Time was grey and rattling like a snake. The light from Randidly’s mind slowly dimmed so it was barely lit. All that was left was the continual struggle.
At some point, Randidly tightened and immediately something was different. Then, while his face slowly shifted into a frown, he tried tightening again. He blinked owlishly as the sensation once more informed him that something was wrong.
His remaining thoughts buzzed around him like heavy bees in the height of summer. Those individual thoughts were definitely making noise, but it was hard to understand them through the constant drone he was hearing. Sensations were such complicated things that Randidly remained perplexed for quite some time by their strangeness. So instead, Randidly did his best to ignore the pesky thoughts and returned to what he knew; he tightened.
Randidly blinked again.
I’m… done? But…
His awareness blearily wandered down to the Nether Well that now sat docilely in his chest. Just like his thoughts had been, his whole image body was buzzing. Which, even a distinctly out of it Randidly knew, was not a good sign. But Randidly remained focused and quickly arrived before the Nether Well.
One problem at a time…
The reason that he didn’t think he was done was because there was still a thin flow of Nether that was trickling out of the Nether Well. But despite that, no matter how much Randidly strained against the Nether Well, it wouldn’t shut all the way. The flow remained.
Randidly’s bleary mind tried to remember if the Aether Crossroads had either been completely closed and concluded rather quickly that it really hadn’t; perhaps it was impossible to close such things. As such, his long trial was finally completed. Or at least, the first portion of the trial was completed.
Let’s see if it behaves.
Settling down on his mental haunches, Randidly closely watched the Nether Well for any changes after he had finished tightening it. The worst case scenario was that it would slowly force itself open while he wasn’t paying attention, reducing him to a bomb. Considering the fact that Randidly’s current watching abilities essentially amounted to blinking and hoping that too much time didn’t pass between blinks, such a result would be catastrophic for him.
Randidly blinked. Darkness was a timeless place that Randidly dived into and from which he then emerged.
Nothing seemed to have changed. Randidly did his best to suppress the urge to yawn. He was supremely drowsy, and not in the Eidolon Crucible was about to arrive kind of way. He was exhausted because he had pushed too hard for too long. His image was in shambles, and some of that damage ran to the very core of the Grim Chimera.
The kind of drowsy that means I’m near my end…
That send a spike of vivifying energy into Randidly. He shook himself. Nothing brought the Grim Chimera’s focus to a point than the looming threat of death.
Time trickled past. His heart rate was erratic. Randidly abruptly realized he had stopped paying attention to the Nether Well and shifted his attention back.
Nothing had changed.
Well, if its opening, it’s very slow…
Randidly tried to tighten the Nether Well again, and it still wouldn’t budge. And since he trusted the sensation of tightening more than he trusted his current vision on the thin flow of Nether, Randidly assumed that perhaps he would be okay to turn his attention elsewhere. Perhaps to the deep wounds to his image he had received while trying to control the flow of Nether. Where it was drastically fucking needed.
But before Randidly completely turned away to focus on other things, he created a tight spiral of Nether in his chest where it would continue to flow. He still remembered some of the problems that resulted from the tepid Aether the main body had encountered. Although he had no proof, he suspected that Nether would behave similarly if allowed to gather and pool. Better to have it swirling in his chest than pouring out into the outside world, anyway.
Then Randidly began the exhausting process of repairing his image. Due to the extent of the damage, he started with broad strokes.
Survival, violence, loneliness, talon claw, spear arm, two tails, pale skin, raptor legs…
All things… check. Time to take a quick break…
Randidly dozed off, allowing his consciousness to shift into another place to heal.
This time, when Randidly snapped back to himself, Randidly opened his eyes and actually considered the real world. Thin blue veins flitted away from his face as if surprised by his sudden movements.
Congratulations! Your Skill Nether Sensation (L) has grown to Level 14!
The notification made Randidly wince, but he did get a sense of the surrounding area. A bleary sense that informed him there were no Nether Beasts, and he could distantly feel two other foreign objects among the Nether. Those would likely be his subordinates. However, it was immediately clear that neither was moving.
