Congratulations! Your Skill Nether Acclimation ® has grown to Level 134!
Randidly did his best to catch his breath as that terrible destruction that Vualla held so close to her heart raced outward from her body with all the terrible momentum of a wildfire on a dry summer day. Nether Beasts were eradicated and the blue veins unlucky enough to be in the surrounding area were forcibly shattered. What remained in the aftermath was only an ominous silence.
The action struck him as even more impressive after Randidly had gathered some context by joining the body possessing soldiers to fight against the Nether Beasts that were harrying the group as they rushed headlong toward the Nether Wells. From his first battle, the quality of Nether Beasts here was several tiers higher than he had encountered previously. To see Vualla treat them like nothing after tasting their strength firsthand…
Honestly, I’m pretty near the end of my rope already. It’s honestly sorta a miracle that I’ve maintained as much clarity as I have…
Randidly thought as he stared at Vualla’s back.
Had he not discovered how to manipulate the bubbles he had obtained from the stars, there was no way that he would have been able to keep up with this pace. Even with his newfound control over the faux-Nether in his body, he was battered and bruised after three run-ins with Nether Beasts. His edges were charred and bloody. He could only watch as Vualla threw her punches and annihilated everything in her path.
At least my admiration toward her isn’t unfounded…
Randidly shook his head. Then he remembered the main body’s spoken warning against being close to her, and he reflexively barred his teeth.
Even if her Aether is old and familiar, that doesn’t prove anything. She grew up in the Nexus; just the fact that her Aether feels ancient means nothing.
However, Randidly couldn’t deny that the warning from the main body took on a less aggressive and superior tint in the context of the attack that Vualla just unleashed. It instead seemed more cautious. If Randidly were to become antagonistic with Vualla-
Then Vualla swayed and Randidly snapped back to the situation at hand with a pang of guilt over his previous train of thought. Although Randidly’s own image body groaned in protest, he stepped quickly up behind Vualla and pressed a steadying hand against her shoulder. He tried to keep the touch of his claws gentle, so they wouldn’t pierce her unprotected skin. “Hey, Group Leader. Now’s not the time to take a break.”
Vualla turned and looked at Randidly sourly. “Yeah well, now’s when I
to take a break. So be a good subordinate and prepare my reclining couch.”
Grinning, Randidly responded. “I’ll send for the manservant immediately. But what about the mission?”
Vualla released an aggrieved sigh with all of the energy of a forgotten closet swinging open due to the wind. But before their banter could continue any further, Kel’ev and his permanent glare aimed at Randidly stepped up beside the two of them. He pursed his lips at the sight of Randidly’s claw on her back. “Vualla? We must continue. An attack like that will attract-”
“Yea, yea,” Vualla waved a gauntlet warily. “On we go. There is more work to be done. The reclining couch will have to wait.”
But Randidly couldn’t help but notice that she stood still for several seconds, leaning back against his supporting hand before she finally took that step forward. As the group slowly regained its previous speed, no Nether Beasts appeared to harry them. Rather than being relieved, Randidly felt a tight knot forming in his chest as they hurried forward unmolested. Looking around, it was clear that the other soldiers felt the same; no more ambushes could only be bad news.
It only took a scant thirty seconds to arrive at the entrance of the Nether Well area. Vualla slowed down, clearly confused by the dense web of blue veins that formed a halo around the entrance. But with the image of what he had to do clear in his mind, Randidly pushed past her and raised his hand toward the blue veins.
All he needed to do-
“Look out!” Vualla bellowed, but it was too late. Almost a hundred Nether Beasts appeared in front of Randidly, one less than a meter away from him. All oozed the deadly sort of Nether that meant they weren’t just average Nether Beasts. These were meant to be their heavy hitters.
But although Randidly was ambushed, he did have a flash of insight as he watched them suddenly materialize in front of him.
That’s how they teleport. They don’t teleport really; they move along the veins. They become the bubble and the blue veins are the core and they shift themselves.
Just like I manipulate my bubbles, they simply make their bodies focus elsewhere. It’s probably not an easy thing to move the self across such vast distances, but if you have enough Willpower-
Randidly’s thoughts were interrupted by the bear-like Nether Beast in front of him ripping into his shoulder with its claws. Feeling a bit foolish that he had allowed himself to be distracted, he spun away to avoid letting the bear make the wound worse with a brutal rend. Randidly’s eyes narrowed as the bear then swiped with its other limb to complete the evisceration.
