Randidly arrived at Donnyton 40 minutes later, the distance completely eaten by his mobility with all of his skills active. Most everyone was gathered in a huge clump, whispering. All of the Classers had worried looks on their faces.
Randidly used his Eyes of the Spear Phantom to pick out someone in the far side of the crowd, and then used Phantom Half-Step to teleport right in the middle of the group, appearing next to Sam and Daniel.
Daniel paled even further, which seemed impossible, given how bloodless his face was right now, and Sam directly collapsed, his limbs trembling. Immediately, the surrounding people turned silent, eyes wide at Randidly’s sudden appearance.
But Randidly ignored them, and asked what was going on. Sam quickly explained about the Tribulation somehow corrupting Turtletown, then releasing the Raid Bosses it had been hiding to attack Donnyton. Lyra had arrived, and then left to fight the tribulation. Then he explained how Nul attacked it spiritually somehow, and disappeared in the process. At that point, the strange corruption seemed to affect Donnyton’s Classers briefly, then stopped.
Randidly glanced at Sam. “What’s your excuse then?”
Immediately, Randidly was shocked at his rough tone, but honestly, it had been a long night. And his aggressiveness, which he usually just bottled up, had finally found an outlet in violence, and had been acknowledged. Randidly knew deep down that he was starting to change, but he couldn’t work up the effort to care.
Changing was better than dying.
Sam just grimaced, taking it in stride. “I’m… not sure. I’ve just felt…. Strangely weak lately.”
Shrugging, Randidly leapt, leaving the group of people. Time to find Lyra.
The search didn’t take as long as he expected. There was an area to the Northwest where trees in a large area had been leveled, as if with a razor, the cuts clean and sharp. Randidly moved quickly into the cave, where he found a very strange scene.
Lyra was sprawled out on the ground, reaching forward, to another Lyra who was sitting in a sitting cross legged, her face scrunched, her eyes closed.
Randidly raised his spear.
“I swear to fucking god, I am SO not in the mood right now.” Lyra muttered out through gritted teeth. Randidly sighed and lowered his spear.
“If I really wanted to kill you, I’d use a spell anyway.”
“Which I would see coming, you idiot. Better stick with the spear before I murder you.”
They were silent, for a long while, as Randidly looked to the reaching Lyra. She was still, her limbs stiff, her lips blue; clearly dead. His eyes slid to the living Lyra.
“Have something to say?” Lyra said waspishly.
“Nope.” Randidly said, grinning slightly.
“Well I do. Bring all the fat cats from Donnyton. I have something to say. I need you all here.”
Randidly nodded, but as he turned away, Lyra’s voice stopped him. “And Randidly… what I’m going to say… doesn’t… apply… to…. You….”
It seemed like speaking took a great toll on Lyra, because she spat out a fat glob of black blood that began to sizzle on the ground. Randidly nodded slowly, uncomprehending, but acknowledging the words. The he spoke, quietly.
“Lyra… it’s really good to see you again. I missed you.”
Her pinched face broke into a small smile. In that moment, Randidly activated Haste and Empower, his spear ripping across in a line, beheading the sitting Lyra. Bloodlessly, her head toppled to the ground, and then dissolved into a grey goo.
Inwardly, Randidly set himself into a fighting stance, struggling to avoid the strange sense of loss in his heart. If Lyra was dead-
“I SAID. I am NOT in the fucking mood.” Lyra spat, her head reforming before his very eyes. The beheaded version began to sizzle away into nothing on the ground.
Sam winced, still feeling weak after Randidly’s arrival earlier caused him to collapse. It had been happening intermittently of late, but today was the worst it had ever been. It wasn’t as bad as the pain the Classers had briefly experienced, but it was infuriating in a different way. He hadn’t felt the trappings of age since the system had hit, and to feel them again now…
It reminded him of his own mortality.
But Randidly had come, gathered the Council,taking them to an area 3 miles away from Donnyton, through a deep cave. He warned then to not jump to any conclusions, based on what they saw, and also to be ready to fight.
Then he had fallen silent, a brooding expression on his face, and that had been most disturbing of all.
When they arrived they all looked, eyes wide, at Lyra’s corpse, and then her sitting form. The Ghosthound walked right up to her, so the rest followed.
As they approached, The Ghosthound drew a wooden training spear, and held the point to the throat of the sitting Lyra. Her mouth quirked up in a small smile, but she otherwise remained still. They stood like that as the Council arrayed itself near, but far enough away to react, with Donny standing, confused, with his shield raised.
When they had all settled in, The Ghosthound coughed, and then said. “Before… Lyra starts, I want to say, no questions until she finishes. Especially you Daniel. This seems… straining, on her.”
Then they all turned to the sitting Lyra.
She opened her eyes, which burned a vivid violet. The Ghosthound narrowed his eyes, but otherwise showed no reaction. Sam gasped, taking a step backwards. This… these weren’t Lyra’s eyes….!
“Ahem! Welcome welcome, ah yes, finally my chance to monologue. As some of you suspect, yes, Lyra, the human, has… passed. Of course, as a personality, I am unending, ohoho, so now you see before you the glorious, Lyra, the Village Spirit! Praise me~”
Everyone just looked at her. The Ghosthound’s fingers tightened on the spear. Lyra just sighed. Sam was torn. Her eyes were different… but the confrontational and rambling way she talked…
“I have a secret, and I also have a truth. Nul might not have been such a bad guy after all. You really are… stuck, in some ways as village spirit, but I should be able to persevere, by… well it’s complicated. Anyway, Classes are important, but not just for skills and level up gains. It’s the true reason why staying an NCC forever isn’t feasible. That is…”
Lyra face seized, her violet eyes burning even brighter, and she had to spit out the final words. “It’s… due to Aether.”
