Randidly released a low whistle. “After this is all over, we should spend more time in the Heart School. I can see why you transferred over here. The water is crystal clear… holy hell, is that a coral reef?”
With a wan smile, Shal shook his head and gestured at the expanse of sparkling sand and shockingly azure waters. “This? This is what is shown to outsiders. If you do not die on this adventure, I will take you to the inner sanctum. They have hot springs that make you truly feel alive again. Years melt off of the body like wax when exposed to those waters. Underneath their capital, there is a crystal cavern-”
“Stop acting like children,” Ophelia hissed, her gaze fixed on the Spearman’s back before them for any sign that he had noticed their discussion. The three of them brought up the rear of the train as they disembarked the Oracle’s boat, with the Oracle and Versault flanking the Spearman. “We are here to decide the fate of the world. Do not treat this like a vacation!”
Says the woman who is acting like a little girl trying to impress a man double her age with how ‘grown-up’ she is…
Randidly thought with amusement. But he simply shared a glance with Shal as the group hurried forward. Now was not an opportune time to point out Ophelia’s flaws.
The Heart School was a tropical paradise. All beaches and hot springs and mountain vistas… and active volcanoes. Which of course, was the site of the portal into the Wight realm. Because that was the most convenient place to put a portal. Right above lava.
Randidly suspected that at this point, he could survive a fall in the lava. But he was not the norm. Shal had informed him that there was a plaza on top of it, but Randidly suspected that at some point, the lava would be making an experience. That was just his luck.
“There it is,” The Spearman announced as the walked up the beach and to the hill. With the vantage point they now had, the entire island was laid out in front of them. “Through there lays Icklid.”
“Balamon…” Ophelia said after she was sure the Spearman was finished. For a split second, real disappointment could be seen on her face. “The White City.”
And quite white it was, Randidly reflected. The entire thing seemed to be constructed out of alabaster. The buildings were squat and salty but were constructed with enough space between them that the whole place took on an immaculate feel. At least from this distance, the city looked clean and pristine.
And empty, of course. The Wights slaughtered most of the people on this island when they exploded out almost a year ago. It was in the ‘heart’ of the Heart School that the bleeding had started. Randidly suspected that was why the wound had turned so grievous.
Since the Spearman walked forward with no apparent concern of an ambush, the rest followed blithely. The city gates were open; they weren’t much of an obstacle anyway. Rather than a wall, they were a chest-high rectangle of the same alabaster that comprised the whole town.
It was only after the group entered into the city that it hit Randidly; It wasn’t a defensive fortification, Randidly realized with a start, it was a line. For a giant rune.
There was a strange energy in the air that was palpable to even Shal the moment they walked into the city proper. Randidly’s master stood stock still when he walked into the area of effect and sniffed the air like a hare searching for a predator. Randidly had no doubt that if he had a bird’s eye view, he would be able to see the entire shape of a strange rune which was the very purpose of the city.
Was the portal here first… or the city…?
Randidly wondered as they passed squat dwellings on their way to the central plaza. After examining the feel of the air with a fine-toothed comb, Randidly assumed the portal had come first, perhaps when the Second Calamity originally arrived; the runic engraving seemed to have the effect of causing all Skills and images in the city… to form more easily.
Why had they done it that way…? One obvious effect was to make this city the perfect place for one to ascend, but if this was the gateway first, it would give whoever held it a natural foothold. And if this was meant to be a fortress, there would be more defensive fortifications-
Well, Randidly supposed that wasn’t true. This was Tellus. Defense was not something that they spent much time thinking about.
But the very specific layout still struck him as odd.
“Boy. Shal. Clear me a path,” The Spearman announced as they turned the corner into the central plaza of the city. Again in alabaster, there was a wide and low square filled with four fountains, and at their center, the portal. Lava dripped slowly from the fountains, which were covered in runes. Which, Randidly suspected, was the only way for the lava below to somehow spew upward and then drop back down with drying and turning the four fountains into four mounds.
