After eight months of being within the Dungeon, almost all of the land area that was not the plateau was under Randidly’s control. Or had been rather hastily stripped of resources and left barren. Currently, his Riders were chomping at the bit to be allowed onto the plateau, but still, Randidly hesitated. There were a few things that he wanted to do before he exposed himself to the risk implied by those strange arrows.
The most pleasant of which is spending all the PP I’ve earned… Randidly frowned at his Status screen. I wanted to wait so I could work on the Growth of Yggdrasil Path… but it seems increasingly foolish to only have 348 Endurance. Better to work on the Physique of the Grim Chimera and try to push that number upward. Surviving is more important than ever. Especially after…
Randidly shook his head, unwilling to be distracted by his run-in with the being inside the enormous crystal.
Over the past eight months, Randidly had been focused on working on his metallurgy, engraving, images, and spear Skills. There were only a few Skills that gained quite a chunk of PP, like Sigil of an Approaching Fate and Crossroads of the Alpha Cosmos, but there were dozens of Skills that had gained somewhere between three and ten Skill Levels. With Randidly’s amount of Skills… that was more than enough.
Therefore, he had been able to gather 623 PP. It wouldn’t finish Physique of the Grim Chimera, but it would get Randidly halfway to that goal. And he hoped that would be enough spent PP that he would earn some Physical Defense related Stats.
Even gaining Vitality as a reward for proceeding through it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, although that wasn’t his goal. It was with bated breath that Randidly began putting points into the Physique of the Grim Chimera Path.
Thankfully, twenty-five PP earned him three Endurance and one Vitality. When he spent all of his PP, he had already improved his Endurance by 72 and his Vitality by 24. It wouldn’t completely address his lagging physical Stats, but it was definitely a start. With about three and a half more months in his self-imposed time limit, Randidly could gather another chunk.
And with that start to boosting his physical capabilities, Randidly wanted to try something a little dangerous.
Randidly’s focus for the past few months was Engravings. Specifically, more and more of Randidly’s attention went to having some progress in the Engravings that could Level. And certainly, Randidly was much closer to success than he had been previously. His experience with Engraving let the uniformity of the Mana depth in each stroke stabilize.
But Randidly quickly realized that was only half of the problem; Randidly also hadn’t been permeating his guiding image in the engraving evenly.
Just like with the problem of Mana depth, image needed to be as close to uniform as possible through the Engraving. Basically for similar reasons. So not only did the Engraver need to maintain a careful watch over how the actual engraving was proceeding, but they also needed to enter a pseudo-hypnotic state where a constant and even amount of the image was projected.
Which would have been easy if the Engraving Randidly was making was a circle and not a complicated runic sigil.
Although it was an aggravating realization, Randidly felt somewhat foolish for not thinking about it before. So he adjusted and tried to control his images. After all, so much time had been spent refining them while he was here. His control had improved a lot in that time. To the point he was relatively confident in maintaining a constant production of image while Engraving.
Unfortunately, production didn’t matter as much as accumulation.
Due to the nature of the Engraving, there were portions of the design Randidly Engraved that were more line intensive than others. Therefore, images naturally accumulated there, whereas relatively less dense portions had fewer images. And those variances became weaknesses for the Engravings that could Level.
As if that wasn’t enough, what ultimately stopped Randidly dead was the fact that his sense of images wasn’t exact enough to determine how much more or less the portions of the Engraving possessed. Sure, he was very familiar with his own images, but Randidly had been making up new images most times he made the Engravings to broaden his experience.
Therefore, he wasn’t sensitive enough to determine anything more helpful than there is too much of the image here and not enough there. In effect, Randidly had become so soaked in his own images that he was rather numb to the passing images that he created for the Engraving.
A single day spent experimenting produced so little results that Randidly gave up on accomplishing this goal the old fashioned way.
Until he saw that he had unlocked a new Path: Living Engraving I 0/500.
If All Things Succumb, Yet Time Whirls the Earth benefits from specificity… will it make it much easier if I just imagine finishing the one Path…? Randidly wondered. However, he didn’t want to try it immediately. Even if what he wanted was to move to a specific Path, Randidly still had the very focused goal of creating an Engraving that could Level on top of that.
In addition, there was one more thing that Randidly needed to verify before he made the attempt: was using the Skill for the same goal easier over time? Was there some sort of memory or familiarity with what he had done that would remain to make a second attempt easier?
