Randidly glanced over at the stoic Abiodun. Well, at least he adjusted his speed so that I could keep up with him… but it doesn’t seem like my luck of getting brusque, silent types will change anytime soon…
Although Zagnal has been a bit weird ever since we came to Iellaya’s camp, so perhaps it’s just a matter of allowing them to warm up to me… Perhaps the Grim Chimera body is a bit more charming than the main body?
Randidly looked down at his bone spear sticking out from the elbow of his right arm and his monstrous claw for a left hand. Or not…after all, my physical appearance is a bit off-putting, even for all of these combat-focused alien creatures…
As they arrived at a familiar series of runic pillars floating in a pentagram, Randidly looked toward Abiodun’s hulking frame. “So is this an offensive or defensive battle? Or something in between?”
Abiodun slowly turned and looked at Randidly. Interestingly enough, the granite man moved quite quietly; there was no grinding in his joints. Then he turned back and walked over to one of the arrays of pillars. “…there is no in-between. The battle type is determined by who is currently maintaining the surrounding space. In this case, the Nether beings have had the chance to warp the space to become another portion of the Great Rift, so it is a defensive battle. You have to protect yourself from the environment while fighting off their forces.”
So, jumping to the hard one immediately… well, it’s not like I don’t have plenty of benefits from my first battle to inform me. Randidly’s claw tightened into a bristling sphere of blades and talons. “What I’m saying is… don’t Aether and Nether destroy each other? So what is left if the energies are completely equal and they fizzle out? That’s in between.”
Again, Abiodun paused. This time he completely turned around and looked at Randidly. His eyes glowed and then dimmed as he considered Randidly for several seconds. “…theoretically, you are correct. However, what exists in the balance is impossible to determine. By viewing that balanced state, we influence it. Therefore, we only ever see Aether space to be protected or Nether space to be destroyed. As long as Aether and Nether exist, there cannot be a balance. For balance would mean both have ceased to be.”
The part of Randidly that was undoubtedly the Grim Chimera was raring to fight this treacherously difficult defensive battle. But the Randidly part was intrigued by Abiodun’s words. “I”m surprised, you are the first individual who hasn’t constantly referred to Nether as a monstrous force of evil…” Then, of course, Randidly’s Grim Chimera aggression commandeered his mouth, “For a rock, you are pretty philosophical.”
Abiodun tilted his head to the side. “For an image that is about to die, you talk an unnecessary amount. But rather than annoying me, it simply causes me endless regret. It is possible we would have grown fond of each other, given time.”
“You certainly have a strange way of expressing regret.” Randidly shook his head as Abiodun turned back to one of the pentagrams and began to activate the runes. Randidly calmly walked to the center of the array, twisting his neck to crack it.
Then something struck Randidly. “Oh, by the way… how do you return from defensive missions? Can I have an Aether Key?”
“In a defensive mission, you attempt to defend against the enemy and the space,” Abiodun repeated rather unhelpfully. Just when Randidly was about to complain, the granite man added. “You will continue to defend until the morning when a relief force can be arranged. Struggle hard, fast-talking image, so the Nether doesn’t have much time to reinforce their position before we arrive.”
Then space bent and twisted as the array around Randidly activated.
Good thing he activated the teleportation after that, Randidly frowned. I didn’t have any sort of comeback at all…
Almost immediately after that thought, however, Randidly’s expression turned serious. His attention focused inward. He did last checks on his Grim Chimera image and began to forcefully activate the connection he had to Nether Resistance. If he was understanding how this would play out correctly, he was heading to an area to which a being had Nether had brought the reciprocal of an Aether Key.
So not only would Randidly need to fight against the Nether creature but also he would need to fight against the environment-
Then Randidly paused. You know… I suppose I’ve always assumed I would only fight one Nether beast at a time due to the huge size of the space that the two forces are contesting… but no one has ever said explicitly that this would be the case… And if this mission is so important that they sent NINE the first time and only two returned…
Randidly felt a sinking feeling in his chest. But his grin spread wider and wider in anticipation of the danger facing multiple beasts of Nether at once would pose to him.
Then Randidly blinked into the mission area and the existential cold of the Great Rift began to suck incessantly at his Willpower. The great blackness filled with those azure lines was wrapped around him like a blanket that was so tight it felt like a noose. This time, however, Nether Resistance surged immediately to life. Randidly spread his arms and roared with such violence that some of the pulsing azure veins in the air around him trembled and shattered.
