Randidly reappeared back in his freshly dug hole, smoking slightly at the edges. He sorta thought that some of his hair was still on fire. Molten rock still clung painfully to his toes. Notifications popped up in front of him, but he was distracted by a voice.
“Oh! There you are Randidly! Thank god. I honestly feel better to find you were taking a break. I thought you were a machine there for a minute.”
Cesar, the man who was supposed to follow Randidly and connect his holes together, grinned down at him. He was a tall, well-muscled man with golden skin and blonde hair. And from the alacrity with which he got to digging, he knew he had a high stamina. It was just nothing compared to Randidly.
“Honestly,” Cesar continued. “I’ve put all my points into Endurance, to raise my stamina, but it raises so slowly. Makes me feel like it isn’t even worth it.”
Grunting, Randidly raised himself out of the hole, holding his shovel. “Try investing in Vitality instead. It will increase your regeneration, which will give you more staying power. Because right now, when you run out of stamina, it takes a long time to regenerate, right? And then you can dig for longer, which will increase your skill level, lowering the stamina consumption further.”
Leaving Cesar to his thoughts, Randidly moved forward to the next spot and dug. And again. And again. And again.
Within the hour, he had once more left Cesar far behind, and had time to view the notifications in front of him.
Congratulations! You have obtained the Blessing of the Patron of Ash. Its energy swirls through your body, slowly assimilating into you. Remaining Assimilation time: 10,000 minutes. You have gained the skill “Incinerating Bolt Lvl 1.”
Incinerating Bolt: Shoot a highly concentrated, high temperature, bolt of lava. Heat and size increase with Intelligence, Focus, and Skill level. Range and Accuracy increase with Wisdom, Control, and Skill level.
Congratulations! For surviving the first test of the Patron of Ash, you have gained 5 Lvl in Fire Resistance. Your path leads you deeper into the flames, and your Patron will not force you to proceed without protection. These will be added onto any levels you already have. This skill does not count against the skill total for your class. You do obtain PP for these Levels, as if you gained them normally.
Congratulations! You have completed the Apprentice Path. You have come under the scrutiny of a greater power, and emerged alive. But the path is long, and stretches every onwards. +50 to Health, Mana, and Stamina. +2 to all Stats. The Path “Initiate of Ash I 0/75” is available to you!
First, Randidly checked around him, and seeing no one, walked a little way out into the field he was digging in, until he reached a deserted road lined with empty houses. Monsters skittered forward, strange dog sized ant things, almost a dozen of them, racing towards him.
He raised his arm and used Incinerating Bolt.
A burning bar of lava ripped forward, catching the first ant in its thorax, punching a hole right through. The bolt continued through 4 ants completely, burning sizzling holes in them, before finally cooling so much that it simply smashed the face of the fifth ant.
Randidly raised his eyebrows impressed. It was like firing a fist sized incendiary round.
But then his expression fell.
…At the cost of 100 mana a pop, it seemed.
He fired several more, testing it out, dispatching the rest of the ants. Then he walked back to his holes, looking at what skills Lvls he had gained.
1 in Haste, 1 in Empower, 1 in Mana Strengthening, 3 in Sweep, 1 in Phantom Thrust, 1 in Spear Phantom’s Footwork, 6 in Fire Resistance, and finally 1 in Incinerating Bolt.
The mana cost was debilitative, but when he leveled it, it would be, without a doubt, his most powerful single target spell. The stupid sphinx would have been a lot more agreeable with a flaming hole in his throat.
He arrived back at the hole and picked up his shovel. According to his mental math, 10000 minutes was just under 7 days. So he wouldn’t really know what he had received as a reward until that point.
At least the bonuses from the Apprentice Path were noticeable. The 50 health, mana, and stamina especially. It took a lot of stat points to gather that much of any of those, let alone all of them.
The last decision was what his next path would be.
