When he saw the description of the Skill, Randidly’s eyebrows rose. On the one hand it reminded him a lot of Simon’s Skill, in terms of flexibility. It did not present the same ability to form an Astral projection that Simon’s Skill did, but Simon was limited in only being able to explore the world in a linear manner, slowly spreading his influence out over a Zone. And he could only focus on one portion at a time.
Meanwhile, this Skill seemed like it was more possible to already know what you wanted to see, and look, and pierce through everything between your two positions… and depending how well you knew how to look, it was possible to see something. Fascinating.
Almost out of reflex, Randidly used his Aether sense to feel along the surrounding area, quickly locating Simon’s tiny bird avatar. Unsurprisingly, it was hovering around Thea, watching her as she gazed, wide eyed, at the coughing woman. Although for a while after they arrived in Donnyton Simon had paid attention to Randidly, very quickly his focus narrowed. The poor kid. Randidly wondered if Thea realized the crush he had on her.
Back in the present, the woman was explaining with an excited voice her notifications, as she received a short Path that seemed to be a reward from it. It was, after all, an Ancient Rarity Skill, and the System rewarded their creation. It seemed that hers was the 301st Ancient Rarity Skill to be created.
Which wasn’t a large number, but it wasn’t a small one either. It gave Randidly a bit of hope, and made him realize that although his circumstances seemed extraordinary, there was probably other individuals with similar ability, although probably not the Aether Crossroads, or his Stats, based on all the time he spent in Shal’s world.
But still, these people might have just as much potential as Randidly. Hell, they probably had more potential than him. Sure, before the System he had been pretty physically fit, and intelligent, but he wasn’t a genius. And he wasn’t someone who understood how important working hard was. It took him weeks of near death experiences, and Shal’s brutality in the Dungeon before he had taken the first step to being the workaholic he was currently.
Lucretia was thoughtful as she looked out at the woman through Randidly’s eyes. “I wonder if the amount of Aether required was because of the type of Skill, or because of the rarity…?”
Even general. Not specific.
“Oh, that’s true.” Lucretia said nodding. “If she just had a general idea, then it probably would be so much less efficient. It would need to have enough Aether to sense the subtle images that she was generating….”
Finally, Randidly released a breath as he could feel the last dregs of the strange weariness leave him, in the wake of releasing Aether. It had the added benefit of slowing the death of this land, adding a little bump of Aether, especially to the area around Donnyton, but Randidly didn’t think that the small amount of Aether that he had managed to channel was anywhere close to being able to influence the whole Zone.
It was an interesting question, how much Aether he had within himself, but like a lot of things these days, it would have to wait for another time. There were pressing issues.
Mrs. Hamilton led away the woman, who she passed off to Daniel, who was waiting at the door. Together, the two left, talking excitedly about how she could use that Skill. The remaining people looked to Randidly. Ah, they likely wanted to know what was next. Well, preferably…
He turned to look at Thea. “Are you ready?”
After a brief hesitation, she nodded. “I… I think so. I think… I’ve made my decision.”
“So, are you upgrading your Class then? Or even a Stat…?” Randidly asked, already distracted. He knew that he would prefer that she choose to upgrade her Class, so he could watch how it would change when the Stone of Fate was used, but… Also seeing how Stats could shift would allow him to use that upgraded Stat in his Class-
“A Skill, actually. Combat Proficiency.” Thea said, her voice meek.
Randidly paused. Then he turned to look at her. “…What? Why would you do that?”
Stan frowned at that, annoying Randidly further, but he refused to let himself be distracted. His gaze was fixed upon Thea. Sure, improving a Skill was an interesting process, and Randidly wanted to see how it worked, but they currently only had one of these Stones of Fate. They hadn’t located anymore from the mine yet, so this was the only chance Randidly would have to see a process involving a Class happen.
As he was opening his mouth, Randidly noticed how much Thea was trembling, just standing there silently in front of him. And suddenly, he felt profoundly tired.
“She’s a good example. If we let this pass…” Lucretia began, but Neveah cut her off.
Wants something else. Her choose.
So instead of saying anything, Randidly just gestured for her to continue. At first she seemed hesitant, and then she shot a glance at Mrs. Hamilton, who was smiling at her. Randidly’s lip curled. Of course Mrs. Hamilton was responsible. Well, she enabled it, and probably primed Thea to be able to stand up to Randidly, if she chose to. Would Mrs. Hamilton have known that it would happen…?