With his left claw, Randidly reached out and grasped the Great Rift with Eternal Cravings of a Wraith. Randidly sucked and consumed everything in the surrounding area, even the void. The blackness trembled, then small motes of ash began to form and spiral around Randidly in the void. It was a small thing, but immediately the pressing cold surrounding him eased up as the space began to shift toward something more hospitable to beings of Aether.
In that same moment, Randidly felt three presences begin making beelines through the void toward his position. One was almost immediately on top of him, and the other two shot closer together to assist. Beyond them, Randidly could feel a huge concentration of Nether that seemed to be a much larger version of the Nether Key.
Thankfully, there was no response to his presence from that huge knot of void energy.
Spinning around, Randidly locked onto the position of the first foe that was nearing him. Wreathed in tight azure lines, a strange shadow cut through the Great Rift toward Randidly’s position. Emerald eyes blazing, Randidly locked onto it almost immediately. It seemed to possess two pairs of arms, but a thin film of shadow stretched from the upper pair of arms to its waist like bat wings-
Just as Randidly was trying to analyze the shape of the foe, it twisted sideways and slipped between two glowing azure veins and disappeared. Grimacing, Randidly twisted to the side as the batbeast appeared behind him in a swirl of patterned azure veins. Its dusky claw slid past Randidly’s side, forcefully impacting Randidly’s image just with the violence of the attack. A cold spike of agony hammered into Randidly’s side.
Congratulations! Your Skill Nether Resistance has grown to Level 76!
“You piece of fucking shit,” Randidly hissed. Once more he sucked violently in with Eternal Cravings of the Wraith to pull all the surrounding energy toward himself. Although he couldn’t actually drag anything useful from this Nether being, his overwhelming image of hunger that exploded outward was enough to daze the batbeast. It acted as a vast thunderclap that destabilized the Nether in the surrounding area.
Randidly’s Molten Fang of the Pariah sizzled toward its chest. But the batbeast released a low rumble from its chest and stepped backward into the swirling azure veins. After only inflicting a shallow scratch and a mild impact to the Nether being, it disappeared. The veins scattered like a spooked school of fish.
Randidly’s eyes narrowed. I suppose it makes sense… just like physics and geography are strange Aether rules that these Nether beasts don’t understand, these azure veins are an environment that I can’t figure out and it can take advantage of. Therefore, the first step in defeating this foe would be to destroy the veins-
The batbeast appeared once more, so close to Randidly that he couldn’t react in time, even with the benefit of Chimeric Avoidance. The batbeast’s two lower arms slashed out and ripped away sizable chunks of the Grim Chimera’s image. The wounds sizzled and burned as Aether and Nether met. All the previous planning that Randidly was engaged in was wiped away by a flood of white-hot rage.
Screeching in hate, Randidly took a sharp step forward and simply seized the batbeast’s head with his clawed left hand. Immediately, the contact began to burn. At first, the batbeast was surprised by Randidly’s decisively aggressive move, but then it began a flurry of attacks on Randidly’s exposed torso. Existential agony pounded against Randidly’s Willpower, but he began to laugh.
Congratulations! Your Skill Nether Resistance has grown to Level 77!
“Do you fucking think you are my equal?” Randidly’s eyes blazed like a supernova of emerald fireworks. His claw tightened inward and the substance of the batbeast’s head buckled. “Look at what this body can do and be appalled, cretin.”
Congratulations! Your Skill Nether Resistance has grown to Level 78!
Congratulations! Your Skill Nether Resistance has grown to Level 79!
Although Randidly’s consciousness grew a little fuzzy around the edges, the batbeast’s struggles grew increasingly feeble and it whined in agony. Steam wafted upward from the wounds on Randidly’s chest and his claw around its skull. A second later, Randidly used The Chimera Weeps, But Man Mourns to pepper the batbeast’s body with gory holes.
The inky black flesh of the batbeast spasmed and then began to deflate like a punctured pool floatie. With a shudder, it collapsed in dispersed ichor that sizzled painfully against Randidly’s skin.
Congratulations! Your Skill Nether Resistance has grown to Level 80!
For a second, Randidly’s face was twisted with the intoxicating rush of triumph. Nothing else mattered but that warm thrill of victory. Then Randidly winced as the adrenaline began to pass and he felt the terrible wounds that disfigured his image of the Grim Chimera.
With two more foes coming to fight, this might be a bit-
Then Randidly felt something in his chest. There was a tremor, and suddenly it appeared like it was placed there deliberately for Randidly to notice. And it immediately seized his entire attention. For several seconds, he was frozen in shock. Even the instincts he had received from the Grim Chimera weren’t sure how to handle this new arrival.
“This… what the hell is this…?”