When Randidly finished, the torch was extinguished. But even though he was faced with blackness when he opened his eyes, Randidly only laughed. The runes were perfect. With the vision, he had been able to construct the inverses of those that constituted the prison easily. They were shallow and weak things, but they weakened the prison immensely.
Well, perhaps not immensely. But it was enough.
For the first time in three weeks, Randidly pressed himself upward. With a gangly sort of clumsiness, he stood.
The runes really hadn’t had much of an effect, but it had shifted the multiplier for exertions from 100x to 80x and the reduction on regeneration from .1 to .2. But of the two of those, the additional regeneration was really what gave Randidly the edge. Previously, he had been able to regenerate well enough, it was just that every movement drained him so much faster than he could regeneration. Any movement that required effort bottomed Randidly out within a few seconds.
After stretching his arms to the ceiling like a lazy cat, Randidly collapsed backward as his Stamina hit zero. Still, he beamed at the ceiling. This was more than enough to make things easier.
Randidly gave himself a few minutes to regenerate back up to a respectable amount of Stamina and then got to his feet with much more grace. He quickly walked over to the hammock and sat down on top of it. Then, after he had gathered himself for a few seconds, he twisted himself and lay back down into it.
In a strange sort of irony, he had returned to the same position he had begun his stay in the prison in. But there could be no comparison; Randidly’s perspective had been irrevocably changed.
After laying on cold and bumpy stone for three weeks, a hammock was the epitome of comfort.
With his newfound comfort, Randidly savored the feeling of actually relaxing. He stopped himself after a few minutes, however, and got back to work. From the control hammock, Randidly created his mass image of the prison once more. With how high Randidly’s intelligence was, he didn’t need to light the place again to create it correctly.
Then he added another layer to the runes weakening the room.
Exertions went down to 70x and regeneration up to .3.
With that, Randidly could breathe much easier. But still, if he was going to take a chance like he was considering, he needed to work quickly. This place was without the overlay System, which gave him a rare chance to act without incurring anymore Heretic Levels. And considering that he wanted to remaking his Class and his Soulskill…
These were definitely actions that would incur the ire of the overlay System. The question was whether he had enough time for them. If the prison warden came down while he was working on himself… Well, wouldn’t they just assume that he was bound by the runes of the room and that was why he wasn’t moving around? They likely wouldn’t even notice the opposing runes unless they shut down the room, at which point all would go to hell anyway.
To make himself feel better, Randidly took some time to use the image Mana Engraving again, pressing extra hard. That way, the exertions got down to 50x and the regeneration was now at one half of his usual.
Either way, Randidly would only take the chance to improve one between his Class and Soulskill. Anymore was tempting fate. As to which…
His Class required images and identity, which Randidly believed he had a few ideas for. After his experience the prior time, Randidly believed he would be able to use Aether to hold the superstructure up, knock down the extra scaffolding around the outside, and then build himself up until his Class reached the Level that he was. He wasn’t sure what would happen if he were to lose Levels, but just the loss of Attributes and Stats were obnoxious.
The System would likely even help. It was designed to do that. But this time, Randidly would be the only source. And he couldn’t change up the influences too much, or else the new Class would be too structurally different.
In terms of his Soulskill shifting… that was a bit more difficult. Remaking those was usually done in a self-righteous burst. Besides, Randidly had briefly checked in on his Soulskill right after finishing the first layer of engraving.
The people of his inner world were currently embroiled in a panic because the alterations to his images caused widespread earthquake and ground instability in the lands. Perhaps now wasn’t the time to force the issue of recreating the world and relocating everyone. And besides, Randidly suspected that Soulskills were much less taboo to mess with than Classes. Changing Soulskills happened.
Changing Classes didn’t.
“So, let’s remake a Class,” Randidly whispered. Mentally, he reached out and touched Neveah, seeing if she wanted to participate. To his surprise, she declined, because she was apparently assisting Nathan as he remade Dozer’s Class at Level 49.
“Well, shit,” Randidly muttered. If Nathan could manage Level 49, he sure as hell could handle Level 35. After all, Nathan's Aether source was him. And likely Nathan's images were influencing him currently. So Randidly closed his eyes and reached deeply into his Aether Spring.
Then he reached even deeper until the Aether at his fingertips had that pure, fiery-ice feeling that meant it was pure. With all of his newly sharpened Willpower from being trapped in the prison for three weeks, Randidly pulled.
In the hammock, Randidly’s body spasmed slightly as the icy-hot energy flooded through his veins and filled the air. Gasping, Randidly’s eyes opened to reveal orbs of violet. His breath came out as steam. Thin lines of static ran across his arms and chest. There was too much available power, even for his strengthened body to handle. His muscles and veins bulged under the strain.
Even so, Randidly ignored it and pulled all that vicious energy deep within himself. In a vicious spiral, it followed down to arrive at his Class.
As he had previously noticed, the one leg of his Class, Progenitor of the Four-Shaded Evolution, had long stopped being able to keep up with the other legs of the Class. But it was only at Level 35 that its weakness began to be a hard limit that prevented him from improving further. With the energy following after him, Randidly swirled around his Class.
One Class, five individual and separate legs. Each of the legs followed the pattern set by the Class to form a spin on its unique image.
Randidly continued to spin, forming a vortex of Aether. Already his body was reaching its limit. He needed to contain the energy here as much as possible. Pushing himself to the limit, he drew more and more Aether down to the area of his Class. Exposed to the Aether, the Class itself began to tremble and crack.
Perhaps one solution was to simply flood it with Aether and hope for the best, but Randidly figured that would be foolish. What he wanted was a base that would last. Originally he had planned to destroy the image associated with the Class itself and then remake the legs underneath it, but now that he was here Randidly realized it wasn’t realistic. For all that the Progenitor of the Four-Shaded Evolution was broken, the Class itself was thriving.
