Randidly, content that all that could be done, had been done, was preparing to leave the Soul Skill and check the progress in the real world when Lucretia burst into the room. She looked him up and down, then sighed with relief.
“I was worried I wouldn’t catch you,” She said, plopping down on an ornate wooden chair, as she was used to such lavish riches. “We need to talk.”
She leaned back, seemingly in no hurry to begin their discussion. Instea,d she sighed and rubbed her temples. Even though she had clearly been taking advantage of the awe of the denizens of Randidly’s Soul Skill, he couldn’t deny that he sympathized with her exhaustion. For all that they were enjoying the most deferential treatment possible, they still were scheduled to inspect and give opinions on every small detail that could possibly affect the final confrontation with the army of abominations moving towards them.
Being effectively a Godling was hard. His voice in the world, even more so.
Wrinkling his nose at the thought of Lucretia being known as his voice, Randidly said, “What?”
“We haven’t spoken of it directly, but I’m sure you can sense it the same as me; the Creature is… effectively broadcasting energy to your Soul Skill, to create this army,” Lucretia said, her eyes still closed. “Unless that’s destroyed, this is a problem that will keep cropping up. But more than that… I think we should talk about the possibility that we use this connection to strike back at the Creature.”
That had Randidly’s attention. But it only took 10 seconds for Randidly to snort dismissively. “…based on what we understand from the situation, that is…. possible. But it would require us somehow manipulating Aether better than it… or sending a delegation back through the connection to strike at what is likely her Soul Skill. A Soul Skill that is probably thousands of years old. Although the people here are strong… I doubt-”
“True, they would likely die.” Lucretia shrugged. “But this would occur after the battle is won; at that point, what do a few more deaths matter? The success rate is very low, but if they manage to succeed, or even to communicate some of the details of its Soul Skill back to us-”
Standing abruptly, Randidly released a little of his aura. The longer that he spent in his Soul Skill, the more he realized that Progenitor’s Influence wasn’t the only weapon that he had to use while he was present here. The very air loved him, as it was his. As more and more time passed as he was here, there was a strange… almost magnetic effect of energy, where more and more concentrated on his body, giving him an aura that could be used to strike out.
Of course, it accumulated relatively slowly, and once it was used, it dispersed quickly. But Randidly didn’t mind blowing through a bit of it in order to intimidate Lucretia. And from the way her eyes widened immediately upon his usage, it worked.
“How-” She began, sounding completely bewildered, but that’s when it hit her, knocking her backwards off of her chair and onto the ground. Although he wanted to convey his anger, Randidly didn’t want to offend her overmuch, even if his anger called for a much greater retribution, so he kept it as a slight amount of force.
“Let me make myself very clear,” Randidly said, dropping the pitiable amount of aura he had used. Even though it was small, it was still fully one half of his stored up power, so he didn’t mind blowing it here, rather than saving it to interfere in the upcoming fight. “They are not… on our same plane of existence as us, that is true. But they have lives, and they should not be treated casually. They listen to you. I have no doubt that you would be able to convince them it was in the interest of the greater good for them to sacrifice themselves… but that is not what I want. They are, admittedly, a large source of power for me.”
As Lucretia straightened, her smile was all teeth. “Do you think I don’t know that? Hmph, you are trying to play softly with them when it is convenient for you, but you have no problem forcing them to fight against this invasion.”
“Because it’s necessary,” Randidly hissed, frowning at Lucretia. “If it could be any other way-”
“It’s this way because you built their homes on top of a bomb you don’t understand.” Lucretia countered, her eyes red. “And while you were… blocked, shall we say, I was holding down the house. And yet… now you throw tantrums and have the nerve to lecture me?”
An energy began to condense around her then, faintly lilac with thin shimmers of gold within its depths. “Now, it’s become obvious that there is something… strange about that world of Shal’s; there is a subtle influence that pushes one towards violence and extremes. Out of its influence, I have lost much of the more sinister aspects to my nature. But do not for a moment forget what I am, what I have been, what I could be.”
When she spoke, hundreds of thin filaments of gold spread out, the lines of fate she had drawn between herself and another. And honestly… 80% led directly to Randidly. She flashed a cheeky smile, but that faltered when Randidly’s face stayed impassive.
Because while she was here, he had a strange ability to utilize her Skills too, and tugged back on those threads, demonstrating that these things didn’t just go one way. For a full minute, they both stood silently, looking at each other, sizing the other up.
To his surprise, Randidly relented first, sighing. “…think long and hard before you send a force through the conduit. It won’t be a token resistance they encounter there. The Creature is not me.”
