Only a week later, Randidly had a new headache to deal with: the mollusks that had taken up residence in his cold bathing area were on strike.
It wasn’t enough that they swiftly developed enough intelligence upon exposure to Randidly’s Aether that he didn’t really have the heart to try and eat them. So he had expanded the cold pool to give them more space and just watched with mild curiosity as they brought increasing numbers of shells from god knows where to make a crude village. And besides, Randidly hadn’t really been very appetized by the thought of eating snails anyway; it wasn’t a big loss to let them do whatever they wanted.
But now they had created small signs with driftwood and were demanding… something. Although they possessed intelligence and the System would translate their whistling speech, the strange trails of ooze on their signs weren’t enough for Randidly to intuit what they wanted. But they had begun sending their old and weak to die in Randidly’s hot tub. Which they very well knew Randidly did not like.
Nothing was more obnoxious than sitting down for a soak in a hot tub after a long day of training and realizing that it smelled like old, dead snail. Randidly immediately wanted to clear the rest out so it was no longer a problem.
Randidly thought through the ethics of eliminating the tribe of mollusks quite seriously. They had grown from Level 6 to Level 15, and there were now about a hundred in his expended cold water pool, but it would have been simple to just shove them back into the underground river.
But Randidly was in this Dungeon to train. This might be weird but… this could be considered a test run for his leadership abilities. If he wanted to lead Erickson Steel, he would hopefully have enough charisma to handle some snails.
After chuckling dryly at how strange his life had become, Randidly dunked his head underneath the water of the mollusk’s pool in order to hear their language.
Immediately, he was inundated with their high pitched voices.
“Let us sleep!”
“Oozeless one will listen!”
Very soon, they noticed Randidly, and one rather large mollusk with several long tentacles drifted up from the shell village to speak with Randidly. “Great Oozeless One! We demand that you cease with your rumbling punishment! The eggs of our young are too weak to withstand your the great sea thunder!”
Randidly frowned. This was a profoundly strange experience. But at least they articulated a concern that Randidly could actually do something about. “How long do you need for your young to… grow strong enough?”
For several seconds, the leader mollusk was silent. Then it said. “Three full cycles!”
Randidly pressed his eyes closed. Perhaps he should have expected something like this to crop up. “How long… is a cycle?”
This seemed to throw the mollusk. “Well… a cycle is how long it takes for the rumbling to start, then stop, then start again. Obviously, a cycle is a cycle!”
...which means about a day. Randidly translated inwardly. I guess it makes sense, they only developed enough intelligence to understand concepts like time after they came here and by then, I had already started using Infinite Fingers of Yggdrasil to forge… But it’s actually good timing. I’m basically out of ore to forge anyway…
“It will be done,” Randidly said majestically. Then he thought of something a produced an item from his interspatial ring. It was one of the interspatial watches produced in Zone 1 and possessed the added bonus of being waterproof. After dropping it into the pool, Randidly explained the basics of how to tell time to the mollusks.
Immediately curious, dozens of small mollusks began swarming the object Randidly had added to their shell village with obvious interest. Relieved, Randidly pulled his head out of the water and pushed back his dripping hair. He scratched his beard.
Maybe I should take some time to shave-
But a mental probe from his Riders pulled Randidly’s attention away. Randidly’s shook his head and threw water across the surrounding stone ground and then softly padded toward the entrance to his base. Why do I have a bad feeling about this?
After slapping his cheeks to restore his spirits, Randidly walked up to meet the Riders outside of his dome.
Because Randidly had a weird, nagging intuition that if he created more Riders a third faction would form, he had kept their number at thirty-two. The two groups of sixteen faced off against each other right in front of Randidly’s mound, derision and pride radiating off of both of them. Beside the two groups were two large corpses of monsters.
Level 70 monsters.
Randidly twisted his mouth. They are hunting Level 70 monsters now…? And also… why are these monsters so weird…?
The medieval castle crew had brought him a large wolf with crimson fur. But strangely, three miniature wings were growing from the wolf’s back. Meanwhile, the silk canopy trope had brought Randidly an emerald eagle that had six tentacles growing out of its chest. Although there had always been strange monsters in Dungeon, these seemed a bit…
-mutated, Randidly thought with a grimace. Probably my fault. I’m just adding so much Aether to air so quickly. But still… they probably have very valuable bodies…
“So, you both want your reward?” Randidly asked aloud. The leader of both groups nodded. But then they each sent a very confusing mental message to Randidly. After struggling to decrypt it for a few seconds, Randidly blinked and realized what was being asked of him. And the content of both messages was essentially the same.
Randidly rubbed his temples. “You want me to name your groups…? Both of you?”
They nodded. Randidly thoughtfully chewed on the inside of his cheek. Truthfully, Randidly understood where this was coming from. As soon the Riders had displayed intelligence and growth, he had generally expected something like this to happen. After all, the name of the Skill was Riders of the Baleful Court. And they emerged from his own Class.
