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A note from puddles4263

2/14

Silo yanked his spear from Darrune’s back. The desiccated corpse fell to the ground and cracked into pieces on the spot. Without the animating energy within it, the Spearsource’s different incarnations were quite fragile.

Silo tried not to imagine himself in just such a situation.

Hissing in displeasure, Silo looked at his Level. 98. One short of his goal.

For the first time in his life, Silo knew what his role was. He had to reach Level 99. And then he had to slay… someone.

Well, things weren’t crystal clear. But the headaches and confusion had passed when he had accepted his instincts. With the clarity, Silo felt some guilt for the lives he had taken over the past several months. But more than that, he realized that none of it was his fault; everything was just due to the world he was raised in.

He lived in a violent world, so he was violent. That was just the way things were.

It wasn’t his fault.

It wasn’t his fault.

Silo had been very thorough in his search of Hastam, which was made much easier because most of the city was celebrating and the leadership was conspicuously absent. He hunted down and killed every shard of the Spearsource. All but one.

“I’m sorry Rumi…” Silo whispered as his hands tightened on his spear. “But… I need it. This world needs it. It’s not my fault.”

*****

“You were looking for me?” Randidly asked, walking stiffly into the room where a pale-faced Platton was deflecting the Oracle’s questions.

The Oracle straightened, looking at Randidly with a frown. Evidently, her prophetic visions hadn’t informed her that he would be here. Slightly amusing. In fact, he had waited outside the room and overheard several minutes that consisted of the Oracle demanding to be shown where Randidly was hiding.

In addition to rather pointed questions about the runes that covered the mountain in connection with the sudden inactivity by the Wights.

...Well, to be honest, Randidly hadn’t just been listening to gain information. He had been recovering as rapidly as he could. The process of merging with the world that had been his Soulskill was not only mentally exhausting, but several of his images were very, very badly damaged. Not like As the Sun Stills had been his first trip to Tellus, but right before the point that the Skills would break. They all had hairline fractures. Critical weaknesses, in the short term.

Especially his Yggdrasil Skills. Those had taken the fall of the World Tree in his Soulskill hard. And that was with thousands of those that shared his images connected to him in a formation to bear the brunt of the damage.

Randidly grimaced. Everything had a cost. And Randidly hadn’t even had the spare time to investigate some of the changes that came along with his Soulskill in his new form.

But already his Skills were on the mend. It would not be long before they were back into usable shape. They were not currently so healed that Randidly wanted to fight for a few hours yet, but enough to put up a strong front to the Oracle.

The Oracle regarded him suspiciously. “Ah, Mr. Ghosthound. Were you taking a nap? I couldn’t sense you for a while. It was… peculiar.”

Randidly made a mental note of that. Was it a feature of his new merger, or a coincidence? “Apologies, I didn’t mean to make you wait. What can I do for you?”

With an intensity that made it difficult to meet her eyes, the Oracle stared at Randidly. With his jaw muscles bulging as he gritted his teeth, Randidly kept his gaze even and mild while they stared at each other. Seconds ticked past. Randidly became all too aware of the scent of Platton’s sweat.

Truly, the man was a good soldier, but this was well beyond his comfortable depth.

“....Hmmm, I have long ago seen that you have come to this land to find your equipment. I believe I have the intelligence on where such things would be stored. As I favor, I am willing to guide you there.”

Randidly smiled politely. “Thank you, but I assure you that I will be fine. Surely, a figure such as you has-”

“I must insist.” The Oracle’s smile displayed her sharp canines. “A recent… event has added turbulence to the fates. I believe you would have been informed that the Wights… appear to have suffered some disease or illness. But it is unclear how long it will last. As such, we must move quickly to take advantage of this weakness. So as to make sure such a… portentious individual wasn’t the victim of unfortunate circumstances during these unpredictable times.”

Is this a threat? Does she know it was me? Randidly wondered as he looked at the Oracle. Or is this a genuine offer by a confused old woman…?

But the Oracle’s faux-young face held no answer. So after hesitating for a few moments, Randidly nodded slowly. “Fine then. Let’s go retrieve my equipment.”

“We can leave immediately.” The Oracle announced. Then she turned and walked out of the room.