Congratulations! Your Skill Chimeric Avoidance (L) has grown to Level 206!
It was a close thing, but the movement was enough to avoid a matching serious wound on the other side of his body. Randidly wasn’t interested in matching wounds at all. From the edge of fuzziness that he felt slowly drifting over him, he knew that he was finally nearing his limit once more. Truly, his volunteer trips into the Great Rift are one of the worst habits that Randidly had developed.
One of these days, his generous spirit was going to get him killed.
But right now he was grinning from ear to ear. Molten Fang of the Pariah concentrated energy into his bone spear. He moved like a shadow and stabbed his limb directly between the Nether Beast’s eyes. Of course, it didn’t have a true brain, it had a core. But still, Randidly found it immensely satisfying to land such a typically deadly blow. The feeling of the Nether flesh parting before him was rich and wet.
In response, the bear Nether Beast just lashed out with its paw again. Around him, Randidly could feel Nether Beasts surging closer and Vualla howl with retaliatory fury. Her image soon followed. The sudden wave of destruction that blew a huge hole in the suddenly arrived Nether Beasts was so close that it ruffled Randidly’s hair with its passage.
Although Randidly’s left shoulder was a mass of gore, he was just an image; his actual mobility wasn’t affected at all. So he raised his claw and brought all of the resonance he could muster between his cores and his bubbles to press the Nether Beast’s attack to the side by thrusting the bubbles out against it like some sort of telekinetic ability. The paw whistled past, a scant inch away from cutting into him once more.
But it did give Randidly a second to gather himself.
Man is Proud, but the Chimera Takes.
The Grim Chimera Skill that was the combination of Spear Advances, Ash Trails and As the Sun Stills remained the most powerful sudden attack in Randidly’s arsenal. The sudden burst of momentum and the concentrated force both became blunt instruments to smash directly into the Nether Beast’s already bleeding body. Their forms buzzed and hissed from the sudden physical contact and the Nether Beast was sent tumbling backward.
Man Weeps, but the Chimera Mourns.
Randidly followed up with his quickest Skill, striking out nine times in quick succession to rip the Nether flesh of the beast and inflict some distracting damage. It roared furiously, scrambling backward to open up additional space and regain its footing. After that most recent exchange, the Nether Beast appeared to finally consider Randidly a threat. But of course, more space was exactly what Randidly wanted; the harassment was only to give him a clearer shot on his true goal.
Man is Proud, but the Chimera Takes.
Congratulations! Your skill Man is Proud, But the Chimera Takes (L) has grown to Level 177!
This time, Randidly’s sights were firmly set on the core of the Nether Beast. With a brutal crash, the tip of Randidly’s bone spear skewered the thing.
But Randidly’s face immediately fell; he hadn’t been able to shatter it. It might have been a result from his slow weakening under the influence of Nether, or the fact he hadn’t utilized his bubbles to add extra force to the strike, but the core was cracked yet unbroken. In addition, the Nether Beast was thrown backward away from Randidly from the force of the strike.
Randidly was considering his follow up when one of his fellow volunteers appeared next to the wounded Nether Beast and bisected it with a swing of his huge copper ax. Afterward, the bull-headed man nodded toward Randidly and moved to assist others against the remnants of the most recent ambush force.
Twisting around, Randidly found himself face to face with a trembling Vualla. Her eyes were locked on the wound on his shoulder. Her gaze was so intense that Randidly couldn’t resist looking himself As he looked down at the mass of gore, Randidly winced; the wounded flesh was steadily disintegrating and flaking off like ash off a burnt house
Randidly did his best to offer a cheerful smile. “Made it. Now we just need to give the signal and run away right? I bet just the forces following us will be more than enough of a distraction for Terith.”
Vualla didn’t respond. She was just looking at his slowly disappearing flesh.
As Randidly opened his mouth to say something else, Kel’ev materialized next to the duo. Truly, he seemed to have a banter radar that let him stick his nose in at the most inopportune times. But to Randidly’s surprise, he wasn’t glaring at him at all right now; instead, Vualla’s former assistant seemed extremely worried about her. “Vualla, give the signal and let us depart.”
Finally, Vualla spoke. “Randidly, can you open the way to the Nether Wells?”
Randidly blinked. “Well, probably, but-”
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way.” Kel’ev hissed. A tremor seemed to run through his body. “None of it was supposed to happen like this.”
Ignoring Kel’ev, Vualla smiled at Randidly. “Open it up then. Why should we bother waiting for the Second Squad? I need to blow off some steam anyway.”