Narrating a Web Novel – The Legend of Randidly Ghosthound chp’s 171 to 175

The Legend of Randidly GhostHound Chapter 171 Helen stood over the small stream, looking
at her body’s reflection in the clear water. Always, her mother had pushed her into taking
care of herself, encouraging her to exercise in order to sculpt herself in certain ways,
push her chest up, her hips out. Use oils and stretches to make her skin soft,
her body supple. There were certain tangible benefits to her
spear usage due to her mother’s influence, specifically her 3 movements that someone
who hadn’t take such care of their body couldn’t hope to mirror. But as Helen slowly realized what was happening
that she was fattening like a pig in the more feminine areas, she grew to resent her life,
her mother, and what she saw as the path her family wanted for her. Still, she couldn’t work up the nerve to
directly contradict them, so she slowly subverted their efforts. She would not be a plump wife that was kept
at home. So she had gone above and beyond her mother’s
training regimen, until her body was almost impossibly elastic and strong. Helen never had the pure strength to rival
some of the other spear users, especially those from the family she served, but there
was a grace and control that she had over her body that allowed her to hold her own. She even attracted the attention of a traveling
Adept, who gave her some pointers on the training movements she used. From that, she was able to create an Uncommon
Rarity Skillset that was all her own. Helen wasn’t sure whether the interest was
actually due to her skill with a spear or the lewd way that old man had watched her
practice, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. In this case, the skill set was worth some
of the shit she had to sift through to get there. Although it annoyed her parents, her success
was such that she would not be just the wife of a leatherworker. But then her mother had begun to set her sights
higher. On the family of spear users that they served. There were even several lesser disciples that
had been interested. To buy herself time, Helen had asked for the
chance to enter the local qualifier, to test her skill. Her parents had assented, reluctantly, worried
but tempted by the possibilities for marriage that a high finish would bring their family. So Helen had traveled to Qtal, quite far from
her home, and the rest, was history. Now she stood there, looking at her reflection
in the water, her hands tracing the faint bruises on her shoulders and hips from the
Ghousthound last night. The fucking fool didn’t know his own strength. But she had invested enough in Endurance that
it hadn’t actually hurt, really. It was cute, in a way, how wild he had been. How out of control and vicious. Her reflection had a smile on its face. She didn’t hate that about him. “Why do you smile, desert flower?” Helen cleanly turned around, punched Teliph
in the gut, watched as his expression twisted into shock and he doubled over, and then sauntered
away. **** Randidly found Shal sitting around a small
fire, meditating. His master did not look up when he arrived,
so Randidly sat down and began to meditate as well. Ever since he woke up, he felt wonderfully
refreshed, and he wanted to hold onto this feeling for a while. So he didn’t supplement the meditation with
Root Control, but just sat there, allowing the energy within him to slowly gather. At the same time as he meditated, Randidly
revelled in the warm energies flowing up into him from the ground beneath him. In that moment, he truly felt in tune with
the natural world. The silence between them lasted a while, until
Shal slowly opened his eyes. “You… have overcome your fear? No… at the very least turned to face it. Heh. You are a much quicker learner than I was.” Almost sighing, Randidly nodded. It would be hard for him to come to terms
with the killing. But it was both something that was sometimes
necessary, and something that he would prefer not to do, especially if it was just for power. Even though without that power, he and the
people he cared about might also die. But the logic could not find an answer. There wasn’t an answer. He would need to face every situation as they
came, and find his answer. And of that, Randidly was not a afraid. “But, before you fight with the name of
the Spear Phantom Style… you must answer. What is the value of a life?” Shal’s tone remained low and harsh, and
his eyes seemed to bore into Randidly. Randidly took a breath, and then thought for
several seconds about it. Then he said, “A life… is worthy of respect. My own life is invaluable to me, as every
life is to the person it belongs to. To take it away… is a grave disservice,
and a heavy burden, and-” “Haha! Enough.” Shal said, shaking his head. “You are foolish, but at least you understand
it is much more than you can handle to bear the weight of another’s life. No need to bore me to sleep with platitudes. We leave in an hour. Prepare.” And just like that, it was over, with Shal
turning away and going to speak with the woman Artisan who came out of the prison and Marco. After some discussion, it seemed the woman
was ready to go her own way, and bowed to both Shal and Randidly before leaving. As they gathered supplies, Randidly found
himself face to face with Helen. Their eyes met. Randidly flushed, then opened his mouth to
say something, but Helen, stone faced, walked past him, whispering, “Don’t you say a
fucking word.” After Randidly had recovered from his jaw
dropping, he shook his head and smiled. He supposed that was for a best. It wasn’t until after that he had realized
how much he had needed that, as an outlet to relax and release aggression. In a way… it wasn’t personal, he supposed,
so it would be silly to expect it to be anything else. Besides, he didn’t feel feelings, he thought,
just… a powerful, animal attraction to her body. So it would be pointless to push the issue. Better to just let it pass. After they packed, they loped forward, running
to Qtal. They were going to stay in Qtal for a short
period, before proceeding to the Northern Region capital, Deardun, in a few days. Which would give Randidly time to give Claptrap
some of the Engravings he had been working on during his time in the Prison, and probably
experiment with a few related things. They made good time, and arrived at Qtal in
a few hours. Guided by a strange instinct, Divvit led the
way, moving towards his boat as if by sixth sense. They swiftly came upon it, only to find that
