Randidly would very much like to relax and trust the world of these two would-be jailers around him. He would like to believe that they were being honest about what was going on. Hell, Randidly could sense that they genuinely believed that they were leveling with him. In their eyes, he was some sort of sophisticated recruit that they wanted to rope into their future endeavors.
To them, being honest now was the way to build a bridge between the two sides. And yet…
What Randidly now concerned himself with was accuracy. Should he feel confident enough in what they were saying to not force the issue? Could he simply stay here and familiarize himself with his Soulskill while Shal fought… Silo?
Something stunk. It was like a sudden itch Randidly felt on the back of his neck.
Somehow, Randidly didn’t believe that things would happen so easily. There was something… fishy about the way things were proceeding. And even if there wasn’t, their prior plans had been thrown off by his brief tutelage under Shal. How simple would it be for coincidence to derail their plans once more?
Versault continued to speak as Randidly tried to unpack his uneasiness. “Relax and remain here with us for the duration; once Shal ascends, he will travel upward into the deeper parts of the Nexus to be judged. If his strength is sufficient, and it should be considering the time Tellus has spent refining him, our world will experience untold plenty-”
“Accident?” Randidly burst out. Very much would he like to simply take the time to go through the many notifications he had received when he remade his Soulskill. He hadn’t had time yet, and who knew what bonuses and worrisome messages he had received from the System. But his intuition wouldn’t let him let go of the current issue of Tellus. His mind focused on the adjective that Versault had included. “Why was Silo an accident?”
Versault paused and exchanged a look with the Oracle. The young-looking woman spat on the ground and threw her hands up into the air. So Versault shrugged and said. “I suppose there is no harm in telling you. Before the war started, the Spearman went to fulfill the role of Autarch and guide Wight attacks on Tellus; the prime overlord of the Wights having been killed by the Spearman himself hundreds of years ago.
“While he was gone, the Spearsource disappeared. It was actually the subject of much debate. As it was during my guard shift, I was held under suspicion.” Versault’s eyes narrowed to slits. “Only in retrospect was it obvious that the Spearsource had developed nascent sentience and left of its own accord. It is, after all, a bundle of some of the most powerful images on Tellus. Was it truly so strange that it was able to transcend itself? It has since created homunculus that it is using to try and once more become the dominant image of Tellus. Silo is one of those. Ah, I believe you knew Skarch? She was also one such.”
“There were many,” the Oracle interjected. “But Silo has lasted the longest. We wouldn’t have even discovered him if not for you, so let it be known that not all of your interference was negative.”
Frowning, Randidly turned and looked at the Oracle. Now he was just beginning to grow suspicious. It made a certain amount of sense for them to be honest with him if they wanted to recruit him, but really? To this degree? And now offering him something close to compliments…
“You know, for a while, we were actually considering you as being the hero,” Versault said, and to Randidly’s surprise, he chuckled. “That was why you encountered a Propagator while in the Southern Region. Your Level climbed, but not nearly at the speed we had been expecting. We figured it was due to the limitations of your Spellspear Class, and let it drop. But Silo’s Level increased at a rapid clip during that time, which caught our attention.”
Randidly filed away that confusing bit of information, even more weirded out by how friendly and accommodating these two were being. This was… basically house arrest, was it not?
Spinning slowly about, Randidly looked at both of their faces. Versault continued to explain the ways that they sent Wights against Silo to strengthen him while Randidly continued his focused dissection of what was going on here. All the while, that sense of wrongness that warned of danger to Shal grew more pointed. And for all that the Oracle was scowling, she was clearly nodding along with Versault and agreeing with him.
And as Versault talked, he grew more and more genial.
As Randidly frowned in the face of this strange change of treatment, one of the first things that Versault said to him popped into his mind.
“And I am old. And tired. Far too old for the plans that the Spearman subjected himself to. But he was obsessed. He would not let go of the memory of Ethellem, his love. To protect the world that spawned her, he subjected us to hundreds of years of suspension in this hell. And now our emancipation is so close that I can taste it.”
A strange thrill of surprise ran through Randidly as a realization struck him.
These fucks are taking a victory lap. They might be here to keep me from messing anything else up, but they are so sure of their victory that they are gushing in relief.
The nagging sense of something being wrong grew even more powerful until it seemed to cast a pall entirely over Randidly and Versault. At this point, Randidly couldn’t even focus on what the other man was saying as he talked about the trials and tribulations over the long years.
Instead, Randidly had a decision.
All things had a cost.
These two old, likely very powerful, Masters might be correct. They might be simply waiting for a confrontation between Shal and Silo to decide the overarching fate of Tellus. For all that Randidly worried about missing something, he didn’t believe that Shal would lose, even to Silo whose images had been warped and inflated by the Aether he force-fed himself.
Randidly would admit that if the fight happened, as the Oracle and Versault believed it would, Shal would win. He would ascend, and the Spearman would have saved his lover’s world because Tellus would have overcome the Second Calamity without relying on a Nemesis to do it.
But would the fight happen?
Randidly couldn’t think of a reason that it wouldn’t happen
In addition, Randidly couldn’t think of a series of scenarios that would result in something bad happening to Shal. Honestly, the biggest danger might very well be ascending. Randidly was completely unsure what that would entail.
But he had a bad feeling. And the longer he stood here, the worse it was growing. He had to decide whether he wanted to pay the cost of questioning these two Masters or pay the cost of trusting them. In the end, it was an easy decision.
Suddenly, Randidly interrupted Versault. “…and you are sure there isn’t any force out there that would try and stop this ascension? Or usurp it?”
Versault paused, and instantly his face creased with annoyance when he was reminded of the possibility of failure. “Of course there is none.”
“If there were no independent entities, how would I have thrown off the plan in the first place? The Spearman can’t control
” Randidly said looking over his shoulder to watch the Oracle. It was an unfair question because he was from another Cohort, but these two didn’t seem to know that. And of the two, he believed that the Oracle was less filled with gaiety at their impending success. If there was a small possibility, she seemed more likely to see it.
Versault snorted, not bother to answer. But Randidly saw on the Oracle’s face exactly what he had been expecting.
“There is nothing!” Versault said sourly.
But this time, the Oracle said. “Well… that’s not true.”
Versault glowered at her.
The Oracle shrugged, clearly irked by his superior attitude. “The first Propagator, the original leader of the Wights.”
“That thing? It was broken by the Spearman,” Versault said dismissively.
“Its image was broken,” the Oracle corrected. “Technically it escaped, fatally wounded. Long have we searched for its corpse, but it has never been found. It too would want to have its own image ascend. It is possible that it has long bided its time for this moment.”
“Bah, you are superstitious.” Versault waved his hand. “Even if it did manage to survive, what could it do?”
“It’s had hundreds of years…” The Oracle said in a quiet voice. The worry on her face was spreading.
“In that time, what would it do?” Versault demanded. “Its image was broken. That, you cannot deny. It was mortally wounded. It would have taken generations for its body to heal. And its greatest weapon, the Wight energy, was stolen from it. Now, it appears that weapon has even been banished from this world. What could it do, with just itself?”
Randidly blinked slowly. A weird theory began to emerge of small pieces of circumstantial proof. More than that, there was a throbbing river of karma in his chest. Suddenly, it was clear to him where this bad feeling he felt was coming from.
“It could have learned to use a spear,” Randidly whispered.