Randidly felt the images traveling through his body, even as Drak continued to advance. He hefted his spear and waited, his eyes sliding to a half closed state, to watch. The sun in his image burned brightly, but then there was a soft ticking, and time began to rush past.
Faster and faster, the years passed, shooting forward, millennia gone in the heartbeats that Drak used to move closer. At the core of the sun, which fueled the chain reaction from which it got its power, something changed. The product was different, cheaper, less pure than it had been.
The whole sun rippled, changing color, its fires going from a hot orange to yellow, then to a blue green. Slowly it died further, as time passed, and darkness formed, slowly at first, small pockets within the giant sun. With increasing speed, those pockets of darkness sunk to the core of the sun, beginning to take up more and more of the ‘reactor’ space at the sun’s core. This led to a dimmer fire, which led to more darkness.
All at once, Randidly could feel how shallow that flame was, as only the surface layer of the sun continued to burn. Then all at once that went out, leaving this corner of the universe in darkness. Everything collapsed inward on itself, super condensed to a single point. The universe trembled, this hyper dense core struggling against something, some law of the universe.
Drak had arrived, and struck. The universe tore noiselessly.
That hyperdense blackness sunk into itself, gradually drawing everything around it into that tear in the universe, devouring it.
“The First Rays of Dawn!” Drak bellowed, his rage clear, etched through every line of his face as he struck out. Randidly just waited.
Again, Drak displayed that intimidatingly high level of speed, his spear twisting around Randidly’s defense and aiming for his throat. Randidly simply smiled. Because as Drak’s spear approached, aiming to slip past Randidly’s, it couldn’t. The air around it twisted, drawing it closer to Randidly’s defense. It swerved, mid air, aiming for the spear, where the image of the tear in the world was concentrated.
Randidly held no self-delusions. It was a powerful image, but the suction created probably wasn’t all that great. But time and time again, Drak had shown that he was canny, but a weaker version of Azriel. Azriel always reacted well, and then made your moves obsolete after she had seen them once.
Drak reacted extremely poorly when he was surprised, but had the natural stats to defend himself from the worst of it. Then he used his understandings to take countermeasures, reducing the effectiveness of the blow.
But the important part, was every time… there was an opening created by using a surprising move.
Ponderously, Randidly moved his spear, the weight of the image slowing him, to meet Drak’s weapon.
Although the suction wasn’t very strong, the weight and mass of the strike was. All of the image that was once a sun was concentrated in that point, after all. It was a defensive move, that created an hyper dense image on Randidly’s spear, that attracted other’s spear to it. As time would pass, the gravity and density would increase, but Randidly wasn’t quite sure to what point.
In the wake of the impact, Randidly was forced to drop the image, as his head was throbbing, and he could feel blood running down, out of his nose. The requisite level of focus was a bit… Grimacing, he tried to steady himself, but continued to stumble backwards, the recoil of the blow overwhelming his body.
In addition, most of the Aether within him had turned sluggish, as his body subconsciously stopped its flow, probably oversaturated with it.
If there was good news, it was that Drak had been thrown backwards by the impact, forced to face the mass of that hyper dense image directly. Instantly, he gasped and lurched to his feet, but there was something new in his eyes as he looked at Randidly now.
Something ugly and vicious, and fearful. A rat, finally cornered.
Randidly’s grin was small. So, finally ready to use your ace…? Then I-
Something was in his chest. Randidly doubled over, furious at the interference, but inside of him, an almost disintegrated Aether connection surged to life.
She dragged and clutched, sucking Aether away. At first Randidly struggled, but then he just loosed his hold, for several reasons. First, he had Aether to spare. Second, his body couldn’t handle all the Aether that was inside of him anyway. And finally, once more, he felt the tug of something. Some intuitive understanding of fate…
It felt… final, giving away his Aether like this. His eyes widened. A gift. Of course. But he would need lucretia to-
“You…. You…. you fucking….!” Drak was finally bantering, god bless his heart, but his anger was such a heavy thing in his chest that he was inarticulate. Still, Randidly would take what he could get, as Second Wind and Bacterial Regeneration did their wonderful work. Instantly, he slipped into Meditation and began channeling the Golden Roots of Yggdrasil more consciously.
