One unfortunate side effect of Randidly's experiment with making a working Engraving that could Level was that the mollusk mayor asked for a private meeting after Randidly had destroyed half of the secret base. Not that the little guy could really be blamed. Whatever had occurred when Randidly used All Else Succumbs, Yet Time Whirls the Earth had caused a general junk slide to crash into the side of the mollusks’ town.
As Randidly walked toward the pools he had made for the mollusks, his expression was quite serious. It’s unfortunate that I still don't understand how the Skill works. I thought I had an idea... but based on the destruction caused when I used it... Did some of the physical damage I had to endure get shunted off onto the surroundings because I couldn't handle it...?
...that feels way too convenient for it to be true...
Randidly wasn't sure if yes or no was the more worrisome answer.
When Randidly entered into the room with the pools, he was relieved to see that the collapse of the dome hadn't meant the sky had fallen on the mollusks. That would have been a little difficult to explain and Randidly felt quite tired of bringing calamities upon strange other populations. But one of the more recent piles of chopped up failed experiments had been smashed and shattered by falling stone. Still, these past eight months had seen the mollusks become increasingly enterprising. Their clockwork automatons dutifully marched out to gather the materials that the mollusks required.
Honestly, Randidly was impressed by their quick technological development. Basically, he had given them a clockwork rosetta stone, but it was still impressive that they had managed to achieve so much just based on the watch that he had given them. The mollusks town had become a little shell and clockwork steampunk dystopia. Mollusks had shells made of shiny brass and whirling gears as they moved about their daily business. And for the difficult work, they had created some basic robots which had largely freed up the population from survival concerns. Which, in turn, had led to something that Randidly supposed was most closely related to an opera.
Of course, the mollusks turn toward self-indulgence is a little bit too predictable to be funny… Do they need some sort of external threat…? Randidly thought rather sourly.
The mayor was waiting for Randidly on top of a mound of clockwork that they had built for Randidly as a 'gift'. Despite the fact that they had used the materials that he had provided and shaped for them, it was still a somewhat touching gesture. To Randidly's surprise, the mayor had brought one of the clockwork automatons.
"Oh great bringer of thunder, I have a favor to ask of you," The mayor said with an elaborate bow of its flexible body. When it straightened, it spoke in a quite serious tone. "Due to the recent... thunder, I would hope that you would grant me my one true wish."
"What's your wish?" Randidly asked in a rather deep voice he affected for the mollusks.
The mayor gestured to the automaton. And then, before he spoke, the mayor stared at the automaton with its small beady eyes. "After much thought... I wonder if we are not inferior creatures to the race that we created. These beings... they are perfect themselves. They never deviate from their routines. They never..."
Sighing, the mayor didn't speak for several seconds. Then it said. "I suppose... there is no use hiding it from you. Our town… while perhaps it is peaceful on the surface, there have been recent changes. Individuals have gone missing. Parts have been stolen. Factions have emerged and I… I believe they are secretly stockpiling an army of automatons… for a sinister purpose."
Furtively, the mayor looked up at Randidly. “...they wish to slay god. And I led them to this. Not purposefully... But… If I had taken a firmer hand early on… I just thought...”
What's with the beings around me and guilt these days? Randidly thought through gritted teeth. But he simply asked, "The wish?"
"...please, as you did with us, give the automatons self-awareness. Create... create a peaceful place filled with beings that won't fall to temptation. They deserve this world much more than we do."
If this situation didn't give someone a god complex, I'm not sure what would. Randidly shook his head and forced his shoulders to relax. He sat down cross-legged, bringing his head almost level with the mollusk mayor.
"...I suppose I have two things to say before I agree to anything," Randidly said lightly. "The first... is that for all my capability, some things are beyond me. I did not purposefully grace you creatures with intelligence. I provided the energy, but that final transformation is the result of your own determination. Be proud of that; there are certain Paths I can open, but only you control your own two feet to walk forward. As for the second thing..."