Watcher: 0/??, ?????, Heretic III 0/???, Oathbreaker 0/25, Fireball I 0/50, Initiate of Ash I 0/75
He immediately discarded the Initiate of Ash, shuddering. He had a sneaking suspicion that following that path would lead to more encounters with the Patron of Ash, which Randidly was not keen on at the moment, regardless of the possible rewards.
Besides, he finally reached level 30 in the Fireball skill, and unlocked a path for it. Hoping for more skills than he had gained from the Apprentice Path, he poured his leftover points into the Fireball I path. He had 13 points, and got +2 Focus and +5 Mana after putting 10 PP into it. He supposed that was a normal return, but he was still slightly disappointed. He pulled up his stats, in an effort to cheer himself up.
Health(/R per hour): 390/424 [+8] (197 [+12])
Mana(/R per hour): 132/644 (80.75)
Stam(/R per min): 401/504 (72 [+4])
Vit: 58 [+4]
Str: 48 [+2]
Agi: 66 [+10]
Equipment: Average Leather Tunic Lvl 5: (+2 Vit), Gloves of Quickness (Vit +1. Agi +3), Necklace of the Shadow Cat Lvl 20 ®: (Vitality +1, Strength +2, Agility +7)
Skills (Soul Skill):
Spear of Rot Mastery Lvl 352
Combat: Spear Mastery Lvl 49, Phantom Thrust Lvl 47, Spear Phantom’s Footwork Lvl 35, Eyes of the Spear Phantom Lvl 23, Phantom Half-Step Lvl 11, Heavy Blow Lvl 24, Dagger Mastery Lvl 10, Iron Skin Lvl 27, Dodge Lvl 31, Fighting Proficiency Lvl 36, Block Lvl 32, Haste Lvl 23, Phantom Onslaught Lvl 11, Sweep Lvl 23, Spear Deflect Lvl 10, Empower Lvl 27, Calculated Blow Lvl 19, Roundhouse Kick Lvl 18, Edge of Decay Lvl 13
Spells: Spearing Roots Lvl 13, Mana Bolt Lvl 28, Mana Shield Lvl 24, Root Manipulation Lvl 28, Arcane Orb Lvl 22, Fireball Lvl 30, Magic Missile Lvl 4, Healing Palm Lvl 9, Pollen of the Rafflesia Lvl 10, Summon Pestilence.Lvl 17, Mana Strengthening Lvl 14, Wall of Thorns Lvl 5, Soul Seed Lvl ®, Agony Lvl 9, Inspiration ®, Incinerating Bolt Lvl 2
Crafting: Potion Making Lvl 22, Farming Lvl 20, Plant Breeding Lvl 9, Mapmaker Lvl 7, Analyze Lvl 24, Refine Lvl 6
Auxiliary: Physical Fitness Lvl 32, Meditation Lvl 32, Running: Lvl 23, Sprinting Lvl 19, Sneak Lvl 22, Acid Resistance Lvl 22, Poison Resistance Lvl 16, Pain Resistance Lvl 14, First Aid Lvl 13, Equip Lvl 25, Pathfinding Lvl 18, Mental Strength Lvl 13, Curse Resistance Lvl 3, Fire Resistance Lvl 14,
Blessing of the North (U), Blessing of the East (U), Blessing of the South (U), Blessing of the West (U), Sewing Lvl 11, Cutting Vegetables Lvl 2, Manual Labor Lvl 3, Digging Lvl 5
Although he was beginning to collect some useless skills at the bottom of his ancillary column, he was still pleased. With still an hour or two to burn before he would meet Tessa and go to this concert, Randidly continued digging.
Sam collapsed in his bed, exhausted. Although you could improve your stats a lot, you couldn’t escape exhaustion. Shifting around with a groan, Sam looked at his stats screen.
