Ultimately, Randidly didn’t find that answer before lunch. Or maybe it was immediately afternoon? It was hard to tell. And at that time, he needed to take a long-deserved break.
His original plan was to use some time between his spear practice experimenting with some of the Aether constructs that he had learned from the Mantle of a Nemesis, but his throbbing head quickly ruled out that possibility. No, this sort of tiresome practice had made an honest man out of Randidly Ghosthound.
Today, he would need to take it a bit easier.
So for the first time in quite a while, Randidly lay down for a nap, letting his eyes shut as the winds over Donnyton swirled tightly above.
I don’t have much time,
Randidly thought with a sigh, but he was also frustrated because there seemed too much to do. There were a thousand small tasks that he needed to see to so that he was somewhat infuriated by his current options.
Yet at the same time, that lack of sincere goal could be considered a blessing. After all, the type of thing that would usually be treated as his main goal would be something that could threaten Earth.
Not having an obvious threat of that caliber was a positive thing for the world. It just complicated Randidly’s course of action immensely. Options taken would mean other objectives unaddressed, resulting in consequences.
Randidly thought idly. That was the word that he couldn’t get away from. His Crown hummed in sympathy.
But Randidly quickly refocused himself as he took in several deep breaths to calm down his overtaxed mind.
First I’ll plant the seeds here in Donnyton by showing them the direction in which they need to improve. Then I’ll handle this Judgement, and use any time leftover before the First Calamity arrives to work on Engraving and metallurgy.
Yet that wasn’t all. Randidly’s head went up and pressed against his right temple.
…But that also I need to leave time to work on more Danger Zones and keeping the people of my Soulskill happy…
… the political situation with Donnyton and the other Zones…
…Need to keep an eye on the Ogre Gorge too…
….plus there was the warning about someone from the System interfering with my Judgement…
Very quickly Randidly was scowling at the ceiling of his hut. His eyes flicked open in annoyance. After releasing a breath, Randidly did his best to let go of all of his worries. Instead, he simply lay with his eyes closed and sank into darkness.
There he found the familiar prison, which was the location where his images took that definitive leap forward to the realm of Pontiff. Being there was almost nostalgic, even if this prison was just one of his own making. This place would always symbolize something close to rebirth or evolution. That was how changed Randidly had felt after emerging.
The inky blackness was familiar and welcoming. Without senses, all that remained was images. So Randidly stewed in the darkness until the images came rising out of his chest to fill the air around him. Many of these so-called “images” that emerged were actually just snippets from his fight with the Nemesai or from his training today in spear styles.
Randidly continued waiting. The images that were the first to flee out of his mind to the surrounding world began to warp and bleed into one another. Soon the color was sucked out of them and they were slowly devoured by the darkness.
Very quickly, it was like those images had never existed at all. No mark remained to prove their existence. Still, Randidly waited, alone in the darkness.
Next came Helen, of all people. Scorched and lightly wounded, she held a spear aloft and glared into the middle distance like she was staring down a dictator. She was provocative and proud, confident against all comers. Hers was the type of beauty of capability that refused to be ignored.
Chuckling, Randidly let that image pass too. What had been between them… it had passed due to his actions. When Randidly had won that duel in the under 25 Tournament, he was forced to face the realization that he was moving on to participate in a higher realm.
Therefore, a romance between them…
Randidly sighed and soaked in the tepid darkness.
His core images were slow to emerge, so Randidly’s mind wandered. The throbbing pain in his head slowly departed, gifting him with renewed clarity and understanding.
Aside from his encounter with Helen almost… hell, was it two years ago now? Randidly had largely gone without any sort of romantic interest. There was the initial thing with Lyra, but that swiftly gave way to suspicion as Lyra chose to ally herself with the Creature. Therefore, Randidly had been alone for quite a long time.
Maybe these powerful images have a cost,
Randidly thought bleakly.
With them, my ability to feel something like passion has…
Luckily, the thought seemed to summon the images that he was waiting for, right before Randidly was prepared to finally examine the growing loneliness in his chest.
But right on cue, the skeletal Spear Phantom appeared, strolling out to join Randidly in the darkness. The skeleton smiled at Randidly, or tried to. But its jaw bone clacked awkwardly against its skull. Randidly watched impassively.
It’s not just you that I need. To handle the image part of this, you will both need to work together.
The air in the darkness began to taste sour as a burning ember appeared next to the spear phantom. Ash flaked away, falling like flower petals from tall trees in spring. They burned briefly and brightly in the darkness, adding some small illumination to the room of images. But Randidly didn’t bother to look around. His eyes remained fixed on the two images as the slowly drifted closer to each other.
The distance continued to shrink until there was only a meter or two between the images. Electricity crackled and spat, conjured from the edges of the images rubbing against each other. Instantly Randidly felt the strain of keeping both images coexisting near each other. Because they weren’t related, they instantly began to wear at the fabric of each other.
Grimacing, Randidly redoubled his efforts to find a way for the two images to coexist in the same spot. If he could combine his two most offensive images…!