it had somehow been taken over by a merchant, who had gaudy decorations and torches everywhere,
making it look like a walking funhouse. As if not the least bothered by the fact that
someone else was in his home, Divvet walked onto the boat and stomped his feet twice. “The one who dares lay claim to this boat…
come, raise your Tassle so I might sink it into the depths of the sea.” Divvet’s words echoed, and several figures
appeared on nearby boats, whispering to each other. But no one came from this boat’s interior. Divvet’s face darkened. So they, almost wordlessly, began to toss
all the shit that someone had taken great care to set up on the boat, right into the
sea. There were even some valuable seeming equipment
and materials, But under Divvet’s furious eye, no one dared to take any of it for themselves. There seemed to be some dishonor associated
with what was happening, here, so Randidly simply followed the lead of others and threw
everything into the sea. Such was the value of the items that some
people from nearby boats dived into the water and began to grab some of them, but Divvet
sneered down at them, and began dumping more stuff down onto those people. “If they fucking want this trash, let’s
help them drown in it,” Divvet said, and the spear attendants jumped to it with alacrity. Mostly, Helen began to throw heavy items down
at the swimmers very effectively. At one point she seemed to knock a flailing
woman unconscious, who then had to be rescued by another swimmer. Rather pleased with the situation, Divvet
gave Helen a pat on the back. Shal beckoned Randidly over as the game continued
with enthusiasm. “This is one of the rare times I shall say
this, but rest. Once the fights start in Deardun, they will
not stop for a week. You must prepare provisions and materials
to last you at least that long. Be thorough. The competition…. is difficult to survive.” With that rather confusing tidbit, Randidly
walked down into his old cabin, which was filled with barrels. After moving them all up to the deck, he settled
into the small wooden room, and began to breath. Then he grimaced. It was… strange being here. His Golden Roots of Yggdrasil couldn’t reach
up through the water, so he felt oddly tired all of the time. Still, it seemed that Deardun was on the continent,
so at least there wouldn’t be that problem during the tournament. Randidly carefully removed his last remaining
bracer that was Engraved with a Shadow Rune with over 60% efficacy. He looked at it for a long time, frowning. It was true that he knew that there would
be problems with the Engraving Guilds, but that the small time nature of the things that
he was doing would probably mean their response would be too slow to catch him before he went
back to his own Cohort. But the Shadow Rune was possibly different. Some of the effects from it… And this was even the most basic version of
the Shadow Rune. So Randidly made the decision not to share
his ability to produce the Shadow Rune with Claptrap. It was likely for the best. Besides, considering the new varieties of
Runes that Randidly had obtained, he didn’t think that Claptrap would have any complaints. Randidly began to consider 4 specific ones. The Gazelle, which added Agility and Perception. The Ox, which gave Vitality and Endurance. The Dolphin, which produced Intelligence and
Control. And The Preying Mantis, which would assist
in Willpower and Focus. With these 4, in addition to Bear, Fish, and
Dragonfly, he could cover a lot of types of stats at once. But before he actually began to Engrave, Randidly
read some of the technical guide left to him by the Willow Tree Spear Style matriarch. The knowledge was pointlessly obtuse, it seemed
to Randidly, but he pressed forward, feeling absurdly like he was studying. He had been able to read some during his time
in prison, and as he pressed forward then, he was able to finish the first volume of
the set. He didn’t feel any different, but he definitely
knew a lot more about how to layer energy in deep curves, and how it assisted the efficacy
of the Engraving. Then, after he finished, Randidly snapped
the book shut and checked the time. It had almost been 24 hours since he used
Inspire, so he would have access to his mana once again soon. So he walked up towards the deck, to Engrave. After all, the soft rain of the Weeping Cloud
was part of his process now. It was a part of what was necessary. End of Chapter The Legend of Randidly GhostHound Chapter 172 Randidly got up to the deck and went to the
far side, keeping as much space between him and the crazy ones throwing armor at people
swimming in the water. Around 30 minutes later, as they continued
dumping items, something inside of him relaxed, and mana began to pool within him once more. After a time, he wiggled his fingers and felt
the 1000 mana leave him for Weeping Cloud. Then he sat cross legged and began to Engrave. Using the greaves, because that was what he
had the most of remaining, Randidly tried each of the 4 new runes. It wasn’t a long process, as his control
and efficiency in manipulating the mana within himself had improved overmuch, which Randidly
believed to be a product of his leveled Battle Intent. Something about that mental weapon carried
over to Engraving, and he was able to do it much more efficiently. Although this was just his first time for
each of them, all came out with an efficacy in the high 30s. Which was disappointing in a way, because
they had very little value to Randidly below 40, but he supposed he shouldn’t be too
put off. His first attempt all that time ago had turned
out below 20. And each additional point could only be earned
by the weight of repetition and experience, as his understanding of Engraving grew. Almost as a warm up, the next Engraving that
Randidly did was a Shadow V. To his delight, it reached a 67% efficacy, which was his highest
ever with that rune. He could feel himself progressing on understanding
the method for smoothing and filling the energy in a way that made him slightly excited. His mind was still so clear, and he focused
it to a razor edge. Now was the time. After breathing and steadying himself, Randidly
began to Engrave, much more carefully and thoroughly than he had done with the previous
Engravings. Not because he wasn’t taking them seriously,
but because… he honestly didn’t understand the nuances in those runes yet. It was impossible for him to tell which portions
were important to emphasize. That was why Engraving was such a tedious