The portal itself was smaller than Randidly imagined, only about three meters high and two wide. Barely enough for two people to cross at the same time. The fact that the Wights had brought an army through such a small portal was a testament to their relentless, clockwork nature.
In front of the portal were thirteen Witch Kings and one person.
Aiden Darke gritted his teeth and glared at the Spearman. “How could you do this to us? Dooming our entire world to this terrible stasis in order to satisfy your sick ends? For that, I will-”
The Spearman ignored him and turned to face Randidly with a mild expression on his face. “I’m waiting.”
Shal looked at Randidly in askance. Randidly scanned the Witch Kings and noticed one who appeared to be less stick-like below their strange body covering. Randidly nodded imperceptibly and stepped forward.
As the Witch Kings began to howl, a wave of vines and roots ripped out of the ground and smashed the group in twain. With a path open, the Spearman, Ophelia, the Oracle, and Versault didn’t hesitate; they charged forward right through the portal.
Immediately, Randidly heard a loud collision as they met resistance on the other side of the portal, but he focused his attention on the problem at hand: the gathering of Witch Kings at hand that turned to pursue those that already broke through.
With a Phantom Half-Step, Randidly was among them. Acri gleefully sang as it ripped back and forth against the bodies of Witch Kings. They seemed surprised that he moved quickly enough to get at them, and spun around in hissing surprise.
Spectral Claws condensed lightning fast, even as Randidly noticed that Aiden Darke was staring at Randidly in shock. Maybe he was insulted that he was so completely ignored?
But now that Randidly had grown stronger than their prior meetings, Darke really was an afterthought.
Randidly ducked under one Spectral Claw and then used Absolute Timing to weave between the two more Spectral Claws that cut at him, left and right. Then he leapt upward to avoid being mobbed by Psychic Venom. His mouth crept upward as the manic glee of battle infected him. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the larger Witch King surround herself with lavender lightning and smash Shal to the side with brute force.
That earned a chuckle from Randidly; Shal really hadn’t been expecting how strong that blow would be. But Lucretia’s form in this world was a little strange. It seemed she kept her old Stats and Skills from Tellus on the one hand, while also being provided with the budding Stats and Skills from Randidly’s world. It had only been about a week, but you gain Skills pretty quickly in the beginning, especially when you are already talented in an area.
Even if she only had 15-20 Skill Levels in the relevant Skills, those small bonuses would mean a lot when the Skill Level was near two hundred. Which meant only one thing: Lucretia’s combined strength stopped her son dead.
But that wasn’t his fight. Randidly focused back on the Witch Kings around him. Emerald fire exploded out from his body as he spun Acri expertly. When a Shadow Departs, Fireflies Dance got him out of another cage of Psychic Venom and put him behind two Witch Kings.
They immediately twisted and lashed out, but only used their physical bodies to do so. Randidly forcibly smashed away the first’s blow and allowed the second’s to scratch harmlessly against Sulfur. Sulfur hummed with pleasure, even as Randidly used that moment to use the Inevitable Phantom Arrives.
Like a ragdoll, the Witch King Randidly struck tumbled backward. Stepping back to avoid another Spectral Claw, Randidly’s spear swept sideways and knocked a Witch King into the way of its companions. Then he activated Verdant Nova, used When a Shadow Departs, Fireflies Dance to move back among the Witch Kings, and then let Verdant Nova explode after its small warm up.
It wasn’t enough force or heat to destroy any of the Witch Kings, but it did stumble several and fill the air with more fire and ash. Randidly’s eyes burned emerald as he summoned three Reach of the Jade Slag to grab and crush three Witch Kings. Then he used Spear Advances, Ash Trails to rip through a wall of Psychic Venom and impale another Witch King.
Randidly winced as the vicious psychological wariness from the venom struck him, but ignored it. With a shake of Acri, the Witch King he had skewered collapsed. Slowly, Randidly turned to face Aiden Darke and the remaining seven Witch Kings.
Aiden seemed stupified. “What… are you…?”