There were a few hours when Randidly was frantically using Plant Dominance to fish out and rescue the few spear-users who were caught in the collapse of the wooden battlement. Then there were another few hours where the survivors of his squad and the reinforcements he received spread the word of his tower shields, and Randidly continued to pound his leftover metal into the shape of the shields.
About the time when Randidly was considering whether to ask for more raw materials, an officious looking man with a bushy mustache stomped over to the tent Randidly had set up near the edges of the debris pile.
“You are requested in the Sentinel’s tent,” He said shortly. Then he spun on his heel and left.
Randidly thought long and hard about ways to teach this man a lesson in respect. The first instinct was violence, the second was insults, the third was much slower. But with a sigh, Randidly brushed off his hands and stored his hammer in his interspatial ring.
Respect was not something you could just demand. You earned it by giving it.
So with a premonition of trouble, Randidly walked towards the headquarters of Niergem. As he passed through, he saw imitations of the shield he had created. Some of the spear-users were using twisted nails to carve their Tassles likeness into the shield. It brought a small smile to Randidly’s face, and he also felt that part of him that was connected to his Crown pull further back.
He hadn’t realized it until this point, but the Crown had not truly turned off since his battle with the Witch King. It had sputtered out, and been a constant drain in its broken state. Now that he loosened that drain, he felt part of him relax almost instinctually.
It was not that the Crown cost Mana or Stamina, but it was a constant weight on his thoughts. More than that, it was as though Randidly was forcefully standing on his tiptoes for an extended period of time. It raised his will and impressed it upon the world around him. That exertion was slowly becoming more and more natural, but it was still more than Randidly could handle. He would need to experiment with it in the future to get the hang of its uses.
During the walk, he also considered the fight against the Witch King. In his initial excitement, he had overlooked an important fact: the Witch King was one of the elites of the Wights. Effectively one of the most powerful individuals in this war. It wasn’t that he hadn’t realized this in his rush of endorphins as the battle started, but it was that he missed the important point that this opponent was far beyond his league.
About as far beyond his league as he was above most of his “opponents” back on Earth.
There was also the problem that he had somewhat forgotten how to fight opponents above his level. Although he had planned the fight to be an epic confrontation, he had simply met Strength with Strength, and expected to come out ahead. Instead, Randidly knew that he should have relied on his mobility and the Phantom’s Embrace, arguably his most powerful combat Skill, in order to gain an advantage.
His time on Earth had made him somewhat lazy. It was time to change that.
When Randidly arrived at the tent of the Sentinel, he was relieved to see that it was sparsely populated. But the flinty look the man was giving him was enough to know that the other was aware of at least a portion of what transpired there.
“My attacks rarely miss. I strike only when I have accounted for all variables… I must admit that I underestimated you. It is a testament to how far the Northern Domains have come that you were able to emerge from that area,” The Sentinel said with his hands neatly folded in front of him. “And yet… I wonder why you chose to use those considerable abilities the way you did? That woman is undoubtedly talented, but… how much is her life worth?”
The Sentinel’s eyes were dark and grey as the two regarded each other. Two Lieutenants stood very still to the sides. Their eyes were very pointedly not on the two figures. There was more tension in the air than Randidly would have liked to admit. He wasn’t sure how this would turn out.
“Enough,” Randidly said simply. And as he did so, he felt Deific Mien of Yggdrasil spreading out from him. “Her life… we are not close, but she has done much to help me. Her life is worth more than enough.”
Those grey eyes bore into Randidly, seeking something. Whatever he found took a long while to find, because the next five minutes were only silence and their gazes. Randidly dare not look away, for fear of confirming something. So he could only maintain the eye contact and grit his teeth.
All of his old fears about human interactions were coming roaring back, but he pushed down those voices and just maintained the gaze. This was like talking and socializing, but a thousand times worse because there was only the two of them and their held breath.
Finally, the Sentinel sighed. “It is… regrettable. But I concede there are many such individuals that would have given me pause. You contributed much to the defense, and from what I understand you have been distributing these larger shields to use. For that, you have my eternal gratitude. It was not a move that would have turned the tide, but it was enough to save many lives and more in the future. But know this: you owe me. The price you would pay for this… Azriel Blanche’s life is a heavy-”
Randidly produced an object from his interspatial ring and threw it onto the desk in front of the Sentinel. It was a pearly finger wearing a light blue ring.
“And how much is this worth?
A few hours later, Randidly moved into Azriel’s medical tent to check on the woman. He half expected to find her training, but to his surprise she was meekly sitting in the bed reading a small leather-bound book.
She looked up sharply when he entered and made a face. “Ah. I’m glad you are here. Thank you. We can now consider this even for all of the help I have given you in training to fight Drak.”
“Hey, I went above and beyond your request,” Randidly said with a shake of his head. “I actually defeated him in battle. Shouldn’t you have owed me?”
“When has life ever been about accomplishing a journey? It was about telling a story.” Azriel said. “The story of my master… who has been much maligned due to their… nature. A story of my blooming ability under my master. A resounding victory. Effectively, you made my master irrelevant by ruining my great villain. Now I must move the narrative to a grander stage…”
Azriel fell silent with an extremely intent expression on her face. She was staring down at her book. Soft white hairs hung down and framed her face. She was so powerful and brave, but her wrists looked so thin underneath the sheets.
“How long until you recover?” Randidly asked to change the subject.
Azriel gave him a sideways glance. “…what do you mean?”
“I mean, when are we leaving for the Central Domain,” Randidly said, chiding himself for asking such a dumb question. Likely, Azriel was already healed. She was only resting and spending time reading in the meantime. It was strange compared to his knowledge of her, but it reminded him strangely of people from Earth.
“Ah… sometimes I forget how foreign you are. It will take almost a week to recover. And that is optimistic.” Grimacing, Ariel shook her head. “Now that the Wights are here… the damage they inflict are riddled with their newfound life energy. To our bodies, it’s like poison. I have heard tales of times where serious injuries take several months to heal from. The worst never truly heal, but leaves an individual crippled, unable to even bear a spear.”
Randidly blinked. Part of losing Aether… was slower healing?
That made a drawn-out war much more dangerous. It also explained why earlier losses in the war were so devastating. When the wild attempts to retake the Spear-source failed… those people were actually injured. They weren’t able to utilize their full strength in the next assault, and things stalled out to the current point.
To the point that the Wights felt comfortable launching assaults on other Domains.
“Then…” Randidly said slowly as he put the pieces together.
Azriel nodded. “Likely… I will not participate in the finals. None of the individuals here have any healing arts… only the School of the Heart possess those arts. I would choose to travel to meet some of the experts that are coming here for the tournament… but I fear that the doctors have informed me that my injuries are so serious something inside of me is broken. I will not be able to travel for a week.”