Ice attacks zipped closer, pulling Alana’s attention away before she could really read the descriptions for either of her new Skills. The first was obviously from her Class and seemed relatively self-explanatory, but as for that second Skill that was based upon her Soulskill…
The Dragon in front of her belched out ice and Alana forced away all of her distractions. Her Hunter’s Instincts brought her sharply back to the matter at hand. Almost reflexively, she activated her new Valkyrie’s Relentless Crusade and felt the expected boost to Agility and Reaction. As she moved, subtle afterimages followed after her.
With a flick of her wings that sent motes of golden light spinning outward, Alana twisted under the breath attack and appeared next to the second dragon. With the powerful image of a hunter slaying its prey condensed into her attack, Alana used Sunstrike and Dragon Slayer to slash open the second Dragon’s throat.
Congratulations! Your Skill Dragon Slayer ® has grown to Level 53!
Unfortunately, Alana instantly knew that the blow was shallow.
Why the hell would I get a Skill Level for a failed kill..?
Shaking her head, Alana planted her foot on the Dragon’s face and stomped downward. Screeching out its pain, humiliation, and fury, the Dragon crashed into the snowy ground below. The Dragon’s behind her had almost caught with Alana, but then she accelerated rapidly forward with her step off of the Dragon’s head and left them all in the frozen dust.
In fact, Alana slightly underestimated the boost given to her by the new Skill and she crashed into the ground about twenty meters behind the Dragon Broodmother with all the violence of a meteor falling to Earth.
Grumbling to herself, Alana straightened herself and cracked her neck. As soon as she did so she stopped the action and frowned.
Just because Randidly does dumb, overly casual stuff like that after being wounded doesn’t mean you need to do it too…
Then she pushed herself forward and rushed toward the Dragon Broodmother. It spun around at her approach and lashed out with its whip-like tail, but the new Skill Alana had obtained was really something. She was able to lean back and allow the tail to whistle past her nose before continuing to rush forward.
Ice blasts from the hurrying Dragon reinforcements crashed around Alana, but she ignored them. Even if she was hit, Inviolability in its passive state would do a lot to prevent any lasting damage. The Dragon Broodmother hastily brought its body around to face Alana squarely. Despite the fact that its attack had been broken and its wing was wounded, it was still a towering Level 82 monster. Its neck writhed deceptively like a snake as its luminous sapphire eyes considered her assault.
But Alana knew she couldn’t slow down now. Hunting was all about momentum. Now that she had the Dragon Broodmother on its back foot, she needed to finish this beast or risk it escaping and being prepared for her next time.
This time when the Dragon Broodmother blasted out its breath, Alana relied on her golden wings to completely dodge. Combined with Valkyrie’s Relentless Crusade, Alana was nothing but a shining golden blur while the blast of ice flowed like a conjured river toward her. A split second later, she landed on the Dragon’s long snout in front of the eyes that were half as large as Alana herself was. Her Mana failed and the wings slowly began to fade, but that didn’t truly matter.
As soon as Alana landed on the Dragon Broodmother’s snout, it flinched in fear and resignation.
At first, Alana raised her spear, but then she paused.
Well, one Sunstrike isn’t going to do much. I’m going to need to maul this huge thing to finally kill it. Perhaps I should give the new Skill a shot?
So Alana activated her new Skill while the Dragon Broodmother regarded her fearfully.
Congratulations! Your Skill The First Sermon of Alaihym: The Shadow of a Distant God (L) has grown to Level 2!
To her surprise, Alana’s mouth opened almost automatically and she began to speak words without conscious thought. “Although he came briefly, he asked us all an important question. He faced us, who had followed him and lived in his shadow and spoke quietly, ‘Is this really the strength that you need to surpass this place? Because something greater will always await you on this path. Endlessly, until your strength is not enough.’”
Alana’s face twisted as her tongue went through the unfamiliar words.
I didn’t think the Skill was
a sermon. But also…
Even though it was a… liberal interpretation of what happened, Alana could see Randidly Ghosthound standing on that platform surrounded by enemies on all sides. They had raised their Levels and sharpened their Skill, but he raised his arms and showed them a power that seemed to make all of that completely inconsequential.
Warmth suffused Alana’s whole body. She felt herself glowing, but with a much softer light than had emerged from her Valkyrie wings. That same feeling she experienced when she realized how powerful Randidly truly was swirled around in her chest. To speak of him felt… right somehow.
Riding on that strange joy in her chest, Alana’s mouth opened and words continued to tumble out. “And when we didn’t understand his message, we fought his shadow until we were exhausted and broken and realized that he had already gone to a higher stage. In his wake, we felt lost. But more than that, we felt empty. Because in this world the greatest enemy was not the foes in front of us whom we could kill, but the very world that led us endlessly forward on this Path of Carnage.”
There was a strange, silent chime that spread out from Alana. The soft light around her blasted outward and she couldn’t resist shivering. For a split second, everything in the surrounding area had been frozen. Snowflakes hung in the air around them as Alana stood before two large, sapphire eyes and spoke of Randidly Ghosthound.
Finally, the moment passed. Snow began to fall. Alana remained silent and tightened her grip on her spear. The two monologues might have been brief, but gaining her momentum back after taking those breaks-
But to Alana’s surprise, when she looked at the Dragon Broodmother, the eyes were half-lidded and filled with a strange light. It’s gaze remained fixed on Alana, who was standing on its snout. What was even stranger was that the Dragons that had been shooting ice blasts at her back had ceased their bombardment. With her Perception, Alana could sense that they were slowly crawling forward and forming a half-circle in front of the Alana and the Dragon Broodmother.