Tight lipped, Lucretia nodded. To Randidly’s surprise, he was abruptly reminded of Sydney. And in a flash, he understood her deep frustration towards him. Because no matter how difficult it was to accept, at this point Randidly and Lucretia seemed bound so tightly that he knew of no easy way to extricate them. Although there were probably Skills that could accomplish it, Randidly didn’t even know where he should start looking for such a thing, or what Paths he would need to go down to accomplish it.
He had always wondered, why Sydney was so infuriated, yet strangely weary, by his presence, but now…
And to his surprise, he laughed aloud. This time, Lucretia was even more bewildered, but he didn’t say anything, just vanishing from existence inside the Soul Skill, and returning to awareness in his body. After all, the Soul Skill was just one of many moving pieces to this fight with the Creature. There were other portions that needed his attention.
So Randidly came to, back in his body, and opened his eyes. To his surprise, they had stopped. And what he saw in front of them was not the final base of the Creature, as he had expected, but instead, it was a sea.
A sea of monsters. Screeching and roaring, growling and grumbling. And more than anything else, just milling around, as if lost.
Seeming to sense that he had awoken, Annie stepped from behind him to stand shoulder to shoulder with him. “We were wondering how long we should let you sleep before we woke you up. We’ve got a problem. I’ve run the circuit of the thing; it’s 5 miles wide, just filled with monsters. Mostly pretty weak, barely Level 30, but with many…”
Randidly grimaced. They were relatively well behaved right now, but that was because the monsters’ attention was facing inward, towards whatever was drawing them towards the center, and they hadn’t noticed the Raid Dungeon group, or the creeping army of Death Cultists behind them. Which meant that whatever was pulling them inwards was unbelievably strong, taking almost all of the monsters’ attention.
But what Randidly couldn’t figure out was why they were here. 7 days should have passed. And yet there were so many monsters here. As if the monster hordes they had seen… hadn’t been able to get near the Creature’s base, and were instead stuck out here, just standing around in a circle.
Randidly cursed quietly. It wasn’t really that powerful of a barrier against him, but it was annoying, and he could just imagine the Creature’s smug expression.
“So?” Prompted Rose, moving to join the other two on top of Randidly’s root monster mount. Closing his eyes, Randidly took several seconds to breath in and then out through his nose. Then he turned, looking behind him. The Grey Death Cultist that had created the Death Key, who apparently had no real name but only a long series of unintelligible clicks, was standing there. Randidly beckoned.
“Chosen-Messenger of Death,” The Grey Death Cultist said with a bow. “How may we accomplish your goals?”
Upon hearing Randidly’s rather abbreviated explanation of his determination to eliminate the Creature, this is what the Death Cultists had begun calling him. They seemed rather stoically ambivalent at the thought of launching a crusade to destroy the other main race of the Raid Dungeon, but the prospect had a likelihood of their deaths, so they assented easily. After all, they believed that only through their fated, natural death could their souls find release from the cycle of torment in the Dungeon, granting them freedom. And Randidly was the Messenger of that final death.
“These monsters are in the way,” Randidly said warily, “I would like you to clear a path. But give me a moment, prepare your men in the meantime.”
Nodding, the Grey Death Cultist withdrew, and after a short, whispered conversation with the other Grey Death Cultists, they returned to the larger army, hooting with glee.
Doing his best to ignore the strange sounds of their language, Randidly pointed, and activated a Skill that he had never really had the occasion to experiment with yet.
Instantly, the ground beneath Randidly’s feat began to rumble ominously. When the Skill was used, Randidly had a brief sensation of feeling the shape of the earth beneath them, and projected the Skill as much as possible in front of him, towards the bulk of the monsters. Those monsters, as the shaking started, seemed to still, something instinctual taking over in the face of a force of nature.
Then the ground began to shudder. Then the first crack appeared, and the group buckled, rising in some places as the forces of the ground smashed together, sinking in others. The monsters responded by fleeing in every direction, their eyes filled with fear. Randidly frowned. Sure, it was an impressive Skill, and as it Leveled it would be powerful… but it was currently only Level 3, well 7 now that had gained a few Skill Levels, and its destructive force was rather underwhelming.
“Messenger, by your word,” The Grey Death Cultist said, rubbing its claws together excitedly.
The Grey Death Cultist smiled, as best as its strange bat face could, and then barked out an order. Behind Randidly, the Red Death Cultists began using their superior strength to throw the regular rank and file soldiers in the air, where they began to glide forward ominously, heading towards the panicking monsters. By the time the Earthquake ceased, the Death Cultists had arrived, and they gave their fellow monsters no quarter.