Scratching at his short black hair, Randidly tried to figure out how to explain. "The place I was born had a story about a perfect place, very similar to what you describe. It was called Eden. And in Eden lived Adam and Eve. It was known to them that they could remain in Eden, free and happy, for as long as they wanted. On one condition, that they didn't eat the fruit of knowledge.
"Ultimately... curiosity drove them to devour the fruit. The knowledge inside the fruit was perspective, and as promised they left Eden of their own free will. They discovered the names of the many strange impulses they had thus far ignored and became tainted by those names. In some cases… to know desire is to fall prey to it."
"You... you're saying that it was the intelligence itself that drove our people to this…?" The mayor said slowly. Frowning down at the clockwork being next to him, the mayor asked. "What is this knowledge that is so damning? Perspective?"
Randidly chuckled in spite of the situation. "Perhaps people from my home would be offended by this interpretation, but the knowledge obtained from the fruit was the greatest inferiority complex that has ever existed. 'Because we are not divine, because we have flaws, because we are insufficient... we should feel shame'. But it's true that knowledge comes with costs..."
Randidly indicated the clockwork and shell creation that the mayor held in such high esteem. “I need to point out… that the growing flaws in your people that are such a problem might be the same sort of traits that result from these beings reaching self-awareness. They will covet and envy and hate just like other intelligent creatures. They might even…”
Randidly trailed off for a second. “...go to war. Without even a true justification.”
But what greater justification is there than to kill the god who created this damned world?
“Clockwork is perfection,” The mayor replied stubbornly. But Randidly could tell from the erratic clicking of its claws that he had gotten through to the mayor.
“Think about it,” Randidly said gently. “In the meantime, I might know of a way to keep your people busy. Would you be interested in traveling with me?”
Sitting in her newly renovated office situated on top of a private workshop, Wendy felt immense satisfaction. The whole building’s exterior was constructed with hewn sandstone and ivory, creating the illusion that the building was some ancient tomb of the most accomplished artificer in the world. In fact, Wendy spent the scant few moments of leisure time designing an array of complex traps to employ once she was nearing the end of her life.
The idea of people nervously excavating her tomb...
Massaging her temples, Wendy opened her mouth to reprimand her diminutive assistant. However, the words caught in her throat before she could even spit them out.
The whole reason I installed a steel door was so Jannen couldn’t knock frivolously; she’s too weak. Wendy frowned toward the door. With her tiny frame… has she gotten a Class? I thought-
These most recent knocks echoed around the open and spacious office. Wendy shivered. Suddenly, she wished she would have gone with a more cluttered design. As the only piece of furniture in the room, the desk was supposed to have a powerful psychological effect on anyone who walked into the office.
The desk was heavy oak and dominated the space. When another person came into the office, the desired effect was that the individual feel adrift and isolated. Meanwhile, Wendy had a powerful desk that served as the base of her authority.
But now, Wendy simply felt like she had nowhere to hide.
Am I behind on a project? If Jannen didn’t force them to wait, it must be someone important… but no, I should have a few days for private pursuits! Who would be obnoxious enough to just barge in here and force a meeting-
Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock.
“-Yes! Come in, for god’s sake,” Wendy finally spat out. She felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Somehow, she knew who was on the other side of that.
With an ominous groaning, the steel door was pushed open to reveal Randidly Ghosthound. He grinned over at Wendy. “Wendy! I really like what you’ve done with the place. It definitely feels like you are walking into an ancient ruin when you walk in the front door.”
Not even compliments to her precious workshop would make Wendy lower her guard in front of this man. “Ah, M. Ghosthound. What a pleasure. Unfortunately, I’m so terribly busy today. In a few minutes, I need to-”
“I’ve spoken to your assistant,” Randidly chuckled. “How strange. She said your whole day had been cleared.”
Wendy’s polite smile cracked like ice in spring. “Ah… well, some of my personal experiments are in a very sensitive state…”
“Perfect, I’ll keep this short then. Two things. First, I want you to design for me a giant moving city. Won’t that be fun? And second… does your company offer internships?”