That violent thought echoed through his mind once, then twice, while Randidly was suffused with the raw emotion of the impulse. Then Randidly felt a rather shocked horror at the sudden vehemence of his thoughts. But even though he felt rather alarmed at the instinct, the desire to kill Iellaya didn’t fade.
…Looks like there are changes from my main consciousness weakening.
Randidly thought with a frown.
The Grim Chimera’s instincts are closer at hand. I’ll have to be careful about that moving forward.
But do I really need to be careful?
Another part of Randidly responded.
If I’m strong enough to kill everything that threatens me, why not get rid of liabilities? And based on her blatant disregard for our safety, Iellaya qualifies. What would have happened if I didn’t wake up in time for the next mission?
To that, Randidly had no answer. Or at least not one that wouldn’t simply infuriate him further. And he was honestly too exhausted to get embroiled in this internal debate at the moment. Instead, he refocused on his meager attention on Yggdrasil. “You went with Salazar and Zauna?”
Yggdrasil nodded. “And both performed admirably. Without them…”
“Yea, I won’t forget that they helped you while I couldn’t,” Randidly said lightly. Despite their individual quirks, Randidly was willing to forgive a lot just for the fact that they had been with Yggdrasil as protectors.
With all the gentleness he could manage, Randidly brought his claw up to his forehead and held his skull. His talons attempted to draw small circles around his temples. Truly, for all that it was useful for battle, the claw and the bone spear were absolutely useless for normal living. Randidly was just as likely to inflict even worse damage than he was to make himself feel better like this.
Shaking his head, Randidly dropped his arms and looked around. Aside from Randidly and Yggdrasil, the tent was empty. It seemed that Zauna and Salazar were busy elsewhere.
Maybe they were driven away by the Nether that I was producing… and maybe that’s why-
With gritted teeth, Randidly spared Yggdrasil another glance. His leaves were simply so much more grey than he remembered. The emerald color had become incredibly dull since they had last seen each other. Turning away, Randidly forced himself to focus on
else than his fellow image’s wounds.
Then Randidly’s eyes caught on a large egg-shaped grey mass in the corner. At first, he was confused, but then he recognized the same strange material that Yggdrasil was using to make an isolating structure for Ignition Essence. Randidly gestured at it with his bone spear while trying to keep his neck and head completely still in order to manage his headache. “So you finished the home for Ignition? But why is there a crack in it?”
Yggdrasil chuckled. “Indeed. Not that I truly know it will help… but somehow I suspect that it will. As for the crack… I do not know. That appeared while I was busy completing the mission. When I came back, the crack was already present.”
Randidly’s eyes narrowed with another flash of fury. “You don’t think someone-”
“Snuck in and shook it around to determine what was inside? I doubt it.” Yggdrasil’s leaves rustled reassuring as he repositioned himself. Randidly released a breath and a lot of his sudden tension went with it. “After all, no one thinks we images possess anything of value. I prefer to think that it was Ignition Essence itself. Perhaps he was gathering enough strength to break out of the isolation chamber of its own accord. After all, the main body created Ignition Essence in darkness.”
As he looked at the slightly cracked egg, Randidly held his tongue. It truly wasn’t a crack from an outside force, but it was just a thin crack that ran along one of the sides. More likely than either his suspicious theory or Yggdrasil’s optimistic one was simply that the material constituting the egg had dried out and cracked for that reason.
But Randidly felt no reason to point that out. Words were important because they shaped belief, and from belief came images. As someone who was currently entirely an image, he would not casually transgress against a fellow image needlessly.
Instead, Randidly simply leaned back and stared at the ceiling as Yggdrasil continued you speak. “You know, there is some good news.”
“Hmm?” Randidly said drowsily. Now that he was laying down again, he wanted to return to a meditative state to heal as quickly as possible. With the foolishly destructive core switched off, the speed of his healing should double.
“Your next mission is offensive. You’ll get your hands on an Aether Key again.” Yggdrasil said lightly. “And if my suspicions are correct… you’ll be able to synchronize Aether Detection with the main body.”
Randidly smiled sharply. Knowledge was what they still lacked most. And it seemed like every time he meant to ask some questions to learn more, an attack came that would distract him for several days with recovering from his wounds. But as long as Vualla had recovered, Randidly had no doubt that she would be willing to give him greater context for what was going on here at the borderlands. That knowledge would be further supplemented when he could use Aether Detection to investigate some of the grand formations in the area directly.
Then Randidly grimaced.
I hope Yggdrasil is right about her being less injured than I was… it seemed like she stretched her boundaries too far as well to annihilate all of the Nether Wells at once…
Then Randidly shook his head. Nothing would come from just sitting here. He needed to prepare himself for what was coming next.