process. The important areas in the runes were different. Sometimes attention should be given to the
swirls and curves, making sure they are smooth. Sometimes what you needed to do was focus
on the straight stretches, making them immaculate. Sometimes the extra effort should go towards
places where the lines cross, ensuring that energy at that location was exceedingly deep. There were a million small details that couldn’t
truly be learned through the manuals, but they would make the information retention
much easier. No, the foundation had to be made through
effort and repetition. And in terms of Engraving, for Randidly, the
Dragonfly symbol was the one with which he was most familiar. So as the rain fell on his skin, prickling
like tiny chilled needles, he calmly and evenly Engraved a Dragonfly onto a bracer. Almost instinctively, his breathing became
extremely even and slow, to the point where a normal human would have suffocated. But for Randidly, with his exceedingly high
Vitality, it wasn’t even something that he would notice in such a short period. Even though he took his time, the Engraving
was finished in 15 minutes, and he held the completed work up for his examined by his
animated expectation, a spark of excitement in Randidly’s heart. Apprentice’s Leather Bracer Lvl 25: Leather
armor worked by an Apprentice, but made with poor materials. Vit +2, Health +26. Rain Engraved II. Engraving of Dragonfly 80% ®: The wind seems
to move with the wearer, aiding in both offensive and defensive speed. A thin layer of air is wrapped around the
wearer, protecting them like an armor. Wearer gains Aspect of Dragonfly III. Aspect of Dragonfly III: Reaction +7, Agility
+10 Rain Engraved II: The Engraver has developed
his own basic personal process of Engraving, and benefits begin to accrue within the armor. Mana +15, Focus +3. The bracer seemed small and worn, but to Randidly,
it was the culmination of two long years of effort. Engraving might be a support skill, but he
would never have been able to prepare so many potion materials without the money he earned
from it. Let alone breaking out of the Prison, even
freeing Shal would have been impossible without the Shadow rune, and the benefits that it
provided to him. Randidly made a mental note that the debt
that he owed the Willow Tree Spear Style was even larger than he thought, and carefully
placed the newfound bracer into his inventory. Although he would make his own armor soon,
Randidly was confident now that he could repeat this accomplishment. Seeing that the rest were still occupied with
the material dumping, Randidly informed a frowning Divveltian of his plan and then headed
out across the nearby boats, heading for Claptrap’s boat. It was a rather short trip, and when he arrived,
Randidly hesitated briefly, because it was clear that Claptrap was meeting with someone
else. He honestly didn’t really know what to do
about it. But Randidly’s natural social awkwardness
had been greatly ground down by his two years in the prison, training, so Randidly just
shrugged and pushed through the door. Both the figures looked up at him, the figures
being Claptrap with his rather skinny-fat body and a rather slim man who wore a smile
on his face. When Randidly entered, Claptrap’s eyes widened
and his smile stretched from ear to ear. “You’re still alive!” He squeaked, running over to Randidly and
giving him a large hug. Randidly awkwardly patted him on the back. Sure, they were kinda business partners, but
this level of affection seemed a bit… insane. Maybe Claptrap was more emotionally needy
than Randidly had originally anticipated…? The smiling man laughed and walked over. “Ah, you are the wonderful Engraver who
has so helped my Style. I am Artisan Dwei, of the Crashing Wave Style. Claptrap was just assuring me that you would
arrive with the new batch of armor any day now.” Randidly’s eyes twitched almost imperceptibly. Was there a hint of a threat there…? Randidly wasn’t sure of what the man’s
actual strength was, but he was an Artisan, which made him wary. Again, all the people inside of the prison
at the Artisan level had been stronger than Randidly, but they had been there, training
through constant combat for dozens of years as they served out their various sentences. Still, with access to dungeons, who knew how
much this man had trained- Then Randidly shook his head, banishing the
thoughts, and shook Artisan Dwei’s hand. It was better to not make more trouble than
he had to deal with, especially now. “Yes, here.” Randidly unceremoniously dumped the 300 or
so Engraved armors on the ground, careful to keep his few Shadow rune attempts to himself. Still, there were quite of bit of each kind,
with most being over 60% efficacy. His eyes glittering, Artisan Dwei stepped
forward and began to check them all. Claptrap sprinted over with a ledger, his
eyes glittering, drool coming out of his mouth, and Randidly hesitated for a second, but grabbed
his arm. Then, with a flourish, Randidly produced his
80% efficacy bracer and offered it to Claptrap. Perhaps this level of efficacy would cause
problems for them, the same way the Shadow Rune would, but Randidly figured that while
the efficacy problem might be more of an issue, it didn’t have much more room to grow. As long as the rune was still relatively basic,
the Engraving Guilds would likely respond, but take their time doing so. A rune on the level of the Shadow Rune might
draw undue attention much faster. “Oh. Oh oh oh.” Claptrap said, his face flushing red. His hands trembled reverently as he looked
down at the thing. It might seem like a small boost; after all,
the 60% bracers usually gave somewhere between 10 and 14 extra stats, while this gave 20,
plus the extra mana. But the two highest stats were very relevant
to the combat focused nation that they were a part of. In addition, to get an extra 10 stats from
only a single piece of armor… It was an accomplishment that people were
willing to pay money for. Money on the order of a few hundred Silver. Randidly leaned back, slightly reassured by
the fervor and enthusiasm with which Claptrap entered into negotiations with Artisan Dwei
for the bracer. They quickly outstripped their previous cost
structure, and began talking in a very direct way about values and what markets Claptrap
would have for have for such a powerful piece of Engraving apart from the Crashing Wave
Style. Randidly didn’t really care very much for
the money, aside from providing for his potion making, which he expected to be very generously