So Randidly experimented. And finally, Randidly discovered some good news. When he attempted to accomplish the same thing a second or third time with that Skill, the physical damage he had to endure dropped drastically. After seven attempts using the Skill to make food, Randidly barely felt any tiredness in the wake of creating whatever food he was making.
Suddenly, the quality of Randidly’s meals showed marked improvement. Although he was a little worried about his real Cooking Level no longer improving, his Skill Level for All Things Succumb, Yet Time Whirls the Earth was even more important.
So for the past few days, Randidly was using All Things Succumb, Yet Time Whirls the Earth to shift to a world where he had completed the Living Engraving I Path. As his attempts became easier and easier, Randidly also developed and slowly refined an image to use for a Levelable Engraving. However, today would be the first day that he finally created something.
Randidly frowned down at his hands. Although I’m slowly starting to understand how it can be used, that doesn’t bring me any closer to knowing why it happens. I might have gotten 70 more Endurance, but what if part of the moving sideways to finish those other Paths takes that away? Perhaps it would have been more reliable just to finish the LIving Engraving Path directly…
...but that wouldn’t help me use this Skill for other things…
Shaking his head, Randidly quieted his thoughts. After his surreal interaction with the Grim Chimera about a month ago, both his images had really quieted and been more easy for him to manipulate. Randidly had no real proof, being isolated in the Dungeon, but he sensed that he was coming up to a limit in terms of the detail he could add to his images in a short amount of time.
Soon, there wouldn’t be much more point in him constantly refining them; they had reached a hard to break through level of saturation. That accumulation would only come with practice. And the practice of a lifetime, not of an intensive year.
So, I suppose let’s not dance around the issue any longer. Time to go.
All Else Succumbs, Yet Time Whirls the Earth
As he activated the Skill, Randidly’s mind focused through the familiar route of finishing the Path, then added the craving that he then create a successful Engraving that could Level. He felt his skin burn and tingle as the Skill activated. The Grim Chimera condensed behind him, as silent and intense as it had been since he had forced it to bear the weight of his Crown.
It released a long breath.
Its claws danced across his shoulders. Its spear gleamed dully in the illumination from the Ignition Essence that hung in the air around Randidly in the workroom. Then the Grim Chimera split into two, then four, then sixty four, and then-
When Randidly woke up, his Absolute Timing Skill told him helpfully that almost five days had passed. Groaning, Randidly sat up. Or at least tried to. Randidly collapsed to his left when he tried to leverage himself into a sitting position.
Blinking away a pounding headache, Randidly looked down at his left arm. The metal had been warped and destroyed. Rather than an arm, it was more accurate to describe the arm as a series of rust based jigsaw puzzle pieces that hadn’t been put together very well. Everything lower than Randidly’s wrist had snapped off as he had tried to straighten into a sitting position.
It’s not like I wasn’t going to make another. This just… accelerates the timeline.
Randidly coughed and spat out dirt and dust from his parched mouth. Leaning back, Randidly accepted his fate as a person who lays and produced a water bottle from his interspatial ring. After sucking the bottle dry and giving a few minutes for the liquid to spread through his body, Randidly was prepared for another attempt.
When Randidly was finally back on his feet, there was another surprise waiting for him. Rather than the usual ceiling, there were only glittering stars above. It seemed that he had destroyed his rather fragile dome while using the Skill.
Well, it’s not like it was disguise enough to fool anyone who was looking, anyway, Randidly rubbed his neck and limped out to the surface. He wasn’t injured, really. His physical body had healed with the assistance of the System while he was sleeping. His muscles were simply sore and stiff from so long without moving.
Luckily Randidly’s Vitality now brought tingling capability back to his extremities at record speed.
But when Randidly left his base, he was forced to pause. With a furrowed brow, Randidly regarded the huge tube of copper that was standing next to the timeless stone monolith. It was almost three meters long and was one meter in diameter.
At first, Randidly was confused. But after a few seconds of considering it, a grin crept out across his face.
“Heh, I can see why this hurt like a bitch.” Randidly shook his head. “If I still can’t control the uniformity of the images in the tiny Engravings… why not just size them up to make the control less delicate...?”
A Crown of pale metal condensed above his head. Randidly’s grin turned sharp as his eyes light up like fresh grass in summer. “Just make… a really big Engraving… huh…?”