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A note from puddles4263

13/14

It was, Randidly reflected with a frown, an ominous name. And an individual who was powerful within the Nexus was certainly not someone that could be taken lightly. Although Randidly didn’t know how that individual who had existed within an entire continent of solidified Aether, and crushed him with a glance, fit within the power structure of the Nexus, it had impressed upon him how dangerous the truly powerful were.

The first thing Randidly did upon receiving the news was attempt to contact Shal. Immediately, he received a System notification that all messages to the recipient world have been screened. In addition, the notification recommended that Randidly contact a Village Spirit for more information.

Bah, useless… and what help would a Village Spirit be…?

For several seconds, Randidly regarded Lyra’s slender back. As she had aged, Lyra had retained her almost unhealthily slender limbs. She seemed like such a tiny and fragile thing. Then Randidly walked forward, roughly grabbed Lyra’s shoulder, and spun her around. “What does that name-”

Randidly blinked as he looked at Lyra’s lovely face that was shining with the remnant paths of two tears. “You… why are you crying?”

Lyra’s face split into a thin smile as she almost helplessly shook her head.

Narrowing his eyes, Randidly gritted his teeth as he looked at Lyra. Although Lyra was willing to lie to him, that didn’t mean she wasn’t still… slightly human. If whatever news she held in her chest was so upsetting that she would cry… “What do you know? You said Shal failed the challenge; what were the consequences of that?”

“Nothing other than failing to seize all the advantages he could,” Lyra whispered. Her voice was as soft as the crisp sound of dead leaves falling apart. “Shal… should be fine.”

“Then let me ask again. Why are you crying?” Randidly cooled his anger and frowned at Lyra. Perhaps it would be a little strange for Lyra to care enough about Shal or Tellus to cry. Perhaps it was simply the pain of investigating such distant matters in the Nexus? But Randidly couldn’t be sure what exactly a Village Spirit could and couldn’t do.

Even now, the Aether around Lyra was too dense. If she were to claim she was crying from resistance from the System, Randidly would only have her word to go on.

Lyra’s smile twisted upward, driven by bitterness. She flippantly gestured to the air between them. “This… this is hard for me, alright? You… you have no idea… Randidly, the truth is...”

For several seconds, Randidly studied Lyra as she licked her lips. For all that she had chosen to side with the Creature and endanger humanity, Randidly decided that it would be pointless to assume Lyra was lying about this. Perhaps she could somehow turn this around to manipulate him, but it felt extremely ungainly to Randidly’s mind.

There were much more directly lies that Lyra could tell. Besides, she had previously bared herself to him in order to prove that the Creature was no longer present on Earth. She didn’t need to conceal some terrible fate that Shal suffered. In fact, Lyra’s argument had always been that Randidly couldn't defeat the System on his own. That was why she had betrayed him and sided with the Creature.

Therefore, it could be said that Shal’s suffering at the System’s hands would be evidence toward her point.

And yet if it was only pain from her System tethers, why was she-

Ah. Randidly’s expression softened as he connected the dots. ‘This is hard for me,’ huh… I get it. You’ve felt it too.

Again, Randidly had no sort of context to understand the strength of the individual who had shattered his Class and robbed it of its meaning with but a glance. But if this Illeot Swacc was anything close to that level of strength… To investigate that tier of strength likely had left some scars.

Remembering that split second of agony still sent shivers down Randidly’s spine. And Randidly could understand now Lyra’s sudden reticence and distance. Although they had set the previous betrayal behind them, Lyra had just been exposed to the power of the System. The true power, those individuals standing near the peak of the Nexus.

In her mind, it likely reaffirmed all the reasons that the System couldn’t be fought.

The miserable looking Lyra lowered her chin rather than speak. The silence stretched between them, seemingly straining underneath its own weight. As Randidly looked down at her wracked by indecision, such was the difference in their heights that he could barely see the expression on her face. Randidly bit his lips. “I’m… sorry. I get it, I really do. I felt the same way, for a while.”

As Lyra flinched as if struck by a physical blow, Randidly continued talking. “But we will never accomplish something if we don’t put ourselves out there. Now isn’t the time to give up.”

“...do you truly know how I feel?” Lyra asked in a small voice. “I was told to… if you were ever-”

Lyra was cut off as Nathan walked into the room. “Sorry, I hurried over as fast as I could-”

Then Nathan saw Lyra, and the kid blushed crimson in that chemical-induced way that only young teenagers could. His voice came out unsteady as he spoke. “Ah-ah, Lyra. What are you… um… what are you d-doing away from Donnyton…?”

“...looking for a Class.” Before Randidly’s eyes, Lyra’s whole disposition changed. She stood straighter and raised her head. Her back straightened and her eyes brightened. And with one quick brush of her hand, all evidence of her tears was erased. She smiled charmingly at Nathan. “I assume you will help with that?”