overshooting right now, so he said very little, aside from informing the two others that he
could now make the Gazelle, Oxen, Dolphin, and Preying Mantis Runes. Artisan Dwei finally battered down Claptrap,
and they settled on a price, and they worked out what the Crashing Wave Style would want
for their next order. Then Artisan Dwei turned to Randidly. “It is a strange thing… but over 80% efficacy,
there is the chance that some pieces will have… an extra ability. We will pay… very heavily for those pieces. If you continue to improve, I’m sure you
will find that ability.” Then Artisan Dwei stored the equipment, handed
over his money, and prepared to go. During that time, Randidly turned to Claptrap. “Were you able to learn anything about the
Spear Phantom Style?” Claptrap flushed, then shook his head. “I asked around to a few people, but… I’m honestly not very popular around here,
so-” “I know that story.” Artisan Dwei said, his typical smile fading
away. He looked seriously at Randidly. “Would you like to hear about the founder
of your Style? It is not a pretty story.” Randidly shrugged. “Life is not a pretty place.” Artisan Dwei chuckled, and then walked over
to a small table in the corner. After Claptrap had brought them all a glass
of wine, the Artisan began to speak. End of Chapter The Legend of Randidly GhostHound Chapter 173 “I heard this story from the current patriarch
of the Crashing Wave Style, which is an offshoot of the Endless Sea Style, based in the Capital
of the Central Region. He told me that for a long time, before more
information came out… Shal was widely idolized by the young elites
in the Capital for his heroism in defeating the Devourer. But by the end… they just ignored him, like
everyone else. Still, that comes later. First and most importantly, there was a man
who would become the Spear Phantom, Aemont. Because Shal’s story is only a small part
of following in the footsteps of his father. “No one really knew Aemont’s family, but
he enrolled in a small, two-bit Style, and worked hard to learn it. So hard that the people around him were shocked. After all, this was the Capital of the Central
Region. There were thousands of Styles fighting viciously
over the new recruits that came to the capital, seeking their fortune, putting their life
on the line with just their spear. Those that had talent and dedication would
go to the larger Styles. If this boy was here, and had such an excellent
work ethic, there could be only one explanation; he had no talent with the spear. “Which was true, in a way, Aemont was serious,
but clumsy. The Spear was not his weapon. But he did have two things very early on in
his career, while most others might train for years to obtain. Those were two skills: Battle Intent, and
the very amorphous Struggle. And Struggle Aemont did. “There were rivalries and duels, grand challenges
and tumultuous relationships, but for our purposes, going into that might be a bit tedious. It is enough to say that by the time he was
25, Aemont’s name was known throughout the Capital, although it was only whispered. After all, Aemont refused to participate in
the rather gaudy ‘Exhibitions’ hosted by the powerful and affluent Styles of the
Capital. He was a poor man, even then with his success
with the spear, and his Tassle was a threadbare, red piece that was so worn it almost seemed
to be grey. “But Aemont did fall in love, with a woman
who was one of the chosen disciples of the Endless Heat Style. Luckily for him, she liked him too. Slowly, this very poor man from a Style that
didn’t even have a skillset was hanging around a woman who would inherit an Ancient
Rarity Skill Set. At first the elders thought it was just children
playing around, and thought nothing of it; then the woman became pregnant. Now, the head elder at the time was furious,
but he knew the female disciple was a stubborn sort, so he had a genius idea. To set the terms of him being allowed into
the Style as an honorary disciple, to legitimize the relationship. “To set impossible terms. “So Aemont was brought before the elder,
and the elder told him the wonderful news about the pregnancy. Aemont, a normally stoic man, smiled like
he would be satisfied dying right there and then, if it came to it. Which was exactly what the Elder wanted. “Then the elder continued to explain that
there were some negative rumblings about Aemont and the female disciple from the other elders. That they weren’t a proper match, due to
their difference in social status. And as Aemont began to frown, the Elder told
the much younger man that he had an idea; perhaps if Aemont were to accomplish a seemingly
impossible task, the elder could help Aemont sway their feelings. If there was irrefutable proof of Aemont’s
abilities, even those stubborn elders would be able to do naught but give in. “‘What sort of task?’ Aemont asked, and the elder said, ‘well,
how about going to the frontlines and slaying a @90932njk2389?’” Randidly blinked, aware of how the words had
twisted midair and reverted briefly back to a language he couldn’t understand. He wondered what sort of secret the system
was trying to hide from him this time. Something from the frontlines, huh…? A war with who, Randidly wondered. But Artisan Dwei continued to speak, and his
words once more became understandable, so Randidly didn’t do anything other than file
the information away for later. “At first Aemont was dubious, but the Elder
shook his head sorrowfully, and asked if there was anything else Aemont could think of that
would be irrefutable proof of Aemont’s strength. Aemont could only remain silent. “The frontlines were much more active in
those days, and the @#%@#$kldsa; were lousy with @90932njk2389, so obtaining an opportunity
wouldn’t be difficult. What was difficult was the task. But Aemont had gotten this far by relying
on his two skills of Struggle, and Battle Intent, and this was no exception. Aemont went and spent a year at the frontlines,
despite the female disciple’s pleas. A year later, he returned. Older and stronger, and tired, but without
accomplishing his goal. “But now his resolve was set. He visited his now several month old son and
spent time with the woman he wanted to marry in front of the world. Then, after a week, he returned to the frontlines. To the Elder’s horror, the female disciple
was once more pregnant. Now it was extremely difficult for them to
ignore the relationship between the two of them, because two sons had been made, and