Court likely in the older style, as in a court of nobles. Randidly’s suspicions were confirmed when they began to split into factions without an outside threat of any true capability. They were ultimately loyal to Randidly, as their Lord, but that didn’t mean they had to get along with each other. And if they were separate factions from each other, they would need identifying names or banners to tell themselves apart.
For a noble, as with a spear user of Tellus, their coat of arms and pride was almost more important than their own life.
So Randidly had already spared a few moments to these considerations between his intense image and physical training sessions. Nodding slowly, Randidly opened his mouth. He turned toward the medieval castle group first. “Alright. Henceforth… you will be known as the Legion of the Unbreakable Bulwark.”
A bruised and miserable figure briefly appeared in Randidly’s mind. When his emerald gaze focused on the leader of the new Legion, Randidly’s smile became bitter. “And as their leader… you need a name. From this day forward, you will be Kingsley.”
Then Randidly turned to the other group. “And you… will be the Legion of the Unavoidable Pivots. Your name, sir, will be… Trap.”
Although Randidly’s first visit to Tellus was one that was filled with bitter training and bloodthirst, there were a few moments of extremely precious interactions that Randidly treasured to this day. No matter how the both of their Paths diverged from his own… Randidly missed the simple days of beating up Roger and exchanging Earth business ideas with Claptrap.
At the moment, those spirited days truly felt like a different lifetime.
Then Randidly nodded shortly. “I’ll be gone for some time finding a new mine. Make sure you keep the monsters thin in the surrounding area.”
Before anyone else could bother Randidly, he rushed off. Flexing his fingers, Randidly signaled Acri to slither up his arm and form into a spear. For all that he had practiced combat Skill every day for the past month, it was still somewhat suffocating to spend so much time thinking about images and usage.
Sometimes, Randidly just wanted to let loose and lose himself in the thrill of exertion. Let loose his tight grip he kept on his skyrocketing Stats and simply run wild. Which was exactly what Randidly planned on doing now.
Due to the arrows pointing ominously toward the plateau, Randidly avoided that area for now. But this high-Level Dungeon was large enough that there were plenty of portions of the jungle that even Randidly’s zealous Riders hadn’t yet raided. Randidly headed South and East until he found an area that was infested with extremely large chameleons.
They came at him with remarkable aggression for a species that had natural camouflage abilities. Their sharp claws emitted a high pitched keening as they cut through the air toward him. Grinning, Randidly flexed his fingers and welcomed their valor with the infinitely sharp tip of Acri.
Randidly didn’t stop pushing roughly through their domain until even Acri was sated with experience. A trail of broken trees and charred bodies was left as a testament to his passage. Feeling rather refreshed, Randidly closed his eyes and spread out his Infinite Fingers of Yggdrasil while enjoying the even beats of his heart, searching for any sort of ore within the ground.
It took several hours, but Randidly eventually found a rather impressively sized silver mine into which he quickly dug. Although silver was much less suited to combat and industry, it had its own sort of appeal. For currency, jewelry, and for more delicate pieces of technology, silver was an acceptable substitute. Plus, it would serve as a good test to understand how effective Randidly’s knew smelting process really was.
He had been working with iron and the queer copper found in the mounds so far. Silver would help broaden his understanding of how his process impacted the metal.
Satisfied, Randidly returned to his base almost twenty hours after he had departed. One day of his promise to the mollusks down. Which would likely give him time to move the forging area farther away from his image training. Still, that relative peace didn’t come without cost; the Mana drained by the vast forming apparatus Randidly had cobbled together would skyrocket as the distance increased. Even with Randidly’s ridiculously cheap Skill, the number of roots he was manipulating would quickly add up.
Feeling rather pleased, Randidly took his time returning to his base. Yet when he encountered the patrols of his Riders on his way back, Randidly stopped dead. He blinked several times to confirm that he was currently seeing clearly.
Overnight, both groups changed. Or rather, their mounts changed.
The mounts were originally a strange combination of a rhinoceros, a camel, and a spider. They had four spindly limbs, the hump and lengthened neck of a camel, and their joints and forehead were covered with the wickedly dangerous horns of a rhino. Their skin was uniformly a dark grey.
Today, however, someone had fiddled with those knobs.
The Impenetrable Bulwark Legion now rode on something much, much closer to a rhino. The legs of their mounts had shortened and thickened. In addition, the rhinoceros horns had grown increasingly large and long. Their skin had become almost pitch black. As they moved, they left only trampled jungle in their wake.
The Unavoidable Pivots, perhaps appropriately, had chosen to up the spider content of their mounts. The legs were the same size, but now there were six spindly legs instead of four. Long fangs jutted out from the mount’s mouths. The skin had shifted to a hard shell, which was a deep navy blue.
Ultimately, Randidly shook his head and walked past the patrols without a word of comment. Better to focus on my own training.