“Sir, I think… I shouldn’t be deconstructed.”
This made the Autarch pause. Immediately, the strange instinctual compulsion to approach him disappeared. Thoughtfully, he regarded her and cracked his knuckles. Only after he had cracked every single finger did he speak. And then, it was only a single word. “Why?”
“I… I believe that my karmic abilities can be extremely valuable to the Wights,” Lucretia said slowly. Inwardly, she began feeling the rapidly growing pool of Aether in herself as she pulled more and more from Randidly. Unlike him, she would suffer rather dangerous repercussions if she let it remain unused for too long. But somehow, Lucretia didn’t believe that the peace would remain for much longer. “If I am deconstructed that would be an asset against the people of Tellus that you would no longer-”
“Bah, it is of no importance. The Wights will live and die no matter what you do.” The Autarch sighed. But then he turned back to Lucretia and squinted at her. “However… I cannot deny that I have sensed something about you that was beyond my understanding. To escape my gaze for so long… well, very few things have done it. By all means, please demonstrate your… karmic abilities. Perhaps there is some hope for your life, should your methods prove… novel.”
Lucretia’s lavender eyes flashed, but she maintained a strong control over her expression. It was not the time to allow him to see through her plan, even as the Autarch gave her the perfect excuse. His age seemed to hang over him like a weight. He looked at her with cold eyes as he raised a hand and beckoned her.
Instantly, that part of Lucretia that was so ready to die revitalized itself and urged her to unleash her most impressive Skill. She allowed a small smile to herself as she gathered the Aether and karma into her hand. ‘Don’t blame me if the demonstration proves deadly.’
Lucretia didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, as her instincts were slowly shutting down her ability to think of anything aside from returning to the Autarch once she recalled him. Combine that with the great fear monster that had rooted itself in her heart and Lucretia could sit still for a very short amount of time.
But there weren’t many things that she needed to prepare. All of the elements were already present. Lucretia dearly owed the Autarch for all that he had done for her; it was time to repay that debt.
With a flourish, Lucretia removed the dagger that had been fashioned out of the Judgement. Even now, after studying it for two months, she couldn’t make perfect sense of the capabilities it possessed. Not only did the Skill Level seem high, but the Skill itself seemed to be constructed at a higher tier. The frost it exuded invalidated every defensive Skill that Lucretia had tried it again. “For all you’ve done for me, Autarch… here is my greatest attack.”
Of all thing, the Autarch snorted and gestured as if to hurry Lucretia up. Her face twisted with a vicious fury and with her Aether empowered hands, she seized the powerful black thread that connected the two of them and she heaved upon it. The Autarch trembled.
But where one object slowly drew towards Lucretia, she also threw the powerful dagger towards the Autarch. The two objects were connected as though on a chain, and the thread began to flow much more rapidly towards her as the dagger approached the Autarch.
The Autarch’s eyes widened as he watched the dagger approach. It seemed some part of him finally recognized how dangerous a situation this was. He held up his hand, which began to glow golden with compressed power. This was Lucretia’s great worry; none of her memories covered whether or not the Autarch himself could fight. She did remember that the regular Propagators were rather weak when not surrounded by their dolls, but this was THE Propagator. This was the Autarch, the first who created the rest.
But as soon as the streaking dagger struck the Autarch, Lucretia felt a flash of relief. The attack drove the Autarch backward. He hissed in fury, but he couldn’t stop the unyielding momentum of that dagger empowered by Skills from another Cohort.
More and more rapidly the threads of fate flowed towards Lucretia. As she gathered them, she sensed something changing within herself. Even now, the Autarch maintained some control of her that she couldn’t escape. It was an influence at the level of her blood and hair. But now that she was gaining this karma-
The thread halted abruptly, causing Lucretia to twist her mouth and pain. Some of the mental energy she was expending to gather the thread was shattered by that noise, making her cross-eyed. Cursing silently, Lucretia refocused, trying to understand what was going on.
“...well, you have proven me wrong. That certainly was a surprise. It was not your… karmic abilities of course, but to think you had managed to refine such a dangerous weapon…” The Autarch muttered to himself as he stepped around the coat rack in the middle of the floor. The attack of the dagger had pushed him easily back over the ground until the Autarch had been able to dodge behind the coat rack and allow the attack to land.
A small amount of material was chipped out of the coat rack, but Lucretia’s attack was stopped dead. Without the momentum, the Autarch’s mental strength was such a higher level than hers that she couldn’t forcefully draw in that thread. Even as the Autarch picked up the dagger which had dropped to the floor, the black thread of karma began to flow inexorably back towards him.
Without any other option, Lucretia marshaled that sea of Aether she had been stockpiling and turned her glare on the Autarch. Did he truly wish to feel the wrath of her karma? Fine then. She pulled lightly on her connection to Randidly, strengthening their similarity. Then she used the move that had made her deathly afraid of the Ghosthound’s future accomplishments.
Randidly’s Skill Level wasn’t high, and using it through their connection didn’t have the same sharp effect that it usually would have, but Lucretia didn’t need sharp in this case. Sharp had already failed. What she wanted now was enough pure force to stun the Autarch and allow her to seize more of the karma in their relationship.
Fueled by the sea of Aether, the Skill smashed forward with enough momentum to stun even the most stalwart of images.
...and it passed right through the Autarch without even stopping. It was like he wasn’t even there. It was as if-
The blood drained out of Lucretia’s face as she stared at the Autarch’s ancient face. Those wrinkles scrunched up into thousands of tiny mazes and the man began to laugh. It was like he wasn’t using images at all.
“How…” Lucretia began, but she had no idea how to complete her sentence.
“More self-control than a bug like you would ever understand,” the Autarch said, and now that the brief amusement passed, he looked ancient once more. His eyes were flinty and dark as he considered Lucretia. “...still, the dagger is interesting. I will take it as proof you have exceeded my expectations. That hasn’t happened for a long time. But it matters little. The stars are aligning. A small advantage now won’t be enough…”
Fear. That cut into Lucretia’s heart like a grizzly bear crashing into a shop front. “But… butt..” She attempted to speak, but her mouth couldn’t keep up with her. Her inner workings were slowly turning feral, and she couldn’t maintain her civil veneer. “But the fucking war-!”
“Tellus? The Wights? Naught but words to placate the foolish. I have waited too long for this, and now we finally have a chance. No, what we need is not this strange power you have brought from another Cohort, but your body. To finally free me from this prison. Break for me.”
Lucretia shattered in body and mind, into a thousand pieces. Parts of her felt nothing, as they become naught but contextless pictures, like polaroids spiraling away from a house that was burning down. But other parts of her screaming furiously, vehemently. After everything? After it all? She had ended just like this? Her last strength seized upon hatred and fear and those tools came easily into her grip. She raised them, even as she was just the remaining spirit as her existence collapsed.
Was death truly this simple? There was great power and karma in transitions.
Upon the black thread that linked the two of them, Lucretia used her remaining flakes of Aether to weave a curse that would haunt and weaken this man to his dying day. As if sensing this, the Autarch smiled and shook his head. The curse that Lucretia had made unraveled like nightmares in daylight. Her hatred and fear were spent, and her hands began to unravel as well.