were staying in the Capital, on their property. But there was nothing they could do, all of
the younger disciples were enamored with the children, showering the babies with affection. “And there was the continued problem of
Aemont. By all accounts, he found and challenged @90932njk2389
to combat quite frequently. And although he was never able to slay one,
he did survive, which is more than most can say. He was formally enlisted and began to rise
within the army ranks. After his second year on the frontlines, Aemont
once more returned, and although he was covered in scars, his sons filled him with youthful
vigor. This time he remained for a month, meeting
and fraternizing with the young disciples, who were swept away by this powerful young
man with stories of the front lines. “But after that time, he was forced to leave. But not before kissing both the eldest son,
Pronto, and the younger son, Shal, on the forehead. Then he was off. “But Aemont did not return immediately to
the front line. He still possessed two open skill slots, and
planned on using one to learn a skill that could push him to the next level. For after all, even if he had the power of
an Artisan, without a skill with a powerful image, he would never be formally recognized
as an Artisan, and his potential would be greatly diminished. So he sought out a powerful individual who
could teach him a powerful skill. It is unknown who he found, but he came back
wielding the powerful skill Wrathful Sickle, which powerfully influenced his later images. “That year he did not return from the frontlines. Nor the following year. It was only 3 years later that he returned. But when he did come, it was with the head
of a @90932njk2389. “Of course, the Elders did not want Aemont
to be formally recognized, so they acted quickly while Aemont was arriving. Some took it upon themselves to cut off the
growth from the base; the female disciple was killed. Furious, Aemont gathered up his sons and fled,
leaving the central continent and heading to the north. Rumors say that Aemont walked out, carrying
his spear, burning with fury and the aura of death, while his elder son Pronto, carried
the much smaller Shal like a baby in his arms. “Strangely, no Elder came forward to admit
to causing the crime. In the aftermath, the Head Elder instituted
a brutal inquisition, at first secret, but then increasingly public as they could not
locate the culprit. The Endless Heat Style even formerly apologized
to Aemont, granting him an honorary discipleship for him and his sons. But it was too late; Aemont would never in
his life return to the Central Region “So Aemont settled in the Northern Region,
and seemed content to settle down and live a peaceful life. But two things nagged at him, refusing to
let him retire. First, the situation on the frontlines turned
sour. So sour that it was believed for a long time
that Central Region would finally commit a few Pontiff level Spear Users. Second… a string of strange deaths in the
surrounding area to Aemont, of monsters, livestock, and even other people, led him to believe
that the culprit behind his lover’s murder had followed them. But the culprit was a coward, and refused
to move while Aemont remained, protecting his sons. “For two years, as the condition on the
Frontlines deteriorated. Finally, seeming to break under the stress
of the realization strange antagonist wouldn’t strike while he was there, and his will eroded
by the pleas of his former comrades, Aemont made a decision; he would leave his sons under
the protection of some of his powerful friends he had made in the North, and return to the
frontlines in the Western Region. “Although they were only one year apart,
Pronto and Shal were very different in their development. Pronto was hale and healthy, seemingly developing
at an impossible rate. Meanwhile, Shal was weak and uncoordinated,
with the body of a toddler, even though he was almost 8 years old. So Shal was sent to a Style in the Northern
Region affiliated with the Endless Heat Style, where Aemont knew he would be cared for. Meanwhile, Pronto went to stay with the powerful
Haelthing, who would aid in his spear instruction while Shal was gone. “Years passed, and Aemont began to return
from the frontlines less and less. His sons grew, Shal seeming to finally settle
in and grow properly, becoming a talented, if mean tempered youth. Meanwhile, Pronto grew more and more wild
and powerful, his moods becoming… violent. And at the same time… there started to be
some very strange rumors going around about Haelthing. That there were numerous disappearances among
people traveling through the lands his Style controlled. That he was practicing a very forbidden sort
of magic there. “That he had become a Devourer, who consumed
the lives of others in order to refine pure Aether from them. Or, as the system refers to it, Haelthing
had become a Heretic.” Randidly blinked. “That’s… possible? Devouring someone else for Aether?” Artisan Dwei waved a hand. “Well, that is what the story says. At least the popular versions. Others have the Devourer doing other things,
but it all involved an evil magic transported here from one of the inner Cohorts. And it all involved sacrifice to power it.” End of Chapter The Legend of Randidly GhostHound Chapter 174 “So anyway, while his one son was slowly
being warped by exposure to the Devourer, and the other was growing up slowly, both
with a barely present father, Aemont continued to fight on the frontlines. And he won, and won, and won. Perhaps the story wouldn’t have ended so
tragically otherwise but… Aemont was a profoundly competent spear-user. With just the one skill, he was acknowledged
as reaching the Adept level, and given a promotion, and control over a larger group of men. “That was the worst fighting the front lines
had ever seen. And Aemont was the reaper who kept back the
hordes. But it wasn’t enough. We were still losing. At that point, the central region did demand
its powerful Styles send Pontiffs out, to push back the enemies. Because some of those sent to his area were
from the Endless Heat Style, Aemont took his long overdue break, returning to his sons. “He stopped briefly in to see Shal, and
the people there urged him to investigate Haelthing. There were deaths and disappearances, so much
so that Haelthing’s Style was almost destroyed, from fear and defections. Aemont’s face darkened, but he said nothing. Instead, he simply had a long talk with Shal. “Aemont stayed with Shal for several days,