Yet at one meters distance, the smoldering piece of ash had started to glow with a blinding light and the spear phantom had begun to clack its jaw constantly. Both seemed like a warning, although Randidly couldn’t tell if it was to him or to each other.
Either way, Randidly let the pressure drop and sighed. His eyelids flickered for a second before he could leap from the deep darkness of the prison to his hut once more. The brown wooden walls looked surprisingly drab after the vivid world of images. Sitting up slowly, Randidly took stock of the situation.
At the very least, his head felt much better than it had previously. A lot of the strain had worn off. But Randidly could tell it would come back quickly if he pushed himself right now. Randidly’s smile was sardonic; he had gained quite a few Levels in Visualization and in the two spear based Skillsets, but he had made no progress on his actual goal.
As such, Randidly couldn’t help but be disappointed. It wasn’t like he could miss either of the two unities, either. Both were necessary. He needed his Skills to be complimentary so they could be used together. And the images needed to be united so he could shift between them quickly.
Missing either of those prerequisites would be enough to sink this plan altogether and make it a rather large waste of time.
Shaking his head, Randidly stood and stretched. His shoulder popped lightly and his back cracked in a very satisfying manner. Then he calmly strolled over to his workbench for Mana Engraving.
Randidly had a strange idea, as he lay in the darkness waiting for his images to arrive earlier. What if he could unite Mana Engraving with one of his images? To empower his ability to engrave without relying on Mana. And also give him some assistance in the finer details of Engraving.
Likely either Yggdrasil or Ignition Essence would work, but Randidly was leaning toward Yggdrasil. It made sense that the emerald energy would be the one to actually inscribe the engravings, but then Randidly had this image that the entirety of the World Tree was covered in extremely small, golden engravings that-
Randidly paused and looked up from his work. Then his face split into a grin.
Sam was early.
By the time Randidly had washed his face and walked out of his hut, Sam had made it up to the hill and was waiting. This time, Sam’s smile was filled with easy confidence. “I’m early, but more practice is better. Here, there are four pieces. One for each of the Blessings you gave out to us.”
With a flourish, Sam produced a box. That set Randidly to chuckling; it seemed like Sam was in quite a good mood. Then his attention turned to the lovely oak box. It only took a touch with Grasp of the World Seed to reach into the wood of the box and ease it open to reveal the pieces of equipment laying within.
As promised, there were four pieces of equipment. The first looked like a white grey hoop of charcoal. The second “piece” was two gloves made out of spider silk with a long, draping sleeve. The third item was a belt that burned golden, even in the afternoon light.
The final item looked like a pair of greaves that spread down from just above the knee to the top of the foot but left the bottom bare. The metal was the color of moonlight and several long blades ran along the side of the leg equipment.
Randidly’s eyes scanned back and forth. The gloves were Mrs. Hamilton’s Blessing and the belt Sam’s. That meant… the greaves were Annie’s, and the hoop Alana’s…
Sam’s eyebrow quirked up. “Something wrong?”
“I don’t know which to examine first,” Randidly said. Despite the fact that he hadn’t actually seen the stats for any of them, this equipment already felt very different from the formless blob that Sam had presented with him previously. Each of these was a piece of something.
Each of these pieces of armor had a story woven into them. And for that… they were powerful.
Snorting, Sam waved a hand. “Fool, this is not such a magical thing. Just pick any. And if you insist on being troublesome… why not start from the top?”
With a small smile, Randidly reached out toward the hoop of charcoal. Upon closer inspection, it was clear that there were some reinforcement struts on the sides. Rather than a hoop, it was a piece of defensive equipment that would wrap around the head and provide vital defense for the brain.
Mostly a hoop,
Randidly thought with amusement.
But with some other bits thrown on for good measure…
Ancestral Circlet of the Broken Ridge (A) Lvl 69: A defensive equipment of the highest quality, worn by a legendary warlord. With his strength, the warlord was able to unify the entire surrounding area and ruled for one hundred years. It was not until his death that his empire fractured into pieces and his treasures were lost. Even now, descendants of his loyal valkyries wander the plateau, seeking a sign that the Warlord’s successor has come. Health +300. Vitality and Endurance +20. Without Flinching IV. Warlord’s Knack III. Heritage of the Broken RIdge V.
Without Flinching IV: Many called the Warlord a fool when his only defensive equipment for his head was a few pieces of a strange, charcoal-like metal that wrapped around the forehead and temples. Yet not even God can argue with results. The Warlord didn’t look away, even at the end. Resistance +40.
Warlord’s Knack III: Although the defensive bonuses aren’t anywhere near that of a true helmet, the Warlord made up for that by having a sense for ambushes and sneak attacks. While wearing the Circlet, Perception +20.
Heritage of the Broken Ridge V: As this was one of the core items used by the Warlord, to wear this circlet is to inherit a fraction of his will. As such, Paths will open to you that were previously closed. Strength, Agility, Reaction, and Willpower +25.
Randidly slowly blinked. Three hundred Health? Two hundred Stats?
And this was just the first of four equipment?!?