be reunited, joined to form a powerful whole once more.
And Randidly had to hand it to himself, that skill had been powerful. It had been enough to make a Master level spear user stumble, even if only briefly, even if it was only against a Skill incarnation. But there was a problem.
A slowly growing problem.
At the time of the accident, Randidly’s skill had been shattered, spreading out into fragments that now floated around, calmly orbiting him. Their previous shape was clear in his mind. But during the intervening time, they hadn’t been idle.
It was likely a useful attribute when a skill was simply damaged, but upon fracturing, the Skill had begun to madly absorb Aether, swelling to form strange, warped shapes. Had the general shape been intact, they would likely have swollen to cover the cracks, then slowly sank back down to normal, once the Skill realized it was working properly.
But without that feedback… Now his Skills had became a series of twisting… well honestly… gnarled roots. They squirmed like maggots, writhing back in forth, slowly swelling as the desperately absorbed more Aether. It was becoming slightly disturbing. Some experimentation let Randidly discover that he could “trim” the shards of the Skill, but doing so eliminated his intuitive understanding of the previous form.
So as long as he let them run wild, they would let him remember how they used to be. But if he tried to return them to that state, his interference would eliminate that understanding, and leaving him holding a weirdly shaped chunk of raw Aether.
Randidly rubbed his eyes in annoyance. There was simply too much to learn about Aether these days…
Feeling exasperated, Randidly focused back on the outside world, and was shocked to discover that it appeared the nerds had been whittled down to two people. Someone had produced bleachers and podiums and it now seemed like…
…there was a debate going on…?
Daniel sat in the middle, his hands folded, seemingly extremely pompous. On his left, was Peggy, of all people, and across from Peggy was a bright eyed, elderly woman, who was pounding the podium. “Knowledge is power! That is everything we stand for! How you could come to such a conclusion is beyond me.”
“It’s simple…” Peggy’s voice was drawling, his pronunciation dragged out. “Look at the most powerful Classes we are aware of: the Sovereign of Ghost. Was that a Class that we earned? No, it was a random Class.”
Shrugging, Peggy continued. “…from the rather mundane Class options that most everyone has access to, combined with the acknowledged fact that our expectations affect the Class and Skill System, there is only one conclusion: the current humanity’s psyche produces weak Classes. We simply don’t have lexicon and lore needed to really invent an emblematic and powerful Class. There are obviously exemplary individuals, but they were exemplary before they obtained their Class.
“Before he obtained his Class, Glendel was a timid, average man. Now… he’s one of the most mysterious and profound individuals in Donnyton. The random options allowed him an escape from the way he was raised. Did he even imagine a ghost sovereign before? Of course not. He could only see laborers, and things popularized by role playing games, warriors, rogues, priests, mages, etc. Which is why I believe it would be most prudent to hide information relating to Classes from the public.
“If we do so, public opinion will run wild, thinking up Classes far greater than the disappointments of reality. I think Mr. Ghosthound has been invaluable in this regard, inspiring growth in new and unexpected ways.”
Peggy bowed towards Randidly in a very polite manner, which was strange, after Randidly had sealed away his Skill during the combat portion, giving Alana the victory she deserved. But still, this man probably thought Randidly was someone to be wary of, and to watch. A little flattery never hurt.
But it did leave a weird taste in Randidly’s mouth to be on the receiving end, especially because this Assessment was his idea…
“…You have a flaw in your argument.” The elderly woman said, leaning back with a relaxed smile on her face. “At the core… you are saying… that the unconscious mind can surpass the conscious in terms of creativity and ingenuity. And that just isn’t accurate.
“The great accomplishments of the past century, the things that pushed the cutting edge of technology further, were deliberate acts of man. Accidents, perhaps, and experiments, but it was what the people did with those small truths gleaned from coincidences that shaped the world. In the same way, we cannot know what tidbit of information we have from the Classes will eventually inspire someone; I’m just confident in the belief that someone will be inspired. Knowledge should be disseminated as much as possible.”
Peggy folded his arms. Daniel tapped his chin, then looked at Randidly.
Randidly shrugged. This sort of debate was interesting, he supposed, but it didn’t really strike him as one that they should be having, when the danger of an Aether drought was looming over them… suddenly he felt a decent amount of regret that he had come over here at all…
“And the winner… is Shawna. I believe she is correct, and her argument has better logical underpinnings. But that was a profoundly fascinating point of view, Peggy, we should-”
Randidly left, before the conversation devolved further.
Back at the small cabin he had claimed for himself, he found Nevaeh curled up, and an extremely small seeming Kiersty climbing over her bony protuberances to slowly near Neveah’s head.
Neveah was supremely amused at the child’s struggles, and was doing her best not to move. Sighing, Randidly scratched his head and hid a smile as he walked passed. Now… since so much time was wasted, time to focus back on-
Randidly blinked, and looked around. It was extremely rare for him to miss something, and the voice came as surprise. When he turned, he found himself faced with the slight form of Kiersty’s brother, Nathan.
He seemed less healthy than he had then when Randidly had last seen him, with hollow eyes and deep bags, as well as his bones being extremely prominent, but it was hard to really worry. The System caused a lot of weird effects, especially upon the younger generation, who wasn’t quite so used to the world free from the the System. They accepted things more easily, and carried them to stranger and more foreign extremes. This was likely just an example of that.
“Yes?” Randidly said, curious.
Nathan nodded slightly, then continued. “I want strength, like the Blessings. To protect Kiersty. I even obtained a Soul Skill, hanging around the Arbor worshippers, the Twisted Sapling. I’ve snuck over to watch the military training, but when they catch me… they kick me out…”
Nathan’s gaze fell to the ground, and Randidly could feel the slowly growing self hatred there, he could practically see Nathan’s inner monologue of recrimination and blame for failing to grow stronger.
But this puzzled Randidly. “…I know they don’t allow you to get a Class, but isn’t there training for…?”
Shaking his head emphatically, Nathan said. “There might be Classes, but they are slow and pointless. Most of the other kids want to just play tag or shoot Mana Bolts at things. None of them really understand… the just don’t get-” Then he fell silent, his gaze slowly turning upwards towards Randidly’s. They eyes locked.
Randidly did not look away first, but he shivered. Just because Donnyton was flourishing when he returned, well run and well equipped, he had assumed that things had been easy for the residents. Based on the look in Nathan’s eyes, that wasn’t necessarily the case. Something very particularly had happened to light a fire in his chest.
There was a strange tightness. Randidly put his hand on Nathan’s shoulder, feeling extremely awkward.
“Please.” The boy’s whisper was desperate.
“Do you truly crave power so much, child…?” Randidly said, feeling something very strange in his heart. It was something he recognized, however, after a moment of reflection.
Karma. The binding threads of fate. Nathan nodded.
Inciting Action. All a spear can do is advance.
“…I’ll see what I can do,” Randidly said, his voice so quiet that he was afraid he wouldn’t be heard.
Or maybe he hoped he wouldn’t be.