giving him very specific pointers about spear use. Then Aemont went to see Healthing. It is not known what they exactly talked about,
but is rumored that although Aemont confront Haelthing, he was tempted and distracted. Even his son Pronto, whose mental illness
was growing increasingly noticeable, could not distract from the goal that consumed Aemont:
perhaps in his eyes, the army was his new family. And for that family, he needed strength. “So when Haelthing offered the use of his
isolation matrix, Aemont accepted. For 6 days he stayed within, meditating, and
when he emerged, he was a changed man. When he stepped out into the air, shrieking
ghost flowed around him. The spectre of death lingered in his shadow. The lightest touch of Aemont could steal away
one’s life from weak opponents. The years of fighting on the frontlines, watching
allies and enemies die in droves… it had paid dividends in a way. For Aemont had spent 6 days in that formation,
slowly refining the Aether that had embedded itself within him for 20 years. “He had become the Spear Phantom. “His return to the frontlines was as a walking
Catastrophe. He destroyed the resistance of the enemies
on the frontlines. Beneath the Pontiffs sent from the Central
Region, Aemont very quickly became the number 1 spear user on the Western front. “But he was recalled from the frontlines
by news that could pierce his martial heart; his son Pronto had fled from Haelthing’s
care, wounded and blubbering about evil skills and forbidden rites. So, with a heavy heart, Aemont returned. Pronto had fled to Shal’s caretakers, where
he refused to talk with anyone other than his family, preferring to lock himself in
his room, refusing to take visitors. When he arrived, Aemont interviewed both his
sons, for Shal had been the one to find Pronto in the wilderness, and heard the truth for
himself. Then he waited for Pronto to recover, and
because he was a strong young man in his own right at this point, the two of them then
went to the lair of the Devourer for vengeance. “Before he left, he gave to Shal a chest
and a book, which was all the belongings that Aemont owned, aside from a sizeable amount
of pay that was uncollected from the army, and formerly established the Spear Phantom
Style, naming his sons Pronto and Shal as his heirs. For a few weeks, he trained Shal in the Spear
Phantom Style, its moves and intricacies. Then he proceeded with the eldest son to disappear
off the face of the world. “The area around Haelthing’s lair grew
to be a zone forbidden for travel. Some local powers sent scouts in, but none
returned. Still, if one did not enter into the zone,
nothing happened. The zone was not spreading, and no monsters
wandered out of that area either. As the local powers were busy sending spear
users to reinforce the front lines, they opted to leave it alone for now, despite the danger. So the land was just avoided for 5 years. The only reason that 5 years ended was Shal;
he marched into the base and slaughtered Haelthing. Unfortunately, he found his father and brother
had already been slain. “Or at least, that is what people originally
thought, and why he was so widely heralded in the initial few years after he returned,
bearing the spear of Haelthing, the Devourer. But when experts went to investigate… they
discovered that it appeared that Haelthing had been dead for years, likely by the hand
of Aemont. There had been a great battle, sure, and there
was a body there, but it was so mutilated that it was impossible to tell who it was. And the body of Aemont, the war hero, was
also discovered, peaceful and undisturbed, as if he was simply taking a nap. It was like his very life had been stolen
from him. “So some of the accolades fell away from
Shal, for there were too many pieces missing from the story. And he refused to speak of the situation,
which didn’t help his reputation. He opted to remain in the Northern Region,
and he was barely seen training for 20 years, rather he was primarily seen just sitting,
brooding, remaining in Qtal as most of the previous family friends, due to his mother
and father, drifted away, fed up with his behavior. Even if people were initially skeptical of
what happened, a few duels he got into in fits of anger in the aftermath convinced them
that he was exceedingly powerful. But to then sit and brood for 20 years…? That was the actions of a weak willed man. Although his potential was great…. Everyone concluded it would all come to naught.” Artisan Dwei gave Randidly a meaningful look. “I am not sure why, but…it appears your
presence has awoken Shal from his slumber. But based on how things fell… all is not
resolved in his path. Be careful.” And then he left, leaving Randidly and Claptrap
alone. Claptrap sat back in his chair, almost glassy
eyed, his mouth forming a large O. “I can’t believe… wow….” Shrugging, Randidly stood. He thanked Claptrap, took some of the leather
armor that Claptrap had obtained while he was away, and returned to the boat. As Randidly strolled back, Randidly noticed
that he was being watched. And based on the crazy Battle Intent the other
was throwing off, it wasn’t with good intentions. Still, Randidly made it all the way back to
the boat with no incident, so perhaps he was being too paranoid. He had done that with Artisan Dwei too, immediately
assessing him as a threat, before anything else. Randidly grimaced. It was a habit he had developed in the prison,
which he would likely need to work on. Although being prepared to fight at anytime
was good, acting too ready for a fight would bring more fights to him. Although he had improved greatly, Randidly
was under no impression that he was unbeatable. Especially considering he had only been strong
enough to get into the Northeast area of the prison. The North and West were dominated by people
far above his skill level. But now that his Spear Mastery was barely
over a hundred, and the other skills had risen by about 20 each, hopefully Randidly would
be able to hold his own in the Regional Tournament. Shal had been very tight lipped about that
issue, simply giving him a scathing look when he had asked. So Randidly let it slide for now. Shal obviously wanted the top 8 as much as
Randidly did, probably more. He had wanted it enough to call him up to
this Cohort, which was quite dangerous. At the time, Randidly had been quite weak. From the talk around the camp, Randidly had
been able to gather that there were still monsters here, but that they often were much,
