When Randidly came back to himself, everything was fuzzy and blurred. It was like someone had left a sticky residue over all of his perceiving organs. Sensation was strange. But some deeper necessity from his core urged Randidly force himself into wakefulness. So he scowled and forced his gummy eyes open.
Randidly was sitting in a small bubble about five meters in diameter filled with swirling ash. After thirty seconds, his gaze shifted to the limit of that bubble. Beyond that, the familiar sight of the Great Rift loomed imposingly in the background.
See? Alive and with a bit of Aether surrounding me. It seems that I barely need to be conscious in order to slaughter batbeasts. And I cannot sense anything in the surrounding area. No need to wake up from my nap yet…
After closing his eyes, Randidly allowed himself the briefest moment of surrender to the aches and pains that he was now strapped with. Then he forced his eyes back open.
…I would say if I wanted to die here. Randidly groaned and forced himself to stretch and strand. Which was surprisingly difficult, considering the mauled and wane form of the Grim Chimera’s image. As Randidly shifted, he realized exactly how much damage he had sustained fighting against the batbeasts; Randidly’s left arm was completely gone and one of his legs was melted up to the knee.
Groaning again, Randidly began the fuzzy work of bringing the Grim Chimera back into focus. The left arm was the most important because without it Randidly was basically left with a single chopstick with which to go about his daily life. Comical as such an image would be, it would certainly undermine the violence and urgency of the image.
After that rather pressing bit of repair work, Randidly did a few touches on his head and torso to remove the vicious scarring the claws of the batbeasts had left on his flesh. Which turned out to be a very time-consuming activity. Finally, Randidly began the frustrating task of trying to recall how the inverted joints of his legs worked.
Certainly, he remembered that the knees and ankles were inverted. However, he had never really examined the mechanical shifts of the joints enough detail to reproduce them. So Randidly was forced to experiment in his small bubble of swirling ash.
All the while, the all-consuming headache continued to pound like a hammer against the base of his skull. Shaking his head, Randidly did his best to push that away and focused on recovering his ability to fight. With Eternal Cravings of the Wraith, Randidly sucked in a bit of the surrounding Aether to take the edge off of his pain. The swirling sphere of ash around him decreased by a full meter.
Randidly eyed the space bitterly. Well, at least my bubble is still intact. And that Aether helped a lot…
Randidly checked his body out once more and could only wince. Perhaps even worse than his patchy skin, which appeared to have been set on fire and then boiled, was the sludge-like byproduct that resulted from Nether and Aether fizzling out on top of each other. His body was covered with that ooze.
Several layers of it, in fact. It was possible to see where earlier layers dried and then were covered in a new layer.
Irritably, Randidly wiped the gunk away. Or at least he tried to while using the ungainly remnant of his bone spear. But he mostly just managed to smear it across himself. Even worse, it seemed that more oozed out of his image every second like an oozing sore from third-degree burns.
Growling in frustration, Randidly slumped back and allowed himself a few seconds of rest to cope with the pain coming from his head. His Willpower was blunted and depleted after all of the major repairs had been accomplished. Yet this was only the beginning of the recovery process. With no way to accurately measure how much time Randidly had been in here, he could only act like he would be required to stay here for quite some time.
So with the most pressing repairs done, Randidly allowed himself to sink into a more focused recuperative state. The flow of blood had been stemmed, now Randidly needed to give himself the chance to regain his clarity. He allowed time to drift away to the realm of unimportance. His mind settled down into a hibernative state.
When Randidly felt well enough to pull himself out of that meditation, he found that although the pain was still present, it had faded to a dull ache. A tiny mallet playfully tapping against his temples. Much more pressing was the fact that the swirling sphere of ash had shrunk to only a meter.
Randidly eyed his chest doubtfully. No touch ups to my area, main body? A little bit of Aether would go a long way right now.
Minutes crept past and there was no change. Shaking his head, Randidly set that problem aside for the immediate future and turned his attention outward to the ominous fluctuations of the Great Rift around him.
What he found made Randidly swear quietly. It was clear that at some point while Randidly was indisposed, that huge mass of Nether in the distance had drifted closer. In addition, Randidly could feel a dozen batbeasts or similar monsters slowly spreading out away from that mass of Nether. They didn’t appear to be rushing over toward Randidly, but it was easy to see them as a net that was slowly spreading out to surround him. Although their movements were slow, that only made him take the threat more seriously.
Heh, if you want a fucking fight, I’m ready and willing.
Snorting, Randidly pulled back his focus to his body. But as he did so, he felt the faintest glimmer of resonance from his chest. It was a low thrum like a single guitar string being plucked.
What was that?