Randidly spared Lyra one last glance. This is why people find it difficult to trust you, you know. Did that moment really happen? Or was it just a ploy to win my sympathy?

What is your plan, Lyra? What do you intend to do with this power I’m giving you? Because if you intend to threaten the growth of the Earth… no matter that you were once human, no matter what we felt toward each other, I will end you.

As Randidly stood beside Lyra, a heavy weight settled in his chest. Almost unconsciously, he pulled his lips back to reveal his teeth. Damnit, even if we aren’t on the same side, being here like this knowing I might need to kill you later is a bit…

...but that’s just how it is. That’s what it means to have a Crown.

“Ah, oh!” Nathan blinked rapidly. It was clear that he was not a little smitten with Lyra. His expression flashed between so many expressions so quickly that even Randidly’s grim mood couldn’t help but lift the tiniest bit. “Of course! I can do that. Ummm… I have some thought exercises written down. If you want to go through them, we can-”

“No need. I already have made suitable preparations for my Class.” Lyra said with an easy smile.

Nathan looked from Lyra to Randidly and back again. “That’s… are you sure? If you make a mistake, remaking the Class will be difficult.”

“Don’t worry, I am very sure that I will be able to manage this.” Lyra’s smile was sharp as she gestured toward Randidly without looking at him. “Besides, Mr. Ghosthound is a very busy man. I think I’ve already taken too much of his time.”

Randidly just looked at Lyra. Truthfully, he had wished they could hurry through the process. There was still so much more he wanted to try in regards to Engraving. But as he watched Lyra, Randidly felt his chest tightened. He remembered the two paths those tears had traced down her cheek. He opened his mouth, but he couldn’t figure out what to say. After all, he agreed that he needed to get back to work.

After all, Randidly had just realistically considered the possibility of killing her. So why-

“Then let’s begin,” Nathan said brightly. Then he blushed again. “Ah… Randidly can you make a chair? And Miss Lyra, I’ll need to touch your shoulders for this, so....”

Randidly made a curt gesture and roots sprung out of the ground to weave a chair for Lyra. She sat down gracefully, leaning back and looking up at the ceiling like all these trappings of Randidly’s cluttered workshop were beneath her. After a few seconds of hesitation, Nathan walked to stand behind Lyra. His hands were trembling as he pressed them against her slim shoulders.

“So just, as I begin, concentrate as hard as you can on what you want. If you… truly believe enough a Class should appear-” But Nathan stuttered to a stop because Lyra pressed her eyes closed and was clearly concentrating.

So Nathan closed his eyes as well and focused on the task at hand. Randidly kept his eyes open, but his Aether Detection swirled around the two individuals to see the mechanical apparati that were in operation here.

With his newfound connection to Lyra, Randidly had a greater sense of how much of her Soulspace was packed with byzantine Aether devices associated with her role as a Village Spirit. It was immediately clear that her Soulspace was likely purposefully cluttered. It seemed that whoever had designed the role did not wish it to be possible to also possess a Class.

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the Village Spirit was constructed to be built on top of a Class. It was hard to puncture through the dense fluctuations of Aether from the Village Spirit, but Randidly could sense a small hollow space in the middle. Honestly, he wouldn’t have noticed, if not for realizing that the portion of the System that did its monitoring wasn’t present in Lyra.

Likely because it had assumed that it would already be there. And the original, more limited version of that Aether construct that everyone possessed seemed to be completely absent; likely it had been lost during the transition Lyra made to Village Spirit. Or it had been suffocated and destroyed by the dense Aether of a Village Spirit because it didn’t have the protection of a Class around it.

Randidly’s eyes widened imperceptibly. Not possessing any sort of monitoring device… is extremely useful. With Lyra’s help, I would be able to focus my research on the System without Octavius Shrike becoming aware-

But just as fast, Randidly stopped his imagination cold. To do so, Randidly would need to work with Lyra very closely. And if he couldn’t truly trust Lyra, then violating the terms that Octavius had laid out was nothing short of a death wish. Now, more than ever, Randidly understood that he wasn’t ready to face the true power of the System.

At least not yet.

But one day, it will definitely be possible, Randidly clenched his fists. In his chest, the images of the World Tree and the Grim Chimera resonated with that wish, filling him with determination. No matter what I have to do…

Besides, Randidly had so many things on his plate already. He was about to deal with the ramifications of his Judgment, which possessed an indeterminate timelimit. It was better to let such fanciful ideas go.

Shaking his head, Randidly let his attention wane for a second to gather himself once more. Which was why he was so surprised when Nathan spoke.

“Wow, you were right! You certainly were well-prepared. I can sorta sense it, but what’s the final name for your Class?”

Randidly opened his eyes. Lyra stood and turned to look Randidly full in the face. Her expression was confrontational. “My new Class… is the Violet Moon of Yearning.”

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puddles4263

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