much stronger, and forced back to certain areas. If he had wandered into one of those places… When Randidly arrived at the boat, he found
someone else had beaten him there, and was standing there, with his hands on his hips,
yelling at the top of his lungs. “What is this!?!? How dare you touch my wares! You’ve doomed yourself. I will crush every little.” “Enough.” Divveltian said, his voice carrying a strange
weight to it, even though he was standing 5 meters away, at the edge of their ships
deck, and the yelling man was on another ship. When the vocal wave hit the small, portly
little merchant looking fellow, he froze, and then hiccuped. Randidly watched then, bemused, as the merchant
seemed unable to control his body, and began to twitch. The twitching became increasing violent, until
the merchant keeled over forward and fell in the water. Shaking his head at the idiocy, Randidly leapt
over back onto their boat. It seemed that the water had done some good,
because the fool resurfaced, but in addition to spluttering, he once more began yelling. “Yes, yes! Enjoy it now! You have no idea who I am. I’ll crush this little enterprise like bugs-
hrrkk!” The man’s head jerked backwards, as the
nameless male spear attendant managed to hit the drowning merchant in the head with a bar
of iron. As the merchant began to bob unsteadily, looking
ready to pass out and really die, Divveltian walked over to the male spear attendant and
clapped him on the back. “To think I had written you off as a talentless
retainer…! Boy, never give up your dreams!” “What do you mean, talentless retainer?” The male spear attendant asked, frowning. By this point, Helen and Teliph had walked
over to him as well. “When I first met you, I directly assessed
you as no threat to me.” Teliph said with relish. Then he sighed dramatically. “But to think your manipulation of garbage
had progressed to such a degree….” “Wait-” Helen interrupted him before he could get
a word in edgewise. “Even I am intimidated at your talent as
a merchant. If I had a daughter of marriage age with some
sort of physical handicap, I would gladly offer her body to you and know she would be
well cared for, if physically unfulfilled.” “You-!!” The male spear attendant’s face hand gone
completely red, and he stepped forward and stabbed towards Helen with his spear. She chortled and twisted, spinning around
the attack and past the male spear attendant. Then she kicked the back of his knees, knocking
him off his feet. “You are as graceful as a fucking heart
attack. Learn to read the mood, asshole.” She said teasingly. Teliph and Divveltian laughed. Although the corners of Randidly’s mouth
twitched upwards, he kept his eyes on the man in the water, who was being fished out
by some servants. It was a hard, habit to break, the calculating- “Fool disciple. Will you simply moon about all day? Come, there is more training to do.” Shal rumbled, his voice coming up from below. Sighing. Randidly turned and trotted into the belly
of the ship. But of course, Shal was right. There was always more training to do. End of Chapter The Legend of Randidly GhostHound Chapter 175 After mocking the male spear attendant for
a while more, Helen moved off to the side. There had been a strange feeling when she
had dodged his attack. A fluidity and grace that almost seemed like
a movement similar to the three she already had. Then she smiled at her own foolishness. To inexplicably have inspiration, now? After she had already improved so much in
such a short amount of time. A 4th movement would be too much to ask. But if she could parlay this into fucking
raising her skill level even further… The performance of Randidly and the other
two at the Qualifier had proven to Helen that while she might be able to hold her own against
them for a while, those individuals were cut from a different cloth. Whether it was pedigree, or the support of
a powerful style, or an impossibly powerful skill… Or the determination and willpower that made
one’s eyes absolutely burn like green emeralds, even in the darkness, even in the face of
despair… Then Helen grimaced. God, she hated how fucking sappy she was getting
lately. After a single night with a man. An enjoyable night, sure. But still. Just one night. Although she had been tempted several nights
since. But Randidly hadn’t done anything but make
moony eyes at her ever since and scratch his head, and she would be DAMNED if she was the
first one to bring it up. If he wanted something, he could man the fuck
up and say it. So Helen distracted herself by moving through
her three movements. And once again, taking her greatly by surprised,
she gained skills levels. A lot. 7 in 4 hours of work, especially in the third
movement, which was the most offensive of the three movements. Helen let her form drop, and she stared solemnly
at her spear. Before coming here, she would never believe
the sort of results she was receiving, seemingly just by being around these training obsessed
idiots. Even that worthless male spear attendant swiftly
got over his humiliation from earlier and was now training, although he took the time
to shoot glares at her. When he thought she wasn’t looking of course. But that was just how Helen wanted it. Too many looks and he would be too dumb to
even deal with. Too few and there wouldn’t be enough spirit
within him to enjoy crushing. This was the perfect balance. Still, Helen knew why he threw himself into
training so viciously. Unlike Helen, and likely everyone, even the
strange new arrival Teliph, the nameless spear attendant didn’t possess a Skill Set. Although this was a small thing, it determined
a spear users future. It was a pretty accurate barometer of their
future potential. A person with a skillset could grow much,
much more quickly than one without. The rarity of the Skill Set was important,
but it was almost a bonus. A higher rarity skill set would increase the
power of the skill, but make it more difficult to level, and make the image perhaps more
unwieldy. Although a Common rarity skillset would be
laughed at in terms of power, it would still be a skill set, and the image would be quick
and easy. The growth speed would be fast. If one still had a choice between a 3 skill
Uncommon Rarity Skill Set and a 4 skill Common Rarity Skill Set, many would go with the Common
Rarity. It just made sense, in terms of a person’s
future potential. After all, a Skill Set was technically only
one skill in the eyes of the system. Spear users had been abusing this for generations
to make an aristocracy among their youth, where as many skills as possible were Skill