No, perhaps not, but she would have given Thea the tools to do so, if she needed them. Which filled Randidly with a hot fury. But just as quickly, it melted away, and that same wariness came back.
That was the other problem with being here, everyone treated him like he could do no wrong. People didn’t stand up to him, they just listened to him. Other than Lyra, but after recovering, she seemed unable to speak, and stayed shut up in a small room, even while continuing to give Classes and allow Donny to purchase buildings. Which was slightly suspicious, but…
Like everything else, a question for another time.
Being treated this way didn’t come without consequences. Already, Randidly could feel his petulance, and his stubborn insistence of his own way. And he was 100% sure that his way was the correct one, and would yield the best results for both himself, and for Thea… but… he supposed that it wasn’t his job to correct other people’s mistakes. They could make their own choices.
But if those choices endangered the lives of others-
“I… I think that Alana told me… the best sort of Skill is a general one.” Thea said, her voice uncharacteristically squeaking as she nervously looked at Randidly. It was strange, listening to her. Suddenly, you would think that she had forgotten all the times they had fought together, like it was nothing. Like they vanished like ghosts.
“So… I want to upgrade my Combat Proficiency. A Stat would likely make me more immediately powerful, but I don’t think… I don’t think it would be too ridiculous. Meanwhile, a Class… my growth will probably increase, but I’m already Level 28… I missed a lot of that growth already.” Thea was finding her voice now, and she began to speak more quickly. “But a Skill… a Skill would benefit me now, and it would probably grow with me, more powerful, faster.”
“And also!” She stammered, her eyes almost pleading as she looked at him. “The System loves specificity, correct? A Skill can do that, leading to a Path, leading to more Skills, to a whole branching growth. On my own… I don’t think I can find that. But with this chance… I have a vision. A strong image. Specific. And with it…”
Her head fell to her chest, and Thea spoke the final words to the floor. “I can be strong….too.”
Sighing, Randidly said nothing for at least 30 seconds, simply closing his eyes and feeling the air around him. The Mana Engraving on the Cathedral was humming, gathering a portion of the Aether that Randidly had released, making the Aether here extremely thick. To his surprise, both Neveah and Lucretia remained silent, letting him think in peace.
The other people in the Cathedral, too, said nothing, but from Mrs. Hamilton’s smug seeming silence, Randidly could tell that she already knew what his answer would be. Once he was aware of it, there was no way that he would overturn Thea’s decision. Perhaps he would have stubbornly argued with her, before she had make her stance so clear, thinking he was convincing her, but basically just railroading her, but…
This turn of events made him feel helpless. He was a man who was currently experiencing a large amount of stress based upon his inability to control his destiny. Instead, he was forced to rely on Lucretia and Neveah. Although it would be a simple thing to take that out on Thea, forcing his will on her, Randidly… resisted that.
“Okay.” He said simply. “Then let’s begin.”
Without Randidly opening himself and spreading Aether, this time through was more of the same. This time, however, a Skill slid out of her chest, and was surrounded by the Aether apparatus. Again, a small singularity of Aether was formed, much less hungry than the previous one, and absorbed Aether for several long minutes, before the old Skill sank into it, was rewritten, and exploded as something new.
If nothing else, even Randidly could notice a pattern in the amount of Aether used, and the way it was absorbed. He could also see how the System apparatus would influence other Aether, while being made of Aether itself, which was one of the concrete problems involved. If they solved that, it would be that much easier, at least in terms of the manipulation. But that was half of the battle.
The other half was the planning, and after examining so many Classers, both Neveah and Lucretia had an idea on how the Class was created. All they needed was to prepare the Aether, and to carefully let it take shape. They had watched people gain Classes, but they seemed to spring, fully formed, onto a person. Perhaps that was just the Village Spirit version of the Aether singularity, and it was very difficult to witness a Class getting created.
That thought made Randidly’s hackles rise. So he would just need to be lucky…
“What’s the upgraded version of the Skill?” Mrs. Hamilton asked.
Thea was blushing. For several seconds she didn’t speak. Everyone paused, noticing her, and how she was behaving. Thea’s blush deepened. She muttered something unintelligible.
“What?” Randidly asked, somewhat bitter. If they had wasted this chance…
“M-m-my Combat proficiency is now… is now… Dance of the Ghostbear ®…” Thea muttered.
Ghost….bear….? Which almost seemed like it was based on….
“What were you… imagining when you were upgrading your Skill, Thea?” Mrs. Hamilton said, her wicked smile clear in her voice. Thea’s blush made her head look like a tomato.