Randidly hummed in pleasure as he walked back toward the exit of the Dungeon with the limping group of the Order Ducis behind him. They drifted behind him like silent, listless ghosts. Currently, he was suppressing the strong urge to smile fondly back over them because they reminded him so much of how shell shocked and unresponsive he had been after some of Shal’s more intense training sessions. To see them now like this… it certainly brought back memories of simpler times.
But recalling those same simpler times made Randidly’s good mood diminish somewhat.
I did bear quite a few scars from those rough experiences, but I should have been a gentler hand than Shal had been. But also… now the entirety of Tellus is moving to face the Fourth Calamity. There’s no telling what that means. So Shal…
We both knew that him stepping through the portal to face the System’s challenge was dangerous, but if that ends up being the last time we speak to each other…
After leaving the Dungeon, the empty and soulless bodies of the Order Ducis applicants were blown away by a stiff breeze. Yet as they fled back toward their training compound for their meal, Randidly’s eyes crinkled up at the corner.
You might think that compound is a safe haven now… but how long will it be until you fondly remember your time with me in the Dungeon, I wonder…?
Randidly spoke briefly to Naffur to inform him that Helen should be waiting back at the training compound. In addition, he provided a brief explanation about the areas that Wendy predicted would be ‘definitely safe’ as the area became mobile and the areas that Wendy thought ‘should be safe’ based on the geological information they had obtained. Although the System definitely made individuals more powerful, the whole of the Erickson Steel compound weighed thousands of tons.
It would be a bit of a buzz kill if a portion cracked and fell off, leaving the people who had been present on it reduced to a paste.
After all, the plan for the moving city called for a series of heavy steel girders underneath the area woven into a basket-like shape, because it was too difficult to make an entire solid surface underneath the area without affecting the buildings that were already situated above. Honestly, even Randidly was nervous for the initial movements of the project he had spent so much time working on over the past year of Dungeon time.
In terms of image, Engraving, and materials, he had exhausted himself for this. And now it was finally coming together.
But once the compound was finally lifted off the ground, they would know rather quickly whether their preparations had been sufficient to handle the weight. Wendy had driven herself half-mad with calculations and simulations, but still…
I hadn’t realized just how big of a thing I was doing, by just imagining it, working on the images, and gathering the resources,
Randidly reflected as he moved off into the wild and untamed land that lay to the West of Erickson Steel.
But then, when I went through the hassle of actually Engraving something that big…
The Engraving itself hadn’t been
difficult; Randidly had refined and perfected both the pattern and the image in the prior few days. But the actual work of going across all of the steel beams, the different facilities, the engine room, the innumerable smaller legs, the four larger legs…
Over the course of the morning, Randidly had spent six and a half hours just tracing the pattern over and over again, maintaining a very exact amount of image in mind while he worked evenly across the entire sleeping behemoth. Luckily he had scaled up the size of the pattern significantly so each individual portion was about the size of a dinner plate, or else the work might have taken an entire week to finish.
Even so, Randidly was forced to alternate between the fingers of his right hand, and even then each finger had been sore and twitching in the aftermath. It was with an extremely bleary eyed-visage that he had shown up to train with the Order Ducis applicants a week ago. Perhaps that was why some of his initial trials with them were rather… heavy-handed.
He just didn’t have enough mental strength to wrangle his attacks to be anything other than ‘won’t kill them probably’ levels.
But that week of training gave Randidly almost everything he needed to prepare for his departure due to the Judgment. For one, he now understood generally the images and traits of the applicants to the Order Ducis. From that, Randidly had a pretty good idea of who about half of the finalists were likely to be. All he needed to do now is make a few quick notes to give to Naffur, explaining what he had found.
In addition, he felt refreshed after the rather relaxing level of exertion required to fight against these applicants to the Order Ducis. They weren’t necessarily weak, but there was simply a huge difference in capabilities between him and the applicants; even setting aside Stats, Randidly’s Skill Levels had reached pretty ridiculous heights. And the training had been reassuringly direct and simple, after wresting with so many problems concerned with image and design for so long.
It basically required no thinking; it was glorious.
Finally, it had also given Randidly some time to talk to Naffur more concretely about what Randidly had in mind for the purpose of the Order Ducis. And to be frank, Naffur’s studious seriousness had also cemented Neveah’s choice of putting Naffur in charge of the Order as a stroke of genius. Although Naffur lacked quite a bit of polish and pure physical ability, he definitely possessed a burning desire to better the world, and that had steered the Order right thus far.
After arriving in a vast area of waving grass, Randidly sighed and sat down.