Her body began to shake, and Sam noticed all the Classer blinked, and their eyes unfocused, in the way they did when they got a notification, but Lyra began speaking rapidly, drawing their attention back.
“That… should buy me some time. Aether is what the system is based on. Stats and skills are only possible due to increasing exposure to Aether. A class… gives you a direct line to the Aether Spring of the Village. The higher tiered the Village… the more people it can support, due to a larger Aether spring. But the return from increasing your village tier has diminishing returns. If a person continues to grow stronger without it… they are soon afflicted with weakness… and eventually die.
“You will notice too, when a village is overstrained. The crops will die, the land will be barren…. And then the weak will fall ill. You must not let that happen to Donnyton. To avoid that, their are three methods. The first is clearing “Bosses” which will provide a rather substantial pool to draw from. It’s only a temporary fix, but an effective one. Bosses either from Dungeons, or the Tier III Raid Bosses, which will spawn in Danger Zones…
“The 2nd method is, as I said, upgrading the village tier. That will increase the size of the Aether spring, giving the village a higher population cap. This is a more permanent solution. The final way…. Is to invade other villages, and raze for their Aether Spring. This is another permanent solution. You effectively steal their source of Aether…”
Lyra coughed, mouthfuls of black blood tumbling out. She tsk’d almost in annoyance. “A tribulations life is only worth that much time, huh… well, anyway, it’s not an immediate concern for most. Just be careful, especially you Sam. Crafting provides its own… complications that… make Aether consumption more serious. And know that when you meet the village, from other worlds… they might not have the best intentions. Earth… was a low seed, in terms of its expected outcomes with the system. But others.”
Violet eyes bulging, Lyra continued to speak, her chest heaving. “…others were warned of the systems coming long before…. They have been preparing for decades…. They hit the ground running… Be very… careful…..”
And with that, Lyra collapsed, dissolving into a puddle of grey goop.
They had gathered goo Lyra up into a pitcher and returned to the village, everyone quiet. Randidly carried the… human body delicately, although Lyra was very clearly dead. Then Donny spoke. “Well, I suppose there is nothing else to do but keep doing the same thing. Ghosthound, have you felt this… weakness?”
Randidly’s face was clouded, but then he glanced meaningfully at Sam. “…I believe it varies from individual to individual. Also, you received a notification?”
Donny nodded slowly. “Yes.. but basically just that the tribulation for Donnyton was vanquished. We all gained 2 levels. And that there would be more buildings available for purchase from the Village Spirit, but…”
Everyone looked at the pitcher, and the grey goop that may or may not be Lyra.
The rest of the walk was silent. When they reached the village, Randidly pulled Sam to the side.
“I… might have a solution. To your weakness.” He said, his words halting. “But… you must promise there will be no hard feelings, and that you will do me a favor.”
Sam frowned deeply. “Well… let’s hear it out first. What are you acting so serious for?”
To Sam’s surprise, Randidly simply put his hand on Sam, and a notification appeared in front of him.
Warning, Randidly Ghosthound has initiated the skill “Blessing of the East(U)” on you. This will create a permanent bond between you two. Should Randidly Ghosthound perish, all benefits gained from this bond will be retained, but the growth of the bond will cease. Do you still wish to accept his blessing? Y/N
Shrugging, Sam selected Yes. Then, his frown once more appearing, he selected Yes two more times, clicking through the warnings.
Congratulations! You have received the Blessing of the East. Calculating Blessing…
From Randidly Ghosthound, you have received the Soul Skill “Blessing of the Auspicious Dawn”. You have gained access to the class. “Dawn Smith”. As you do not possess a class, speak with a Town Spirit to obtain this class.
Congratulations! You have gained the skill Lumomancy Lvl 1. You have gained the skill Mana Engraving Lvl 1. You have gained the skill Blessing of the Dawn Lvl 1.
Lumomancy: Create and shape light. Mediums may affect the brightness and longevity of the crafted light. Brightness, Longevity, and possibilities increase with skill level.
Mana Engraving: Carve powerful runes onto weapons and armor, increasing their effectiveness. Requires mana and knowledge of the Runic language. Success Rate and effect increase with skill level.
Blessing of the Dawn: Passive skill. Finishing a crafting product under the light of dawn will have a chance of increasing the stats of an item. Chance and effect increases with skill level.
Sam blinked slowly. “This…”
“A Soulskill, which you can only have one of.” Randidly remarked, his face haggard. “That should… also provide some relief for you, for the weakness. I hope it’s satisfactory.”
Sam only frowned in response. “Well let’s not rush to judgment. Oh, what was that favor?”
Randidly paled, and then dumped something on the ground. “Ah, please repair this whenever you have the chance.”
In a flash, he disappeared. Sam chuckled, almost awestruck by his speed. But why was he in such a rush…?
Curious, Sam crouched down, relishing the return of his strength. He clenched his hand into a fist, then examined what Randidly had dropped. He froze. His eyes began to bulge, rage filling up every inch of him.
The spear which he considered his greatest work, the pinnacle of craftsmanship and dedications….
…lay in the dirt, covered in scratches and cracks, snapped completely in half. Most insultingly, there was dried blood splashed all over it, as if Randidly hadn’t even had the time to stop and clean it. Eyes burning, Sam glared after Randidly, swearing that he would have his revenge.
But then he remember the deal, and forcefully suppressed that feeling. But when Sam picked up the heavy spear, he did not place it into a spatial ring, but physically carried it, cradling it the entire while.