Some part of Randidly wanted to check on them further, but he was in no state to do that. So Randidly turned his focus inward once more. He checked the Nether Well immediately. There were no changes after the extended period he spent hastily shoring up his image. Satisfied, he turned back to himself.
The musculature, the pale skin, the dark veins, the brilliant green eyes, the tactile sensations of bone and talon, the violence, the pride, the wrath, the Chimeric changes…
…ugh…. I have such a fucking headache…
Randidly slumped back down into rest. He could feel his image body fuzzily drifting in the Great Rift. Yet he simply didn’t have any energy to create a buffer of images to dull the worst of the damage he was receiving.
I’ll do that… later…
Oblivion took him once more.. Again, he came to and checked his surroundings and the Nether Well. No changes. Randidly idly wondered how much time has passed, but didn’t care enough to follow up on the thought at all. Instead, he began to work again.
This time, Randidly started by repairing all the damage that he had received from Nether corrosion while he was resting. It wasn’t particularly significant, but it was best to have a clean base to start his changes to the Grim Chimera. He couldn’t simply allow it to continue to wear away at him.
Then he began to work on his image again, this time taking inspiration from that phantom that Randidly received from his connection to the main body. However, there were times now that he consciously differed from that image he could sense.
Because there was a very important change that had occurred to Randidly. Suddenly he had a Nether Well inside of him. Something that even the main body didn’t have. Smirking, Randidly began to trace out the implications for his own image.
Rather than being extremely subtle with it, Randidly physically placed the Nether Well in the core of the image of the Grim Chimera. That spiraling nebula of dappled light how was physically present in his chest, near his organs. Strangely, it fight perfectly, nestled vertically between his two lungs. Plus, it spread a wide illumination outward.
Which had the strange effect of combining with his near translucently pale skin to make his torso seem almost completely see through. The damaged skin of his arms and legs was dark and marred, but near his hips and shoulders, the pale skin took over. With the light from the Nether Well, you could see every muscle and bone the Grim Chimera possessed.
And the thick, black veins that carried his sludge like blood throughout his body. The sudden shift made the Grim Chimera seem even more sickly, like it was a fragile thing that could break at any point. But of course, it was that fragility that had given the Grim Chimera its eternal craving for survival. And that was an impulse that would not go easily into that good night.
Another strange result was that the color of his eyes shifted. They were still green, of course, but now there were thin veins of black that ran through the emerald of his irises. Rather than being bright, his eyes were dark and dangerous.
This time when Randidly returned to himself to rest, he didn’t lose consciousness. He simply drifted, allowing his thoughts to move freely.
So he thought about Nether. If, as he suspected, Nether was just the polar opposite of Aether, what constituted Nether?
Aether was substance, energy, and image. The System was a ponzi scheme were it took the images of the people underneath it in exchange for its tightly regulated energy. Was Nether run under a similar scheme?
That didn’t feel quite right. There was a very different feel to Nether, an aching sort of pain that was very different from any discomfort that Aether had ever caused to Randidly. But Randidly had also noticed that the Nether Beasts he had encountered had been extremely feral in their actions. Perhaps no Nether creatures possessed intelligence, but Randidly wouldn’t assume such a thing easily.
I’ll have to visit Vualla when I get back,
Randidly thought drowsily.
Maybe she will be able to tell me more about how the whole of the war is progressing…
This time, Randidly’s rest was directly interrupted by a sudden sense of displacement. He was there, floating in the Great Rift, slowly coming to terms with his body, and then a hand touched his shoulder and he was teleported elsewhere.
The first thing Randidly felt was relief. Although he had gathered himself mentally enough to endure, it was still nice to be out of the Nether rich environment of the Great Rift. One realization that had hit him suddenly was that as he tightened the expulsion of his Nether Well, the function that protected Randidly from the other Nether was severely diminished.That was why he had been damaged by the surrounding Nether.
With the Nether Well almost completely shut off, it provided a barely noticeable boost that only covered the interior of the Grim Chimera image.
A light cough dragged Randidly’s attention above him. “So… Mr. Yggdrasil, will you be able to heal him from this?”