In the predawn light, Randidly’s face cracked into a smile. He had just gained a level in Meditation, and with it…
He finally had enough to finish off the Frontrunner path. After putting the final PP into it, he received a notification.
Congratulations! You have completed the The Frontrunner Path! The odds were stacked against your race, but you rose above the trials and tribulations to give your people a safe place to stay. Being the first brings great power, but also places a great weight on your shoulders. Others are raised, but only because you drag them upwards. May this path give you the tools to share some of this weight. Because beyond this path, there is always another.
You have learned the skill Blessing of the North (U). You have learned the skill Blessing of the East (U). You have learned the skill Blessing of the South (U). You have learned the skill Blessing of the West (U). You have learned the skill Inspiration ®.
The explanations for the first 4 skills were useless, just text about blessing a worthy subordinate and granting them power, but Inspiration was a bit more interesting.
Inspiration ®: The next spell you cast will be inspired. You will be able to accomplish feats far beyond the limits of your normal mana pool. All mana will be consumed. You will not regenerate mana, for any reason, for 24 hours after completion of the spell. That spell cannot be used in conjunction with Inspiration for 30 days.
So, one big spell at the expense of the next day’s worth of spells…? The cost was extremely high, but…
Well, Randidly supposed it depended on the effectiveness of the spell. Making a mental checklist of the two things he still had to do before the caravan headed back South in an hour, he walked outside of his cabin and winced.
Make that three things.
“Jeez, don’t look so excited to see me,” Lyra said sarcastically, petting a trembling Thorn. She had eventually bullied the plant into letting her treat it like a pet, although Randidly had no idea how. Things had been… strange between them. In a rare moment of weakness, Randidly had asked Daniel who she was, or had been, before the system, and Daniel had gone on a rant about ‘cult classics’ and ‘horror legend’, and a bunch of other, pre-system, fanboying.
But Randidly did gather some relevant information from their talk; Lyra really was 17, no matter how mature she looked.
On the other hand, Randidly was 23. Or he was, if the time in the dungeon counted. Based on the calendar, it was still two more months until his birthday. But still. The difference in age made him uncomfortable, and so he was in a weird space where he wanted to see her, but dared not seek her out.
“No, it is good to see you,” Randidly said after a moment of hesitation, but Lyra just snorted.
“Well what?” Randidly asked, frowning.
Lyra gave him a withering glance. “Aren’t you going to ask me anything?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Aren’t you leaving for for a while to go to the south?”
“Doesn’t it seem like I
you to ask me something about going to the south?” Her teeth made grinding noises.
Randidly winced. “Lyra, if you want to come, fine-”
“I don’t give a shit about coming or not. I want you to ask. So.
Ask. Me. To. Come.
” The air around her vibrated dangerously, strange mana reverberations spreading in all directions.
“If you want to come, just come!” Randidly shouted, raising his arms.
The air stilled. Lyra nodded curtly, her expression a pleasant smile. “Sure.”
Then she turned and walked passed him. Not knowing what else to do, Randidly reached out and grasped her arm. She turned and gave him an evaluative look.
“Do you have some business with me, sir?” Her tone was low, and surprisingly devoid of sarcasm, even though the phrase itself seemed designed for it. Not knowing what else to do, Randidly just looked at her.
Then he had an idea, and used one of his new skills.
At times like these, perhaps a gift would help smooth things over…?
To his surprise, Lyra’s puzzled frown turned into a vicious glare. Ripping her arm away, she spat on his bare feet. “Do you think I want a fucking blessing from you? Is that what you want? Another subordinate?”
She turned and walked away, head held high. As she passed the gate around his cabin, she called over her shoulder. “Just to clarify, I won’t be coming south with you.”
Randidly scratched his head as he watched her go.
But there were more things to focus on. In an attempt to distract himself, he brought up his Path menu.
Watcher: 0/??, ?????, Heretic III 0/???, Oathbreaker 0/25, Apprentice Path 0/50
His options had decreased, but he already had made a decision. It was time to head down the Apprentice Path. More skills meant faster gathering PP, which was his way of gaining strength.
Finally, Randidly turned to the final item on his agenda, and removed a small seed from his pocket. He had created another soul seed after the cooldown wore off, and had been nurturing it these past two weeks.
Soul Seed 100% Nurtured. Strongest Influences: 1. Fireball; 2. Meditation; 3. Potion Making; 4. Refine; 5. Calculated Blow. 6. Root Manipulation
The influences were a bit… strange, especially for a plant. Let alone Fireball, how could a plant use Meditation, Potion Making, Refine, and Calculated Blow…? It was because all he had done was focus on discovering potion recipes and mopping up random creeps in the area with Thorn.
Ultimately, he was also very pissed off that he hadn’t been able to make any headway on Mana Manipulation. Even after Randidly stopped meeting with Lyra, still he practiced, struggling to find ways to make it work. Unfortunately, reality wasn’t kind; it seemed that his thoughts so much earlier in regards to the way he viewed the system shaping his abilities were true.
He could perform skills, and he had different pools of resources to fund those skills. But he wasn’t able to control those pools directly.
Perhaps what Randidly needed was a skill to make these things manifest. Like whatever strange skill Lyra refused to name, that allowed her to see mana. She seemed to think that was a pointless step, and maybe it was, for her, the strange combination of frustration and inexplicable talent that she was, but Randidly needed to see it, he figured, to get a handle on using it.
Thinking about Lyra made Randidly oddly morose, and he turned and gazed at the bear sized hole in the fence around his house, that Randidly had quietly requested remain there, marring his wall. It had been strangely lonely, as most everyone stayed out of his way, allowing him to train constantly.
The stress had sapped the last tiny bit of effectiveness from an already almost useless few weeks, and Randidly wanted to keep this, as a reminder. Of what, he currently wasn’t sure, because Lyra and her lessons and her feelings for him were all jumbled up into a ball that Randidly wasn’t sure he even wanted to touch.
But he knew he didn’t want to be left alone to slowly wind himself up in his house, until he snapped. For that, Randidly knew he valued Lyra. She attacked him verbally , which was reassuring, in a way. The rest of the town basically took everything he said as law, and showered him with veneration and compliments.
Other people might like that attention, but to Randidly, it just came off as creepy.
The abuse, while perhaps offensive to some, grounded Randidly, by putting him in a situation that he understood, and was used too. When the three of them, Sydney, Ace, and himself, had hung out, they weren’t being. They were vulgar and caustic, constantly engaged in a cold war of banter and and ploys.
Ace and Sydney…
Randidly’s gaze turned South. Which was why he had to go, no matter how strangely Lyra was acting. And why he refused to think any more deeply on his own feelings, no matter how lovely she was when she smiled. Randidly clenched his fists, and looked down, having forgotten he was still holding the small, strangely nurtured seed.
Still, he supposed, looking at the tiny seed in his hand, it would work out somehow. Even if he wasn’t around to see it.
As Randidly walked out to the slope between the NCC village and the Classer compound up on the hill, he was surprised to find two small children crawling through the fields, picking weeds. He recognized them too; Nathan and Kiersty. They were twins, and the youngest members of Donnyton, at 8.
The system hadn’t been kind to children. Although from what Regina had said, it was less that they were killed, and more that the parents of these surviving children weren’t willing to travel with their kids, and turtled up in their homes.
Ultimately foolish, but Randidly supposed he could understand the sentiment.
Struck by a sudden notion, Randidly walked over to the children. When they saw him approach, the two straightened uncertainly. The girl wiped her nose on her sleeve. Randidly crouched before them.
“I need a favor.”