They plunged into the inky black clouds like a candle into a child’s nightmare. All brief bravery followed by hissing silence.
Allica gasped as the temperature dropped to the point that her breath misted in front of her. Or at least she thought it did. It was much harder to see amongst these clouds. She twisted around and looked at Randidly. The thunder around them was still audible, but it had the same ebony color as the clouds. It was only when she looked behind that she saw all the gathered radiance of their caravan glittering that Allica felt some of the chill ebb.
“So.” Allica finally said. “Why? Why does the world need to end?”
“Three reasons,” Randidly finally announced. After shaking his head as if to clear some dizziness, Randidly straightened.
Rejt scowled. “You answer her? Tis favoritism. Unbefitting a god of your status.”
Randidly ignored him and continued. “The first is… perhaps sentimental, but also karmic. I cannot pretend like Alta didn’t happen. And her emotions were valid, despite how extreme her methods were. And for that reason… we need to give her a proper send off. A funeral pyre. A way to reap the fate that was sewn between us.”
The serpent twisted to the left, even as thunder boomed again and again around them. Within two undulations in the new direction, the heat returned to reasonable levels. Two more undulations and Allica was sweating. And yet they continued forward and the heat continued to rise. So much so that Allica panted lightly; if she breathed too deeply, her lungs would be scalded by the overly hot air.
With watery eyes, she reached out and gripped Rejt’s shoulder. If she was struggling, some of the injured in the serpent farther behind them-
Then they burst out of the black clouds, gliding through the air outward. Instantly the temperature dropped down to acceptable levels. Allica spun around and released a relieved breath; although she had never seen it from this view before, the serpent was flying over the Sea of Annihilation. And-
Behind them, the World Tree was burning. Those black clouds they had risen up through were the thick smoke and ash that the greedy fires released.
“You are burning it all,” Rejt said quietly. “Our homes. All we have known.”
“Every image I gave to you,” Randidly replied in an equally quiet voice. “Every hope and dream I invested in this place. Every image of one connected to me that served as a seed. I need to burn it all; all of it will not escape unscathed. I’ve tried to pull out everything I could but… some roots are too deep, even for me to move. But if I’m truly doing this, there was no other way. I needed the power this fire could provide.”
With ponderous slowness, the serpent spun around in a lazy circle. With that, there was plenty of time for everyone in the serpent to see the World Tree.
It looked brown up close, but from this distance, it was possible to see waves of ruby and olive colorations that ran up and down the bark in waves. Allica recognized those as the bringers of the different seasons. Each land stood stark against the backdrop of the Sea of Annihilation, each held aloft by a gnarled branch that looked remarkably like a hand with its gnarled fingers locked around the base.
It was even possible to make out each land by its climate, by the vegetation that it possessed. Instantly, Allica’s eyes went to the sandy Earth Golem land. Even from here, the swirling winds were clear. It seemed like it was sandstorm season. She instantly felt a pang of homesickness. Right now, all the Earth Golems would be holed in up in their burrows drinking homebrew liquor made in the fat months. It was an image that reminded Allica of her childhood.
Or at least, when Allica squinted she could dimly see those individual details.
Most of the distinctions were wiped away by the heat waves rising from the thick crimson flames that were devouring the trunk of the World Tree, reducing it to charred cinders. The bark cracked and split. To her horror, Allica saw the branches holding the lands aloft begin to sag.
As they continued to circle nearby, more bubbles floated upward to join the serpent. Some of them were holding larger groups of people, likely those who didn’t join the Procession, but others brought plants and animals in vast numbers. Even Soulless were included in some bubbles, although mostly it was the smaller variety.
“The second reason?” Rejt prompted, gazing intently ahead of them.
Allica followed his gaze. With the new bubbles arrivals, the serpent had grown even larger than it had before. It had lengthened considerably. And as it continued to circle, the head was slowly catching up with the tail. They were almost brushing against the slowest of the bubbles.
Not thirty meters away, Allica could see a sobbing woman kneeling next to a man who had a deep wound in his chest. His hands trembled, then collapsed at his sides. As the woman lost herself to tears and buried her head into his chest, a small twinkle of light floated away from his body. It joined the serpent, but it slowly lagged behind. There were thousands of such lights, and with so many gathered together they stopped being individual lights; soon they were just a radiance.
Without slowing, the head of the serpent plunged directly into that radiance.
Gasping, Allica felt ice cold pinpricks all over her body-
-she was picking a dandelion, and the air smelled like summer grass-
-the reflection of the stars on the glassy surface was too perfect. She punched the pond-
-her father had died, and Allica needed to decide who should inherit his armor-
Covered in sweat, Allica blinked and her vision cleared.