Hopefully, that determination endures as the threats become more difficult. And as help becomes scant. Ah, I definitely need to wish him good luck before I actually leave…
Then Randidly focused his attention inward and took stock of the Skill Levels he had managed to gather since spending most of the PP three-fourths of the way through his time in the year-long Dungeon. With all the improvements to his images, spells, and production Skills, Randidly had gained a little over 400 PP. Which was, in fact, just enough to finish his Physique of the Grim Chimera Path.
Congratulations! You have completed the “Physique of the Grim Chimera” Path. Some Paths leave in their wake a light effect on the body, but others leave you irrevocably changed. Such is the grim Path that you have walked that your body has been warped by the harrowing journey. Although your shape is still human, the roiling images inside of you have slowly begun to reinforce your very flesh. They sap your humanity and replace it with steel and ash. Your eyes glow with the inner fire of the furnace that now fuels you.
It is unclear how much similarities you now share with those you once called fellow humans.
Your Physical Statistics have reached the cusp of something great. Although your humanity was sacrificed, you have grown strong. All Physical Stats +10. You have learned the Skill Catalyst of Agony (A) Lvl 1!
Catalyst of Agony (A): By experiencing pain, desire is crystalized. Increases sensitivity to pain and Stamina costs for Skills in order to increase the effectiveness of those same Skills. For every Skill Level, sensitivity and Stamina costs increase by 2%. Effectiveness increases by .5%.
In addition, please select one Physical Stat that will experience a mysterious evolution! Warning, choose wisely, as this cannot be undone!
Randidly released a long breath and offered the ground with a fragile smile.
I mean, I cannot deny that I’ve moved pretty far away from the normal experience of people… but to see that transformation addressed so directly… it’s sad. I feel… sad. Lonely, too. I wanted power, sure, but I never wanted to be…
But, as the System notification had indicated, Randidly wasn’t sure what he was any longer. He was trending a Path so that others could follow, but the trick of this Path was he had to tread it first without any assistance.
Shaking his head, Randidly forced the air in his lungs out through his nose. Despite the strange trepidation Randidly felt to see his own worries mirrored by the System notification, now wasn’t the time to dwell on his own existential problems. Rather than that, he needed to focus on the opportunity presented by finishing this Path.
The Stat boosts were unimpressive, but both the Skill and the notification about choosing one Stat held his attention. Despite the rather annoying side-effect of increasing his own sensitivity to pain, Randidly didn’t need to worry about Stamina costs at all these days. His regeneration was so monstrous that even his very expensive to utilize Skills barely made a dent in it.
If he could start forcibly increasing his power by spending more Stamina, that was a trade he would gladly make.
As for the “mysterious evolution”… it seemed to imply that one of his Stats would be pushed to a higher Rarity form. Yet the fact that it hadn’t stated that directly gave Randidly pause. In terms of his Physical Stats, currently Agility was Randidly’s highest, sitting just below one thousand. It seemed logical that he should improve Agility then, and experience the greatest benefit as each point in the Stat became more valuable.
Yet Randidly frowned down at the ground.
Rather than Agility… he felt much more drawn toward upgrading his Preception. In terms of the reason that he had been able to get this far, it seemed to Randidly that Perception and his ability to understand a situation had served him much more valuable than his speed. In addition, his Skills already leaned toward speed. Improving that further would transform Randidly into a force to be reckoned with, but Randidly didn’t think that was the Path that felt most natural to him.
No, to keep up with his monstrous Control, he needed Perception.
Of course, none of it would have mattered if he didn’t have the capability to keep up with the information; if the amount of information his brain received was enough to reduce him to a vegetable, the upgrade would be a moot point. And if he upgraded his Preception, there was a very real possibility that he would exacerbate the growing difference between Perception and Reaction to the point that it was dangerous.
But Randidly trusted his instincts. And if he was going to face his Judgment, Randidly truly believed that what he would need was the increased Perception to identify the threats of Nether rather than simply upgrading his Agility.
Congratulations! Your Perception is undergoing a mysterious transformation!
Synchronicity detected… Images resonating with the transformation… the effect improves! Isolating the highest resonance…
The Grim Chimera raises its head and roars to the overcast sky! The Maelstrom of Ash shudders beneath the force of its longing. The weight of timeless persecution has greatly increased the effectiveness of the transformation!
Congratulations! Your Stat Perception has evolved into Grim Intuition (L)! Your ability to sense threats surrounding you has stretched beyond the limits of the physical realm! With practice, it is possible to discern the intent of others nearby just from their aura! The sphere of detection around you greatly increases! The power of the Grim Chimera settles into your body!