The first planting offered Randidly a sickle. Poison of the Fickle Aether. If something is in your way, destroy it. Crush its form and seize the remnants of its power. You are a greater being than this. Do not let it stop you. Sculpt yourself as you will so that you might ascend your true Path and become a God.
Randidly considered this planting coolly. He knew its source. This… this was the attitude of the Creature. He had never been truly sure as to the source, but to see this portion of his Class with the trappings laid bare made it immediately clear. It disturbed him greatly that it had influenced him, but now wasn’t the time for that.
Randidly turned to the other planting seeking his attention.
This planting offered Randidly a gauntlet. Patron of the Fallen Earth. This was a gauntlet that could seize the world. All could be grasped with the strength of hits gauntlet. With it, any wild force could be brought to heel. Seize the strength given to you and wield it freely. Choose to absorb the strength that was your birthright.
Randidly snorted. This was due to the Patron of Ash? Interesting. At least Randidly had impressed him enough to convince the Patron all that time ago that he would have the potential to become Chosen. Well, it was hard to know whether this was a good thing or a bad thing.
A wave of pain reminded Randidly that he didn’t have time. One of these Paths needed to be chosen. With Inspiration partially ashen, the opportunity to use Erode Image wasn’t present… As it was, Randidly was just as likely to knock himself out by using the Skill without the boost from Inspiration.
Sighing, Randidly reached out. Perhaps if it were him five months, no, even a month ago, Randidly wouldn’t have chosen this. But he had spent the last month fighting to defend people. He had watched men and women die and buried them. Responsibility weighed heavily on his shoulders.
Randidly took the gauntlet. Although he would like nothing better than to say fuck you to the Patron of Ash, Randidly was no longer just representing himself. He didn’t put much stock in it, but he was the Leader of the Order Ducis. He was sniffing out the secrets of the Second Calamity. In a lot of ways, he was Earth’s hope.
But as he prepared to return to the Soulspace, Randidly hesitated. He eyed the sickle.
After all, he had two hands…
When he returned, the pain smashed into him. Golden Roots of Yggdrasil and Crown of Upheaval and Silence was almost on third ash. Most of the other Yggdrasil Skills were also showing signs of slowly being burned away. The Aether flowed through him like a howling gale, and his Class continued to shudder underneath the strain.
With burning emerald eyes, Randidly gestured. What he hadn’t been prepared for was that the insidious influence of the Ashen Image had bypassed his Skills. They had blunted it, but some of his lessor Skills, like Mapmaker and Dagger Mastery, had turned to ash despite the protection. With that resonance, some other Skills were now consumed, or partially so. Nothing truly important, but several of Randidly’s Class Skills were the worse for wear.
Fine, time to bring it all.
Both Randidly’s Class Skills and the Kata of the Ashen Spear flew to suppress the Skills lost to the Ashen Image spread throughout his Soulspace. And the Spear Phantom Skills came to stand side by side with the Yggdrasil Skills, smashing against the powerful influence of the Ashen Image.
It was an earthquake of the Soul, and Randidly himself was the battleground. The Ashen Image was more like a wild beast than a true image, he abruptly realized. It wasn’t that the weaker Skills of hills had simply been in the wrong place, they had been targeted. This vicious Ashen Image was semi-intelligent.
It gave him the chills.
Now, fighting it desperately head-on, Randidly felt its cunning as it lashed out with a vicious image of burning to strike at the struggling Skills he used to suppress it. Randidly’s Willpower surged in response. The two clashed, and Randidly briefly blacked out.
Absolute Timing gained a Level and Randidly immediately flashed back to himself, feeling a deep fear. With a wild glee, the Ashen Image charged to bludgeon Randidly’s Skill and Randidly’s grip tightened on the gauntlet in his hand. Although the portion of his Skill had informed him this was possible, holding the gauntlet gave him an implicit knowledge of the process.
Unless the Ashen Image could be subdued somewhat, it would damage many of his quickly dwindling Skills as Randidly attempted to fuse with it. In addition…
Randidly’s eyes glittered. Suddenly he smiled. As the Ashen Image rose again to lash out, a great force smashed down on it from above. There was a soundless rumble, and the Ashen Image’s strength faltered for the first time.
Tall and proud, Randidly’s Progenitor’s Influence gathered to strike again. Its attacks were fast and depleted itself, but there were many benefits to being worshipped as a god. These people provided mixed images, but it was numerous beyond belief. For several seconds, it was possible to smother and overwhelm the Ashen Image.
Deciding to risk it, Randidly removed his perception from his inner world and twitched in the real world. The Patron of Ash, in the form of Ulaat, was standing before Randidly. He regarded Randidly curiously.
“Have you given up? Boy, I did not waste my-”
The sickle slid cleanly into Ulaat’s chest. Randidly intimately knew this sickle. It was a brittle weapon, but it was one designed to poison a connection between two things. In practice, it was difficult for such a brittle weapon to make it near enough to a vulnerable target to inflict damage. Perhaps that was why the Creature felt comfortable providing Randidly with this tool.
When he struck the Patron of Ash, when he struck Ulaat, there was no resistance. All that made the Patron powerful was now consuming Randidly from the inside out. There was no substance on which the sickle could be broken. So Randidly aimed for the consciousness of Ulaat and struck at the body. Immediately, Randidly felt something inside the Patron sever. He staggered, confused. “What? This… ah……”
“Fuck you,” Randidly said, relishing every word. To think he didn’t believe he would find the opportunity for this..
“Foolish boy,” Ulaat said, as his body collapsed in an explosion of ash. Within, there was a glowing ember. The sickle had sunk cleanly into the coal, and it flickered feebly. “I have not yet revealed the third secret. And I will not, until-”
“Fuck,” Randidly enunciated clearly, gripping the sickle tighter. Then he wrenched it to the side, splitting the coal in half. “You.”
The remnant of power that had seized the two severed things could no longer hold on, and it faded. With a sigh, the body in front of him disappeared. Above, the giant face collapsed. Randidly’s eyebrows rose. With somewhat shocked eyes, Randidly looked at the sickle. Had it truly been that simple? The Patron of Ash had obviously made himself vulnerable on purpose so he could cease to be, but-
Congratulations! You have reached Level 35-
Warning, due to internal damage, Level ups are currently unavailable-
Ignoring the notifications, Randidly felt his instincts flair. Absolute Timing rushed down to his hand. His emerald eyes narrowed. There was a choice here, a split path. A strange and incredibly complex bit of Aether detached from the split coal and began to float up into the air.
I can take that
, the gauntlet seemed to whisper. But Randidly knew if he were to do so, it could no longer be used to control the Ashen Image. But looking at the complexity of the Aether Construct, Randidly had a good guess what it was. Possessing such a thing would definitely be useful down the line.
A spear only advances.
Without any remorse, Randidly reached out with the gauntlet and seized the construct of Aether that was split in half by his strike with the sickle. The motion was all fluid and easy. As he examined the construct, the remorse in his heart trickled away. No use regretting it now. The construct wriggled in his hand like a fish, attempting to get free. Portions broke away to disintegrate, but Randidly had a firm grasp on the main piece.
“The mantle of a Patron, huh…?” Randidly whispered. The gauntlet tightened, and he felt some part of it become his. It was claimed. But a surge of physical pain similar to his esophagus being hit with dozens of flaming arrows reminded him time was of the essence, so Randidly left the examinations for later. Instead, his focus once more turned inward.