Then, the Dragon Broodmother sighed.
With surprising gentleness, the Dragon Broodmother lowered its neck to the ground and tilted its head, indicating that Alana should get off. The Hunter’s Instinct sensed the lowered guard and urged Alana to strike, but some other instinct held her back.
This was letting go of a chance to strike. It was perhaps foolish. But was this Dragon really Alana’s foe?
Something else was happening here. The light in the Dragon Broodmother’s eyes confirmed it. Considering the fact that she had just given a sermon, could it really just be…?
Alana stepped off of the snout of the Dragon Broodmother. Then, in a rumbling voice, it spoke to her. “We… we all wish to escape the thumb of the Nexus. But it is impossible. Do you truly expect me to believe that someone plans on fighting against that enormous machine?”
“Yes,” Alana said simply.
“The Nexus has the power of countless worlds.” The Dragon Broodmother showed teeth as long and thick as dolphins. “Numerous ‘heroes’ have been devoured by the Nexus. My world has already been trampled beneath its Calamities. It is very likely that this supposed God of which you speak will end up the same way.”
“Even so,” Alana whispered. Just like she had realized abruptly how powerful images were when she saw Randidly use them, another facet of Randidly’s magnetism became clear to her as she watched the light in the Dragon Broodmother’s eyes.
He was someone whose existence became synonymous with hope.
The Dragon Broodmother was silent for a long time. Snow drifted down around them and settled on the rocky ground still stained with the Dragon Broodmother’s crimson blood. As Alana’s golden light faded, it was the only splash of color on the whitewashed summit. During this time, Alana gaze remained on the slow coursing of blood down from the Dragon Broodmother and counted how many Dragons over Level 60 were surrounding her.
Fifty-four. There are fifty-four of them. But at least this gives me some time to regenerate Mana…
Finally, the Dragon Broodmother opened its mouth again. “You… what is the name of this god?”
Alana’s face twisted.
Calling him a god is a bit…
But still, she opened her mouth to speak. “His name is Randidly Ghosthound.”
Congratulations! Your Skill The First Sermon of Alaihym: The Shadow of a Distant God (L) has grown to Level 3!
Congratulations! Your Skill The First Sermon of Alaihym: The Shadow of a Distant God (L) has grown to Level 4!
Congratulations! Your Skill The First Sermon of Alaihym: The Shadow of a Distant God (L) has grown to Level 5!
Congratulations! Your Skill The First Sermon of Alaihym: The Shadow of a Distant God (L) has grown to Level 6!
Congratulations! Your Skill The First Sermon of Alaihym: The Shadow of a Distant God (L) has grown to Level 7!
Congratulations! Your Skill The First Sermon of Alaihym: The Shadow of a Distant God (L) has grown to Level 8!
Congratulations! Your Skill The First Sermon of Alaihym: The Shadow of a Distant God (L) has grown to Level 9!
“…please, tell us more about this Ghosthound.” The Dragon Broodmother’s expression was troubled enough that Alana could recognize it even on the gargantuan, reptilian face.
So, feeling strangely foolish to be talking to so many Dragons, Alana began to relate what she knew about Randidly Ghosthound.
Then, when she finished. The Dragon Broodmother bent its neck and allowed Alana to mount it once more.
Randidly closed the Nether Ritual feeling profoundly embarrassed. Technically Alana was talking about the exploits of the main body, but still…
Shaking his head, Randidly turned to look at his work on the ivory lock and his jaw dropped at what he saw. In disbelief, he reached forward and touched the lock.
This… doesn’t it look like it’s almost one-third of the way through the lock? I shouldn’t have used any of the refined Nether to reduce it, so why…
After a bit of hesitation, Randidly checked his swirling stock of refined Nether, and none was missing. Then Randidly pressed some addition Nether against the lock and witnessed as the lock barely decreased underneath the assault, as he had expected.
So he leaned back on his heel and racked his mind. What had suddenly accelerated his depletion of the lock while he was focused on the Nether RItual? A couple of days had passed in this time while he was fixated on Alana, but that was nowhere near enough to explain the sudden difference in the lock’s corrosion.
Randidly spent a few more hours searching his mind for ideas, but it wasn’t like there was an obvious answer. He could only reluctantly assumed that his instincts had perhaps found a weakness in the lock while he wasn’t focused upon it. Yet that explanation seemed profoundly insufficient to deal with the magnitude of the change he noticed.
Randidly had perhaps depleted 1% of the ivory lock before this. Now suddenly he had pierced through 30%. That acceleration was ridiculous with such a flimsy explanation.
But Randidly knew that part of his fixation with this new problem was simply a way of not thinking about what Alana was doing right now on Earth.
What will change if these monsters listen to stories about me?
I mean, it’s not a bad thing if more people directly confront the fact that we are being used by the System. No matter how skilled we get at dancing their tune, we will never evolve beyond their sick dance if we don’t try and understand broadly why these things are happening.
Shaking his head, Randidly settled back down. Now that he had a taste, Randidly was curious how other things were going on Earth. Some part of him considered choosing Helen next, but Randidly somehow understood that there was a significant chance that she would just be fighting or training. Despite her influence over his Order Ducis, she wasn’t someone to look at to understand broader trends.
So this time when Randidly fired up the Nether Ritual, he bit his lip and focused on Miranda Hamilton.