“You… you knew something about this!” Versault bellowed as he took a trembling step toward Randidly, pointing a bony finger forward. “That was why you were teasing us! This is all part of your game!”
Randidly blinked. That was pretty quick 180 from dismissive superiority to devastated horror and then on to accusatory fury. Opening his mouth to reply, Randidly barely had time to witness Versault disappear.
There was a rustling in the broken room. Suddenly, he found himself face with a wall of spring wind. Leaves seemed to rustle as they were blown forward to tumble toward him. Without even his eyes, Randidly could feel the fading warmth of autumn as the wind drew itself around Randidly and down the path behind him.
But the hairs on the back of Randidly’s neck instantly stood up. This was the most dangerous image he had ever faced. And it felt like it was the most natural and real image he had ever witnessed. In terms of breadth and specificity… Randidly felt the individual leaves dragging across the ground. He could strangely sense the broken branches and the smooth bark of the nearby trees.
This was a bit beyond his current depth.
Instantly, Randidly activated All is Ash. The world slowed around him slightly, but the main effect was to give Randidly eyes to see through the calm wind that was rustling toward him. With the All is Ash shift in perspective, it looked even more dangerous. It was a wall of thousands of interlocking blades, preparing to shred Randidly and his images to pieces. Yet Randidly found himself smiling.
Because there wasn’t a hint of weakness any longer in his All is Ash Skill. It had fully healed during this fucked up farce. The world split into the component parts that were the sad remnants of the world that had died to form what they were. It was weak and fragile.
Randidly grinned. For all your pretty image, let’s see how strong it really is. Because at its core, it is ash, same as everything else.
The Crown of Upheaval and Gloom flickered into existence over Randidly’s head as he gathered his will and smashed it against this assembled wave of ash that scuttled slowly toward him.
To Randidly’s surprise, tt was as satisfying as kicking a steel wall.
Randidly grunted and took a step back. The force from the abrupt collision was enough that the All is Ash Skill automatically disengaged so his body, which was also made of ash, wasn’t scattered by the overwhelming force he encountered. Inside of Randidly’s core, the Skill groaned painfully.
Wincing, Randidly straightened. Well, that means I’ll need to heal that Skill for a bit longer…
Opposite him, Versault’s attack was stopped dead as well. The elderly man simply stared at Randidly with wide eyes after his momentum was completely dispersed by Randidly’s strike. “...how did you…?”
“Versault, let it go. You have no doubt received the same orders I did.” The Oracle barked, interposing herself between the two of them. Her form was small, but she burned with a strange heat as she held up hands to keep them both at bay. But like Versault, she gave Randidly an intense glance, as if trying to figure out the depths of his strength.
Eventually, she continued, “We head back to Hastam. You can come too, Mr. Ghosthound. The Spearman… did not think to address your situation in the orders he sent, but I have no doubt that considering how much he looks forward to your future accomplishments, you may join us as we return.
“How generous,” Randidly said hollowly. But this was the outcome he wanted. The journey back to Hastam would give him time to investigate his Soulskill and allow him to be near Shal and Helen for whatever shitstorm was brewing now that the Spearman was foiled. Worse, Randidly suspected that like Versault, the Spearman would not take kindly to this sudden change.
For all that Azriel appeared to have a hand in this, Randidly would wish that she survive this. She was one of the few people that seemed to understand what he was going through.
Randidly felt a brief impulse to ask what had happened but suppressed it. He didn’t want to need these two fools to find out the information. Instead, Randidly sent a brief message to Shal. If nothing else, his response would give Randidly an idea of what kind of problem they were dealing with.
The run back to the coast from the castle where they had met Versault was much quicker than their run there. Besides possessing extreme power, Versault’s image of wind could be used as a mass buff. All three were pushed to speeds that left Randidly inwardly shocked as they ran with that wind at their back.
Honestly, it made him wonder if his decision not to follow any of his Helper of Humanity or whatever Paths was a mistake. If he obtained a Skill like this now and worked on it with the large army of followers he had gathered…
But those were thoughts for another time.