With the legs behind it, it was too powerful. That meant building from the bottom up, and then use that momentum to smash the Class image to remake it.
“Well then,” Randidly said, making hammers and pillars purely out of Aether. “Let’s begin.”
His whole Soulspace trembled as Randidly smashed into the five legs that held up the Class. The way it worked was the Class itself was truly like a scaffolding around his core, which was a tall tower of layered energy and images. Those were what his Class had created by existing. The Skills and Stats he had absorbed from it. So he couldn’t strike with his true mental strength. But it needed to be enough.
Randidly needn’t have worried. The weakened leg gave way immediately, and afterward, the surrounding legs collapsed. They weren’t actually the Class, just this added meaning that was being woven into himself.
Of course, seeing that truth laid out like this rankled, but he couldn’t deny that he had obtained benefits from it. So he would ignore it for now.
But in the collapsing of the legs, Randidly did confirm that the image suffusing the whole of the Class was rock solid. It would cost him too much to reform it like this. He needed energy, momentum, and a pattern.
So as his pillar of Aether slammed into place to stabilize the shaking central substance of the Class, Randidly reached out for the place where the weakened leg had been. This had been the whole issue, and it was the signal that his Soulskill was so far off the beaten path that he truly needed to intervene to fix it. In naming this leg, he needed both to strike a blow at the hold the Ashen Image had on his Soulskill, and leave room for him to remake his Soulskill. After all, this would be pointless if the same thing happened in fifteen Levels.
Randidly grinned at the spot and raised his hands. “For you, Rejt, Allica, and Alta… I’ll be the Lighthouse of the Boundless World.”
In his mind, the brilliant emerald light of his Ignition of the Emerald Essence exploded like a beacon at the top of a tower. That would be the guiding light of inspiration that the people of his Soulskill would need to survive.
Already his Aether pillars were giving way, so he poured himself into the crafting of the image of a boundless world spreading outward from that lighthouse. A place where there were no more lands giving them a hierarchy. Just a world to explore, with that lighthouse at the center that was the hope of home…
As the support pillars began to buckle and his Class substance shook, the first leg snapped into place. It steadied the Class somewhat, but Randidly still pulled deeply from the Aether vortex. He needed power. He felt a blood vessel in his hand pop in the physical world but ignored it. The support system was rapidly propped back up so Randidly could move on.
To his surprise, when Randidly reached for the next leg, he touched the Creature’s addition: Poison of the Fickle Aether. His first reaction was shock, which was swiftly followed by anger. But then came a strange sense of melancholy. For all that Randidly hated the Creature… he was tied to it. His Soulskill and Class were tied to it. He couldn't’ escape that truth.
Just like the Creature would never escape the fact Randidly would annihilate its plans for Earth.
“For you… Longing of the Banished Wind,” Randidly said softly. With the pattern in place, this leg came together more quickly. No, it wasn’t due to the pattern, Randidly had to admit to himself. It was because Randidly had experienced the Creature’s sad existence in those memories recovered from the charred portion of its soul. Randidly knew intimately its deep fear and paranoia. He had seen through its eyes.
All it wanted, in the beginning, was peace, but it was being pursued. So, like the wind, it fled. But in fleeing, it had seen itself warped beyond recognition.
As that leg snapped into place and rapidly assisted one of the bowing pillars, Randidly reached again. This time, he came back with Mrs. Hamilton’s Leg. Protector of Humanity’s Final Enclave.
“I will be the Loyal Benefactor of the Weak,” Randidly said, even as he felt his Crown stir. “I have been away for too long, and too easily allowed others control. I won’t make those mistakes again. “
Quick as a spark, that one was repurposed and reassembled. Randidly reached again. Aemont this time, appearing in one last burst to give him Phantom of the Foreshadowed End.
“Lodestone of the Black Wanting,” Randidly said, feeling Aemont’s constant unwillingness to cease. Such was Aemont's dedication to the love of his life that he broke the constraints of the images of Tellus and created a Skill that could slay a Propagator. Randidly had learned recently that Propagators weren’t nearly as immortal as they had been made out to be, but the reality of it was that those who could kill them, hadn’t.
Aemont had been the first. That was how much he had craved it. It was greed and it was ambition and it was a deep stubbornness that Randidly still carried with him.
That was the fourth leg, so when Randidly reached he found the final one easily. The leg from the Patron of Ash. The leg from Ulaat, the young boy who had burned down his whole world and been consumed by the ashes.
“I’m sorry. Here you lie, buried. And I will stand above you, a monument. A Lesson for those of Brittle Will.” Randidly said. He bowed his head. The final leg snapped into place.
But even so, as the Aether began to swirl faster around him and other blood vessels in his body ruptured, he remained silent. That was the deep respect he felt for what Ulaat had accomplished, for all that he had hurt Randidly with his lack of control. A small show of literal bloodletting as the energies crashing around in his Soulspace made themselves felt in his physical body.
Only after five seconds passed did Randidly move.
Slowly, Randidly looked up toward the top of his Class, where the heavy image of the Planting of the Forest of Enmity stood. Stripped of its legs and assailed by strange images, it trembled. Grinning, Randidly made a fist and smashed it to pieces. Then with a thought, he floated up and gathered those fragile shards, buoyed by the legs’ surging power, to land atop his Class.
“From now on I will be… Lord of the Baleful Wood.” Randidly intoned carefully, for when he named himself he felt the immediate becoming. “Weep, Tellus, for tomorrow, I will ride to war.”
The image of that Class formed a singularity, sucking the Aether into it like a rip in the fabric of space. Even Randidly was caught up in the rapid restructuring, swept away by the energy to rest in a deep slumber as his body rushed to catch up with what was happening.