“I have never… this….” Drak couldn’t seem to reach a conclusion with his words, and just seemed to be spewing his fury. Slowly at first, but then with greater volume and intensity, the audience began to cheer, swelling to a deafening roar of approval, to see the poster child for the great Styles reduced to this by a spear user off the street.
It gave them hope.
“Shut the fuck up.” Drak growled, the audience finally giving him something to center himself on. A wave of oppression spread outwards from Drak, sweeping the whole arena. Randidly saw Aethon Thai’s face twist into something akin to shock as it hit him, staring at Drak.
For his part, Randidly felt very little from the wave of oppression. Or rather, perhaps he had just dealt with the effects of the giant sun for so long, that this lighter force wasn’t anything worth writing home about. But to everyone else, first experiencing it…
And Randidly had to admit that the scale of it was daunting…
Drak turned his burning eyes back to Randidly. “Fine, you win. I can understand somewhat why Azriel would use you. She wanted to see it, yes? The skill that gives me so much confidence. The skill with which I have never lost…. It is the first of the Skills of the Breaking Dawn Style, and the one I have spent the most time learning. Now… consider yourself lucky. It has been a long time since I was forced to use this.”
Randidly didn’t feel very lucky or vindicated. Because at the moment, he was distracted by a scrambling at his insides, as Lucretia continued to rummage around. Through their connection, he could feel her desperation.
But then something clicked, and he had an idea.
Drak slowly began to walk forward. “Dawn’s Warm Glow.”
Light surrounded Drak, suffusing his body. Instantly, his wounds seemed to bother him less, and he moved faster, beginning to trot meaningfully towards Randidly.
Randidly opened up his Soul Skill, allowing Lucretia to reach in. This needed to be done perfectly. He needed to outmatch her without letting her damage the Soul Skill…
Inwardly, a deep monster smiled. There was… a possibility. A gamble, which would remove some of his versatility, but…
The thought of it filled Randidly with a wild joy. What was battle without struggle?
The skills twined together and he felt something… shift. Just a little, but there was now a confidence inside of him, at his core, that would never shake. Randidly could never fail. He needed three things. A gift, a plan, and a seal. The gift was easy.
Randidly reached into his soul skill, and felt the state of things. Instantly, he implicitly understood the great war that had occurred there, and the man who was offering his life for peace. Randidly picked him up, and filled his body with Aether, using that Aether to project him at Lucretia’s location.
But to maintain that connection, that balance, something else was needed. Through the connection between them, Randidly pulled, drawing meaning from Lucretia. Thoughts, memories, feelings, techniques, images… everything.
He pulled and pulled. Somehow, the weight of fate settled behind him, drawing Lucretia through the hole into his Soul Skill. It was a gradual process, but soon…
But even as he did that, Randidly felt Lucretia’s influence, find its bearings, curious and scared, but not injured from the transfer. Slowly, it began to explore Randidly’s Soul Skill.
Which was undesirable. Gritting his teeth, Randidly made the spear that was Lucretia’s second gift to Aemont slide into himself, going through is body and into his Soul Skill, picking up speed. Because of their connection, Randidly pressed, forcing it forward. The Soul Skill buckled somewhat at this, and Randidly felt a splitting white pain in his body, but he continued to press.
The Spear descended, spearing through the barrier of the Soul Skill, sliding, shrinking, impaling Lucretia’s meaning, before it spread too far. It shrieked, and struggled, but the spear sunk into the ground, binding that insidious meaning still, at least for now.
Randidly opened his eyes, looking at the glowing figure walking towards him. Lucretia would be slowly drawn into him, sealed within his Soul Skill by that spear. But… that did leave him without a weapon.
Randidly cracked his knuckles. Somehow, he didn’t believe it would be a problem.