For now, Randidly simply forced his body to its physical limit as the three streaked across the countryside.
Luckily, Randidly’s followers who had dealt with the feedback from the Soulskill genesis were largely recovered by the time the three arrived at the mountain. It stood tall and imposing, releasing an aura that Randidly couldn’t quite pinpoint.
It was clear that the act of extracting the life from the Wights had changed it. The golden runes near the summit glittered in the midday sun. As they approached, the Oracle once more transfixed Randidly with her incisive glare, but he ignored it.
This is the price of you refusing to treat me with respect on our first meeting.
Also lucky was the fact that Randidly’s longships were equipped with masts, even if they hadn’t really been used on the boat ride down. This way his flotilla could keep pace with the Oracle’s impressive cruiseliner by boring the wind that Versault was producing for the travel.
It was a difficult trek back to the coast. Within an hour, the army marched double speed to the coast with Versault’s buff and loaded everything onto the ships. Even Randidly was impressed by the tenacity of his underlings. Many collapsed onto the boats once they arrived, every ounce of Stamina squeezed out of their bodies. Likely, they had kept their Stamina so low for so long that they received a status effect. But they had made it.
It once more proved to him that developing the group would be worth it.
When Randidly was finally alone in his cabin, he released a long sigh. He had learned a lot today, but nothing that would help Earth. For now, at least, his goal was to assist Tellus. Honestly, it didn’t look like he would receive any information as to what the portal at the end of the Second Calamity meant. Was it a passage to the Third Calamity? Was it part of the Second Calamity? Some sort of reward?
It had already been five months since Randidly had come to Tellus. Much more and he would worry about whether enough Zones had joined Earth for the First Calamity to arrive. Soon, it would be time to return.
From what he had learned from the Patron of Ash, the strange passage that would allow for ascension was difficult. The Patron himself didn’t have enter into the portal, which was the reason he became a Patron. So if nothing else, it was a chance to abort the passage higher into the System. That was an option that Randidly wished to research some more. For all he detested the Creature, being able to save the Earth from further torment was worth investigating.
Of course, there would likely be costs to him becoming a Patron, not the least of which was holding a role in the System. He would need to understand those too before he made any decisions.
Sighing, Randidly let those thoughts fall away. Instead, he finally brought up the notifications he had received while transitioning his Soulskill. Immediately, Randidly skipped through the almost three dozen warnings that he had received from the System, regarding the danger of what he was doing, and looked at the meat of the notifications.
Calculating… Considering changes…
Your Soulskill has merged with your physical body! Unable to predict further spiritual growth. Calculating differences…
Adjusting for influence…
Body and Soulskill are merging… Congratulations! Merging successful.
New Paths regarding your Soulskill are available to you! Please complete them in order to strengthen your Soulskill’s abilities.
Congratulations! You have created the Soulskill “Figure of the Alpha Cosmos!” Your body will be slowly empowered by the parallel universe that it has become! As the Alpha Cosmos grows, so will you.
Warning! Because your Soulskill has become a portion of your physical body, growth will not be caused by use of PP. However, upon reaching certain total amounts of PP, you will unlock bonuses based upon the growth of your world. These bonuses will increase as your Alpha Cosmos Grows.
Please allow Alpha Cosmos to grow so more information can be gathered.
Randidly frowned. Of all the confusing notifications, he focused directly on the last one.
Please allow Alpha Cosmos to grow so more information can be gathered, huh…
On the one hand, Randidly would need to allow it to grow. He hoped that the very intangible bonuses talked of in the notifications would end up being helpful to him.
On the other hand…
Randidly had a sinking feeling in his chest that this meant something. Of all the changes he had made in his surroundings thus far, the System had never been confused as this. Which meant the things that happened before to him, through chance or talent on the part of the originator, weren’t worthy of note.
This merger between his physical body and the Soulskill was unique.
And it had caught the System’s eye.