Health(/R per hour): 227/227 (92)
Mana(/R per hour): 70/82 (17)
Stam(/R per min): 6/140 (46)
Skills: Drive Lvl 4, Running Lvl 11, Physical Fitness Lvl 22, Woodworking Lvl 14, Woodcutting Lvl 37, Animal Skinning Lvl 22, Hunting Lvl 17, Construction Lvl 28, Manual Labor Lvl 9, Cooking Lvl 9, Crafting Lvl 29, Harvesting Lvl 17, Repair Lvl 19, Sewing Lvl 16, Tailoring Lvl 15, Armor Making Lvl 23, Axe Mastery Lvl 26, Chop Lvl 15, Heavy Blow Lvl 18, Iron Skin Lvl 17, Herculean Strength Lvl 14, Dodge Lvl 17, Mana Bolt Lvl 9, Wide Swing Lvl 15, Eagle Eye Lvl 5, Heightened Perception Lvl 7, Bone Shaping 19, Smithing Lvl 4, Haste Lvl 6
He had kept his point distribution rather even, focusing on on Control, so he could craft and forge more effectively, and then survivability. All and all, he felt like he had some of the best stats among the NCCs, if not the best.
Although even at the best of times, it was hard to tell what Lyra and Annie were doing, who were his only real competition at this point. Most of the other men working under him were also classless, but they were slowly folding, taking classes, after the success of the first NCCs to switch. Daniel’s guidelines for obtaining a useful class were a powerful draw.
Although they weren’t impressively powerful, the classes they obtained were still in the upper tiers of classes, which was very tempting for the crafters. Especially now that they were hard pressed on every side.
The fighting had been heavy at all fronts. Casualties were kept in the single digits, but everyone was tired and sore after a long day of stopping the flood of monsters. And based on what Glendel could gather with his ghosts, this looked to be a daily thing. There was already a plan, backed by Decklan and Dozer, that Decklan’s unit would stay on constant Raid Boss watch, hunting and killing them before they could establish themselves and cause trouble. Meanwhile Dozer pushed again for his unit to be sent into the nearby dungeon which was the main source of the problems.
Thus far they had hemmed and hawed away from that, just to keep the village safe. But if sending a team bought them time, it might be necessary.
Not that without Randidly they had decided to stay away from dungeons, necessarily, and they had a kept dungeon at Lvl 16, and another kept dungeon at Lvl 5, which seemed fine. Just without his presence as a buffer, the council was unwilling to send one of their best men into unforeseen danger. They wouldn’t know what sort of enemies or location they would encounter until it was too late.
Not that Randidly would be much help with that, considering how he was barred from dungeons, without a class.
But Ptolemy was starting to hesitate, and would likely give their plan the third it needed to pass.
“Damn, need to rehaul this whole council system,” Sam muttered to himself, sitting up. Then he heard a familiar shuffling, and got up out of his bed, creeping to the window.
Sure enough, Lyra stood there, dancing, petals of glowing mana swirling around her. Every night she would do this, every night since she had seen Randidly casually shooting bolts of mana out of his hands.
But where as Randidly was eminently practical, Lyra appreciated the beauty of mana. She sought to learn the nature of it, and in exchange was blessed with abilities the rest of them couldn’t imitate.
Every evening, right before the sun sunk below the horizon she danced, and as the gloom gathered, the air around her would fill with new and different shapes, increasingly detailed and increasingly complicated. Birds and snowflakes and wolves and blooming flowers. For Sam, it was a small moment of escape from the pressing dangers of their current world.
Lyra would dance too, swaying among her shaped mana, with a grace that made Sam chuckle; mostly due to how desperately Randidly was avoiding her strange feelings for him.
Who could resist a flower this lovely? But Randidly was a strange one. Which was why, Sam supposed, of all the people she had met, Lyra was so fixated on solely him.
Sam only knew a little bit about Lyra before the system, in terms of personality. But what he had heard from other people in the business, she wasn’t a good person. She was professional, and she perfectly played her roles, but off camera she was cold and dismissive, preferring to return to her own lodging rather than spend time with the other cast members.
But currently, among those blue-white shapes, her wistful expression was so soft that Sam didn’t dare make a sound, lest he startle her in this moment of vulnerability.
Sam watched the dance for a long time before heading to bed, begrudgingly preparing for tomorrow.