As the group set up camp nearby the Raid Dungeon, Randidly sat apart from them, in the darkness, far away from the campfire. His legs crossed beneath him, he Meditated and focused his attention inward, while the rain from the Weeping Cloud fell down on him.
“What are my options?” Randidly asked Lucretia.
They were sitting on top of a mountain in his Soul Skill. Underneath them, the secret research base of the Spriggits toiled, developing giant suits of metal to fight against the Monster King. Or rather, to hold in reserve against another Monster King offensive, as things had settled down to a simmer, both sides holding their own against the other.
She rolled her eyes. “Aside from going to a Village and getting a Class? I don’t know of any easy answers. There is undoubtedly a mechanism that checks an individual for their Class. It’s hard to say what its actual purpose is, but I suspect it is actually a mechanic designed to protect users from wandering into a place and dying there, or training there and being unable to leave, due to Aether Sickness. It is hard to abuse a genuinely well intentioned rule.”
Randidly grunted noncomittally, looking down at the Spriggits. Really, he had to just shake his head at their ingenuity. In a few more years, they would have some legitimate Gundam types running around, fighting against monsters. It would be certainly something to watch.
Almost morosely, he grabbed a bit of Progenitor’s Influence that rose out of an engineer. He now had 91, which enabled him to send dreams, so he could push them in that direction, but…
It would be nothing but a diversion. Right now, the most important thing was to address this problem. Which was not proving easy, both because of the circumstances arrayed against him, but also because of the fact he was almost forced to rely on Lucretia as a resource.
Randidly didn’t doubt that she was very well informed on the subject of Aether, but if anything, that only made him feel worse. The only positive of the whole situation was that the more he listened to her talk, the more he realized that there were wide gaps in her knowledge about the usage of Aether due to the fact that it was almost impossible for her to handle. She only could recognize the shapes and arranged ways of channeling that wild Aether into the desired shapes.
The quality of the Aether that she was used to was worlds below Randidly’s own. Which reassured him, and simultaneously made him raise his guard, if only because his instincts weren’t viewing her as much of a threat any longer. And Randidly knew that Lucretia got to the point of being the Eternal Witch by being underestimated, time and time again.
With her effectively living in his heart, the danger was magnified. But they did say, keep your friends close, your enemies closer, so…
Randidly snapped back to the present, and turned to Lucretia. “…That is a last resort. A very, very last resort…. Neveah has a Level, and is a part of me… if we figure out the mechanism-”
“I’ve thought about it, won’t work,” Lucretia said, shaking her head. Neveah, who was a part of him anyways, condensed a smaller version of her form to join them in the Soul Skill, only about the size of a garden snake, coiling around Randidly’s arms. She hummed good naturedly as Randidly petted her head.
“Although she levels, she doesn’t have a Class,” Lucretia continued. “Or if anything,
are her Class. She strengthens along with you, the most obvious way being your Level. As you don’t have one, her growth should be slower, but…”
They both looked at Neveah.
“I grow.” She added helpfully. Randidly rolled his eyes. Yes, she did. But that was a positive thing, so it was a waste of time to try and dig deeper into the why. At least any deeper than his pet theory, that all the experience Randidly should be earning through his actions didn’t just disappear, but flowed into the path of least resistance, Neveah.
“Yes, you do.” Lucretia said wryly. “Still, the idea is a good one, just Neveah isn’t the answer. It might be possible to use my Class to mask yours, but that would require… some entanglements between us, which I suspect you would be… uncomfortable with.”
“You wouldn’t mind?” Randidly asked, genuinely surprised. Lucretia just smiled. Shaking his head, Randidly huffed his annoyance. “…And you won’t let me know unless I’m willing to actually call your bluff. What’s your Class, anyway?”
“Spear Witch,” Lucretia said, her smile now containing real amusement, rather than the sharp, twisted thing that usually animated her.
It surprised him how easily she would admit to it, but Randidly supposed she might be lying. However, it didn’t seem like it. “…That will be the second to last resort then. Anything else?”
Lucretia just shrugged. Any brief happiness Randidly felt turned sour. For several minutes, the two of them just sat and watched as the Spriggits beneath them worked, assembling their metal monsters. It was a heavy silence.
If this truly meant that Randidly would be forced to get a Class… It felt like he was playing around with a chunk of vomit that was just sitting in his mouth. The obvious location was to obtain a Class at Donnyton… but that would forge a connection not only with the System, but also with the Creature, who still had Lyra imprisoned…
At that thought, Randidly snapped out of his funk, and his heartbeat quickened. Although the Creature being with the Regalias was a danger that he hadn’t really addressed yet, if the Creature really was holed up in the Raid Dungeon…
Then Lyra would be alone. Lyra would be free…
Although it was strange, Randidly missed her. Just because she had treated him like a normal human, and not held all these weird expectations for him, while everyone else was doing exactly that. Maybe she had understood, from her own life as an actress, how important being treated like a real person really was, so you didn’t lose yourself in what everyone else said about you.
There was the strange matter of the connection that had been forced between them, the strange draw the System had provided for them that had left Randidly deeply distrustful of the System, even at the beginning, but it was not enough to necessarily sour the feelings he felt towards the young girl with the sharp tongue.
Randidly pressed his eyes closed.
One problem at a time
“What about the Stone of Genesis? Do you think we can make more of those?” Randidly said, happy to shift his attention towards a side problem.
Lucretia shrugged again, but this was a much more disinterested shrug. Snorting, Randidly could only shake his head. She had been connected to him by the Aether tether for only a few weeks, and already too spoiled to even put small amounts of Aether like this in her eyes. Although he was sure that prior to their meeting, she would have killed for this sort of opportunity.
“No more, bigger.”
Randidly blinked, looking down at his arm, where Neveah was grinning her happy little open mouthed grin at him. It was honestly pretty adorable when she was this size.
“What are you talking about?” Lucretia said, reaching for the sky and stretching.
“Problem. Big stone solution.” Neveah said, her voice becoming insistent.
Randidly frowned. He felt her thoughts, and most of her meaning, but was having difficulty following it. She wanted…. What…? “Neveah… the problem… you are talking about getting into the Dungeon…?”
“Raid Dungeon.” Neveah said, her voice becoming increasingly solemn and accusatory. “You dumb. Fear Class. Hate System. Dumb.”
Randidly opened his mouth, then closed it. Then his brow furrowed in annoyance. “I… sure, I hate it, but it’s for good reason. The Class… you know what I know. It’s a connection to the System. It’s a binding, a way of controlling it. Hell, I think all of the roles here are just ways the System.”
“Wrong, silly.” Neveah interrupted, dropping off his arm and onto the ground, and then slithering to an open space. Above her, a drawing formed of Aether began to take shape. “Class just Class. It is. System from bad source, but System shape. Without shape… weak. Cannot shape alone. Home different.”
Her words were… disjointed, but it was still enough to get her meaning. Especially while above her head, she drew a small house, a person, and a line connecting two. But independent of them, there was a wriggly lined circle around the man, which Randidly sensed was supposed to be the Class.
“…Actually she has a point,” Lucretia said, the interest in her eyes renewed, as she examined Neveah’s small form, and then her drawing. “I’ve always wondered about the connection to the Village System… although admittedly it means almost nothing at the stage our world is, it is important at the start. I’ve studied Classes, but I could never really… feel what was going on, but with your skills-”
“Which is all fine, but how-” Randidly began, but then his understanding, due to their connection, finally showed through. The picture clicked together.
“A Class… A Skill.
Skill.” Neveah announced to the world. “Alone hard. But now stone. If make
Stone… We Class. No problem.”