Ultimately, Randidly couldn’t seem to reproduce that sensation no matter how long he waited, so he shrugged in let it go. If it’s me connecting with another Skill, I hope it’s Absolute Timing. Just so I know I’m not going crazy with my perception of time out here…
Then Randidly turned to the exhausting task of doing more in-depth repairs of the Grim Chimera image. He had taken the time to rest, and now it was time to add some polish to his earlier efforts.
One thing that became immediately clear was that the relationship between his current body and his image wasn’t exactly direct. The ruinous damage that had been inflicted on his body hadn’t exactly damaged his image. It was more like that his body and his image were always trying to shift to align with each other. So possessing a damaged body had begun to degrade his image as the image attempted to shift in his mind to match the body’s damage.
And the damage to his image as it quickly degraded was already so extensive that it seemed clear that Randidly had spent a significant amount of time alone in the Great Rift while unconscious. Yet somehow, Randidly scowled as he knew that he would be soon brought back to the base of Iellaya and they would say something like, ‘What? No, it’s only been four hours. Why are you complaining?’
While keeping a wary eye on those distant batbeasts that were drifting through the Great Rift in his direction, Randidly took his image inch by inch and repaired the damage. And then, as Randidly finished, he sighed and started again as portions had degraded once more as his body affected the image.
And then when he finished for the second time, he did it again.
Because there was no way for Randidly to forcefully repair his body. All he could do was perfect his image and allow the image and his body to slowly align with each other in the right direction. Once the sorry state of his body had degraded his image in their slow alignment, Randidly had to repair his image again to increase the speed of his body’s improvement. Which led to Randidly having to repair the image again and again to keep the speed of recovery reasonable.
The improvement was noticeable, at least. But it also was a constant struggle to keep the quality of the image high. Even worse, the constant mental exertion meant that the headache quickly returned. This work was not easy.
If not for the extra oomph that Randidly possessed after overcoming the Eidolon Crucible, it likely would have been something that beggared him mentally.
The only silver lining of the whole ordeal was that Randidly became intimately familiar with the image of the Grim Chimera. Although he had spent quite a bit of time refining it before, Randidly had never been required to go through the minutia of the image, again and again, with such an exacting focus. The constant repetition of the repairs meant that some part of the knowledge was tightly branded in Randidly’s psyche. For better or worse, Randidly would never have the luxury of forgetting the-
Congratulations! Your Skill Nether Resistance has grown to Level 104.
“Fuck!” Randidly swore as his skin began to hiss. When he opened his eyes, Randidly realized that the aura of ash had shrunk to the point that his slowly regenerating legs were sticking out of the ash sphere of Aether and into the Great Rift. Such were the wounds already present that his body immediately began to warp and shiver.
Grimacing, Randidly split up his already overtaxed attention and began to regulate the remaining Aether around him. He couldn’t increase the size of the Aether bubble he possessed, but he could stabilize its slow dissipation. In addition, there was no need for the Aether to be shaped in a sphere. Randidly spread out the remaining energy he possessed so it covered his body like a suit. Then he willed the presence of ash into that suit, giving it the little bit of weight that Randidly could manage right now.
Which was all well and good, but then Randidly had to return to the monotonous task of repairing himself.
Time crept past. The batbeasts drifted closer. That strange mass of Nether that Randidly could distantly sense seemed to be rotating, but Randidly had no idea what it meant. Azure veins ran through the Great Rift and twined around Randidly, leaving him unsure whether it was worth it to expend the effort to destroy them.
And again and again, Randidly would feel that strange feeling in his chest of a resonance occurring. But every time he focused on it, it disappeared. Whatever Skill he was brushing up against, it was certainly shy.
Randidly gritted his teeth and tried to focus on the repair of his body. As his form neared a serviceable state, the difference between his image and his body narrowed to an amount that would be easy to overlook. Therefore, both his image and body slowed in their shifts.
Which was good because the repeated repairs took much less time, but it also meant that the speed of his body’s recovery was much slower.
This is probably why there is so much attrition at the front lines. Randidly frowned down at his hands. Once you are damaged, you need to spend so much time and effort to recover… and by then, you have another mission. And this is what happened to me even with Nether Resistance at Level 100…
As the repairs became easier, Randidly focused more attention on making sure the Aether surrounding him stayed stable. The last thing Randidly wanted was to deal with additional damage to himself.
At this point, enough of the dull pain from his wounded form had faded that Randidly had finally realized that he had been in constant pain for quite a while. However, the aggrieved pain of a warped body was so minuscule compared to the mental strain and the memory of the existential pain of Nether that he had hardly noticed until now.
Fuck, I’m getting too old for this… Randidly grumbled.