Sets, giving them that much of an advantage over everyone else. Not only were there path benefits, but the
flexibility of the elites was a level higher than the average spear user. They had skill slots to spare for things like
resistances and passive skills. Which was why Randidly tempted her, in terms
of sources of genetics for her offspring. Helen slowly repeated the phrase pounded into
her head by her own mother. “A skill from the mother… a path from
the father.” Then Helen pursed her lips. Of course, the results were fucking random,
and limited by prerequisites and the like. But typically, a child would be born with
an innate skill from her mother, and have access to a path from her father. The skill would be direct inheritance; the
child received a skill that the mother had. Which was why Helen had been innately talented
in terms of Leatherworking from a young age, and obtained access to related paths way ahead
of her peers. She of course, took great joy in refusing
to invest PP in those paths, and squandering her once-in-a-generation potential. Her mother’s disappointment was the sweetest
nectar, and her father’s fury was how she learned to behave. Which is why it made sense when she obtained
the Building Fury Path on her 15th birthday. Which had proven to be a much more useful
and fruitful investment, Helen believed. It certainly had fucking made kicking the
asses of all the handsy leatherworking boys much more attainable. She wondered what sort of skill a child would
be likely to inherit from her. Ideally it would be the Skill Set, but anecdotally,
that was incredibly uncommon. Although the Skill Set counted as one skill
for the purposes of the class skill limit, each skill also counted individually, as well
as the Skill Set seeming to have an even lesser chance of appearing. Still, any of the 3 movements that Helen had
would be a fucking blessing to a child. More so than Leatherworking. Even by the time the child was ready to get
the spear-user class… their mastery over the Skill would lead to
future accomplishments. More power early meant more opportunities,
more dungeons, more pure Aether from which to focus on your own image… it was a cycle
that reinforced itself. But really, what Helen wanted to know was
completely unrelated to her. What sort of path would having Randidly as
a father open for a child…? **** Shal sat in meditation, watching as his disciple
gritted his teeth and read from the diary of Shal’s father. Shal knew in his heart he hadn’t been fair
to Randidly as they left the prison. The killing of the guard was unnecessary…
but made sense, given what Shal had been teaching him about life. Given that Shal had okayed the battling and
sometimes killing of those inside the prison. Given that Shal had encouraged Randidly to
kill the guard originally in order to earn themselves a berth in prison. Those had been necessary, in Shal’s mind,
in order for them to go down this path. For at his core, Shal knew the truth. Shal did not fear that Randidly was becoming
like his father. Shal feared that he, himself, was making that
transition. A man who viewed his children and lessers
simply as tools. For he remembered something said to him a
long time ago, in one of the brief times that Shal had seen his father after he had become
the Spear Phantom. It was one of the last times he saw him, leading
up to Shal’s father’s trip to see the Devourer. “Why did you let him get like this?” Shal asked, tears in his eyes, wringing his
12 year old hands. Slowly, Shal’s father turned and regarded
Shal. Then, to Shal’s surprise, the most unrelenting
and stiff man Shal knew sighed. The cruelty and the powerful aura of death
that the man carried with him vanished them, if just for a moment. And he said, “It is easier to walk down
the path of strength first, and then worry about integrity later, only once you have
the power to defend it.” That Shal found himself encouraging Randidly
down a similar path 50 years later disgusted him. But there was a fire in his chest that he
couldn’t put out. And it had a name. Lucrecia. His disciple gasped and dropped the diary. Calmly waiting, Shal watched as Randidly groaned,
stretched, walked around a bit, then sat back down with the diary. Continuing along with Shal’s ridiculous
request of keeping with just the 1st and 5th entry. The proper way would have been slowly immersing
in the different Battle Intents for the 6 moves, one at a time, slowly building up a
familiarity with the Style, and hopefully mastering them all someday. But Shal had tried that path. When he trained in the moves of the Spear
Phantom, he slowly pushed himself deeper and deeper, focusing on his foundation. And of course, that didn’t turn out well
enough to be proud of. He had only managed to master 4 of the 6 moves. What was perhaps even more frustrating about
the whole ordeal was that those 4 stances were enough to absolutely dominate those below
the Adept level. The sheer overwhelming power of the image
that his father had created was ridiculous. And so very different than the father Shal
remembered growing up with. Even then there was a darkness to him, but
it manifested itself as a tiredness, not as the vicious, unrelenting authoritarian that
he became in later years, even as he was rarely around. In fact, Shal had only received one week of
instruction in the Phantom Spear Style from his father, in real time. Some of that had been stretched through dungeon,
but only up to a month. Perhaps if he had more, he could glean some
secret, some trick or insight, that would allow him access to all 6 moves. For all of this was for revenge. Partially against his father, perhaps even
a sliver of revenge against his brother Pronto, but most of all, revenge against the woman
who set them on that tragic path. Lucrecia. This was Shal’s gamble with Randidly. On the one hand, Shal hoped that Randidly
would really be able to master the Phantom’s Embrace. That would increase his disciple’s chances
of surviving in the tournament to almost assured. It was, however, his disciple, and there was
always a chance he would fuck it up. But the real goal was not to increase his
disciple’s strength, but to see if building a bridge without the foundation is possible. If that was true… Shal’s eyes burned. The third eye, lodged in his forehead, stirred. If that was true, Shal would skip the 5th
and proceed to the 6th, the Breath of the Spear Phantom. End of Chapter

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