“Sorry, I didn’t even think how they would affect you. I’ve insulated us for now. These days I’m inundated with so many small images that I don’t even notice,” Randidly sighed. The serpent continued to rotate, forming a huge sparkling, rainbow-colored ring even as it floated above a giant burning tree.
“What happens to those images?” Allica whispered. She could still feel the wooden chair she was sitting in during that image when that stranger heard that her father had died. “Do we… just disappear when we die? Is our world...”
Allica couldn’t even finish, she just looked with red eyes down toward the sagging Earth Golem land. Very gradually, it was beginning to tip.
To her surprise, it was Rejt that answered. “Look. Follow the radiance. It is not lost. Well, not all of it. But it is slowly internalized by all who follow after. It becomes… part of us.”
Randidly nodded slowly. “The second reason I burn this world is… to make you all real. To give you weight. It is a cruel thing, the System does. It allows us to create… well, these worlds are not meaningless. But they are dreams. You were a dream to this point. Born from my subconscious and Skills, but without any method for growth beyond me. Oh sure, you could influence me, but… it was a limited thing. You would always be of me, and I would never be a creation of yours.”
“Is that not how godhood works?” Rejt asked in confusion.
Randidly’s smile was tired. “I’m getting out of the business of being a god. In a way, it’s a blessing… but of course, it comes with a cost. I’m now risking a lot more by involving myself with you. You will be able to shape me much more directly. We will be… one.”
“A fucking weird time to get philosophical,” Allica muttered as she watched the lowest Land shudder and collapse into the Sea of Annihilation as the fires at away at the World Tree’s strength. She knew her Land wouldn’t be far behind.
Grinning, Randidly chuckled. “I actually mean that literally. Your world will be of my body. You will be a part of me. Not really physically, but more like… two sides of a coin. No longer will you be just a dream. And that is why this requires so much energy to accomplish.”
“This merger… it is about my good looks?” Rejt joked. But even his grin faded as more and more of the lands collapsed and fell into the black waters of the sea. With her jaw locked, Allica made no sound as the Earth Golem Land was devoured by the waiting sea. The flames on the trunk of the World Tree began to shrink as there was nothing left to burn. Small motes of gold and silver continued to float up toward their luminescent ring, but mostly the people suspended in bubbles just watched their world collapse.
“And the third reason… is perhaps the most mundane.” Randidly said. “It was the time difference. Eight hours in my world was a month on the World Tree. Part of the reason that I was so absent was simply that I couldn’t keep up with the sheer amount of things that would happen in your world if I would deal with problems in my own. “
The ring began to spin more quickly. More and more motes of light gathered around them. The radiance grew brighter and brighter. Below, there was a terrible tearing noise as the World Tree collapsed sideways. When the trunk smashed into the Sea of Annihilation, a vast wave was produced. But very quickly, the tree sunk into the depths of the choppy waters and disappeared from the surface of the world.
Allica just stared downward. “So what now?”
The light around them became blinding.
“Breaking to create energy… and then with it, creating.” Randidly breathed. “Next… you become me.”
“My good looks-” Rejt began, but then there was an endless light that seemed to sear through the skin to their soul.
For a second, Allica was screaming. Then she wasn’t
She was standing on a low hill with Rejt in front of a sapling that stretched about a half meter out of the ground. It was a small and weak tree, and yet Allica instantly felt a deep nostalgia as she looked at it.
Most importantly, there were fucking words hanging in her vision.
“Do you see these words?” Allica whispered.
Rejt scratched his head. “Yes. Did you write them? They move when I look in different directions. This is-”
Welcome to (Warning! World impossible to determine. Please see a Village spirit)! Your world has been entered into Nexus, and as such, are now running on a new system to give you the tools and challenges to survive and live a fulfilling life! Good Luck.
Basic Stats Set!
Health(/R per hour): 76 (34.5)
Mana(/R per hour): 17 (6.75)
Stam(/R per min): 24 (12)
For more information, you can view your stats anytime by thinking “Menu” and then selecting “Status”.
Congratulations! You the “Newbie Path” is open to you!
Congratulations! Due to the unique circumstances of your entrance to the Nexus, the “Children of the Ghosthound I” Path is open to you!
Congratulations! Due to your life experiences as the leader of Carthak, the “Grantor of Sanctuary” Path is open to you!
Congratulations! Due to your dense and complex images, the “Untapped Potential I” Path is open to you!
“You probably have a lot of questions,” Randidly said. Allica turned to regard him. Rejt was glaring at the words that were evidently hanging in front of his gaze. “I’ll do my best to answer, but let’s be quick; it seems like I’m wanted in the outer world.”