Gritting his teeth, Randidly said. “I would really prefer that we wait for some time. I must make arrangements for my absence-.”

The Oracle glanced at him over her shoulder. “Did I not already tell you? Your Master is in danger. Due to this… unpredictable event, that window has opened once more; you may return in time save him. But you will need your equipment. That is why I have come. Or would you rather wait here and handle your… business first?”

When she said business, the Oracle’s nose wrinkled like she was talking about Randidly masturbating. But she had a point. Randidly’s lips pressed into a thin line. He really wanted to stop and understand what was going on with his Soulskill. Now that it was a part of him rather than a projection of him, it was governed by the System. There were strange implications there. Ones that he would like to investigate.

In addition, the people Randidly had saved were separated by the chaos of the transition and on a rather small continent that was surrounded by huge banks of mist. And Randidly genuinely had no idea what lay on the other side of that mist. Even his powerful Perception was helpless before it. He had the intuitive feeling that he couldn’t extend the world, only the people over there could. By exploring.

So in effect, he had both combined himself with a world and dropped thousands of refugees into the countryside without any food or shelter. At least this land hadn’t been pillaged, and when the golden egg that had been his charred Skills hatched to form the world, Randidly had sensed how vibrant and abundant the natural resources were.

But honestly, this wasn’t a great start to his new Soulskill.

Everything has a price.

“Fine,” Randidly said lightly. Even if he had to leave his army behind, he would travel quickly to get Acri and Sulfur and then return. It shouldn’t take more than a day. And then, once he had determined the situation around Shal, he could deal with his Soulskill.

Time was now equal between himself and his Soulskill, and these people would be resourceful enough to survive for a day without him babying them. Besides, without Progenitor’s Influence, what could he do?

Plant crops for them? Erect a longhouse?

After nodding, the Oracle began to walk down the hill. Randidly followed. When they reached the bottom, the Oracle began to jog, and then run. Randidly’s eyebrows rose; for all her small stature, she had serious wheels on her.

Very quickly, the countryside was zipping past them as they crossed the mist covered Death School. Randidly was honestly surprised how barren the land was; apparently, the austere personality of those from the Death School was mostly upbringing. The stone studded highlands were just the right kind of combination of monotony and danger to raise spear users that largely hated fun and innovation.

The Oracle glanced over at Randidly. “Is this your top speed?”

Randidly grinned awkwardly. They both accelerated, but Randidly felt the strain more than the Oracle did. It was clear that the Oracle was tapping into some image of wind to increase her speed, but Randidly didn’t really have any images relating to straight-line speed. In addition, his most relevant Skill was Yyrwood Body of Yggdrasil that gave him a physical boost, and that was currently being repaired. He would rather give it a break in a situation like this, and let his pride suffer.

Plus, running without activating the Skill was a strange experience. It was easy to forget how far they had come with the System. Which then made Randidly wonder how the surviving denizens of his Soulskill would handle the System.

The fact that the System would now affect them directly had been an unpleasant surprise. It seemed that the circumstances confused the System, but it also might mean that monsters would soon begin to appear, and not of the racial variety. Goblins. Minotaurs. Evil Spirits.

Still, where there was darkness there was light. Even before he left, Rejt was laughing uproariously as he unlocked the Clever Quip Skill and was pestering Allica to engage in dialogue with him so he could increase its Level.

For her, Randidly felt only pity.

“We are here,” The Oracle announced. Randidly slowed down and looked up at the rather cliche castle built into the side of a mountain. The only things missing were the black rain clouds and ominous bare trees.

After exchanging a glance, the two continued inside. There they wound their way through guard houses with slumped Wight bodies and a grand hall that was barren of even a table. As they walked through the wide room, their footsteps echoed.

They eventually proceeded upward, racing up stone stairs until they reached what must have been a sunroom. The main feature of the room was the wide openings that likely once held windows; now they were shattered and empty, looking strangely like the maw of a dead swamp monster. Without the glass, mist flowed in through the windows and pooled on the ground like.

In the center of the room was a table where Acri and Sulfur were strapped down with thick leather bindings. When Randidly arrived, they squirmed in excitement.

Beside the table was a chair in which a man sat.

“Mr. Ghosthound, pleased to make your acquaintance. I am Versault. I believe it’s time for us to have a talk.”

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