After taking a long rest to recover his strength, Randidly sat up bright-eyed and bony tailed. His claws and bone spear drew deep scars in the ground as he stretched lazily. Then he immediately hopped to his feet and checked the state of his body. Finding it to his liking, he glanced around the tent.
To his relief, Salazar and Zauna still had not returned. And it appeared that Yggdrasil was doing some resting of his own in the far corner, trying frantically to recover enough to assist in Randidly’s own recovery.
Shaking his head, Randidly started to stretch more vigorously to check the state of his image. Yggdrasil was too generous for his own good with his strength. If he didn’t have someone like Randidly with the Grim Chimera’s viciousness to protect him, such a kind-hearted image would likely be devoured by the frontlines.
The more that Randidly thought about it, the more quickly and violently he moved. His body continued to accelerate easily through the motions so Randidly kept on pushing himself while keeping his movements not so violent that it would produce enough noise to distract Yggdrasil. Just as Randidly was getting into the silent exertion of testing his body, there was a noise from the front of the tent.
“B-b-boss” Salazar stuttered as he walked into the tent. “Y-you are a-a-already up?”
Randidly just grunted slowed back down to stretching lightly. He much preferred the silent intensity of Zauna’s gaze when she walked into the tent to Salazar’s rapid tongue movements and stuttering. There was, however, an accusation hidden there in Zauna’s eyes, but it was much easier to ignore something if the person in question didn’t bother vocalizing their feelings.
After staring at Randidly for a bit, his two subordinates shuffled into the suddenly crowded tent. Every time Salazar opened his mouth to say something else, Randidly’s sharp gaze would focus on him and leave the words beheaded on Salazar’s tongue as a lesson for those that would come after. In that way, Randidly could focus on his own tasks and also Yggdrasil’s easy breathing wasn’t disturbed.
Yet Randidly had to spare both of the subordinates an extra glance as he continued to check his image body for flaws. Because on the first glance, it might have been some of the visual effects of this borderland that confused Randidly, but as he looked at them again it was clear that they were both changed.
Salazar’s case was more subdued, but several looks allowed Randidly to determine that Salazar’s neck was quite a bit longer than it used to be. So much so that his head seemed to bob up and down with all of his movements.
In Zauna’s case, her mud color had deepened from shallow and wet mud to deep, dried mud mixed with loam and decomposing leaves. It was a darker, greener brown that caused Randidly to wonder whether he had any influence on the change in shade.
Randidly glanced at Yggdrasil. Was this due to his ability to heal images? Was he also allowing them to grow in the same way that Randidly was? Or would all images grow if they were given the ability to slowly heal and recover after fighting. If it was the latter option, then certainly the Commanders here were vicious for forcing the images to go out and fight even when it would mean they would disperse into nothing and waste their potential for growth.
But how many images lose all sense of self when they are ripped out of the host body
? Randidly licked his lips. Truly, those are the monsters that deserve to die. Perhaps the Commanders can be forgiven, but the System’s recruitment methods…
Shaking his head, Randidly banished his aggression and tried to focus on the task at hand. Satisfied that his subordinates would remain quiet for the foreseeable future, Randidly turned his focus inward. He instantly focused on the three Nether cores revolving slowly around the two Nether Wells.
Randidly hesitated for a split second, but then he touched both of the remaining cores with his Willpower and erased the recorded image there. Suddenly, the Nether in his chest began to swirl listlessly, no longer able to flow into healing him. Randidly quickly tightened the opening of both Nether Wells as tightly as his still relatively tender mind would allow. Then he began the exhaustive task of sharpening his image even further.
Perhaps Randidly could have skipped this part. After all, his image had been completely refined almost four full times since he arrived at the battlefield, and it hadn’t been a weak image before he had come here. Or rather, the weakness of the image was due to lack of time and depth, rather than a faulty base image. The sharp details that Randidly had managed to add since arriving here were just icing on the cake.
But Randidly somehow sensed that he could still take it farther. And that taking it farther was an exhausting task that would lead to immense rewards. So Randidly rolled up his mental sleeves and got to work.
The first step, as always, was just to observe every inch of himself. Then Randidly decided to focus his attention on three areas, keeping his changes relatively clustered rather than attempting to improve everything at once. After all, Randidly only possessed a certain amount of time and attention.
If there were some area that he could use to extend time, Randidly wouldn’t mind putting together a much more exhaustive investigation and going piece by piece through his image to determine the best paths for improvement. But Randidly didn’t currently have that time. He had two days until his next mission, and he didn’t want to waste more of that time than he needed to on his image.
After all, there was a lot Randidly needed to learn about utilizing his cores. Now that he had the general knack, he could really turn it into an advantage in his future fights.
But that meant Randidly needed to move quickly through his image now. So he simply looked carefully and trusted his gut when it indicated he touched upon something valuable.