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A note from puddles4263

1/7

Little late, but I was taking a redeye Sunday. Left me empty.

Reminder to comment on Chapter 1026 to enter the contest! I'll only be checking there for entires. For details, see chapter 1026 afterword!

The final shape of the Engraving that Randidly settled on was a closed eye surrounded by a series of simple waves. The final details of the process him took him several hours; after all, Randidly would be repeating the one pattern thousands of times across his moving city. He needed to know the pattern so well there wouldn’t be any variance.

While it was true that one of the main goals Randidly had for the Engraving was to give the city itself a way to identify threats, but a pattern that included an eye started to have some… troublesome images. When there were no threats present, that open eye would not be the perfect shield that Randidly envisioned. With no distractions, the eye would turn inward toward the city itself.

And an unblinking eye was a very harsh judge.

Obviously, I don’t want any corruption to take root on the Erickson Steel compound, but that kind of intense observation… As Randidly followed the logical progression of the image, he couldn’t help but wince.

So Randidly had to scratch the option of the all-seeing eye for the city. Which was all for the best, considering some of the rather sinister analogs that sprung to mind for that sort of image. It was chosen for its power and clarity, but those only carried the Engraving so hard. Randidly needed something that would work without dangerous side-effects.

If he had to lower the power in order to make it so, it was worth it for the consistency.

Once Randidly had applied the lesson that Lyra was trying to give him to the Engraving, the process had suddenly become much easier. It was like a switch had been flipped. With an included goal in the image, pieces began to click together. The process came more easily to him. Which, in turn, freed up a lot of Randidly’s time to experiment with different patterns.

Although his drawing wasn’t the most anatomically faithful, Randidly tried to develop Engraving patterns based on the other senses: hearing, touch, taste, and smell.

Honestly, the results were comically bad. Randidly found himself guffawing in the dim light of his workshop as he tried to imagine how the city would protect itself if the weapon at its disposal was an insightful sense of taste. Would he need to design some sort of tongue mechanism that would allow the city to function…?

Some were so bad that he burned them to ashes directly with the Ignition Essence. The last thing he needed was for Wendy to stumble across some of his early sketches and mock him relentlessly for it. After Randidly had taken her to the festival, Wendy had mellowed out a lot. Which also meant she felt very comfortable criticizing him.

For every pro, there’s a con...

Despite the lack of early result, Randidly had continued to experiment. He tried combinations of the senses. He tried more senses-adjacent patterns, like lighthouse and tuning forks, to get at the senses without having to depict the rather awkward looking human body part. If anything, these were even worse.

Truly, Randidly didn’t have a single artistic bone in his body. But he didn’t let that rather inconvenient truth stop him.

All the while, Randidly honed his skill in applying desire into the images that he was creating.

Even if you won’t acknowledge it, Lyra, Randidly thought without venom as his azure-glowing finger traced the runes across a practice bracer. The desire to protect is an important part of me. And it’s what this image needs to understand its role in the world. Even if you want more from me… this is what I’m pouring all my effort toward.

For a second, Randidly paused in his Engraving as a tremor ran through his hands. His eyes closed for a split second. You’ll thank me later.

His work did yield some functioning results. The final Engravings weren’t satisfactory in their effects and the Skills that would grow as they did, but they could grow past Level 100. At least in theory. Obviously, Randidly wasn’t willing to spend the time to Level any of the Engravings to prove the point. But while the previous System messages indicated that his Engravings were barred at Level 100, there was no longer any indication that they would stop there.

In fact, there was no indication at all that there was a limit. Which meant that there wasn’t a hard limit on the Engraving’s growth any longer. So it would continue… until Randidly’s craftmanship proved insufficient.

That made Randidly grimace. He didn’t want to know what would happen to the moving city when the Engraving grew to such a point that it destabilized. And perhaps imploded, destroying all the careful machines that Wendy had slaved away to design…

I wonder if there is a way to forcefully limit the growth of the Engraving… Randidly thought idly. But as he consulted his Absolute Timing Skill, he only had two and a half days until he needed to experience his Judgment. And it wasn’t an issue important enough that Randidly would head over to a Dungeon to experiment.

Plus, there was always a chance that it was impossible. Which would mean pursuing it was a complete waste of time.

So Randidly continued to try strange and unusual Engravings. When he ran out of ideas, he drew shapes and then was inspired by what he drew. Ultimately, it was the connection with desire that gave Randidly the clue that caused his focus to shift. After all, what do people generally desire more than anything else?

That which they couldn’t have.

So Randidly took away the Engraving’s sight and imbued the Engraving pattern with every ounce of his vehement urge to protect these people for whom Randidly was responsible. That same furious desire that drove Randidly to torture himself for a year in a Dungeon without any real break. In his heart, Randidly knew that even if he didn’t have his eyes, he would still find a way to serve his state purpose.

Because it was never in his nature to stop because someone said it wasn’t possible. Because from weakness came empathy, and from empathy could come discretion. An eye that was not an eye to look out for threats that might not seem like threats.

Or at least, that’s what Randidly hoped.

Setting down the bracer containing the final version of the Engraving pattern, Randidly cracked his knuckles and then his neck. “All that’s left… is to implement it over an entire city…”

It was with a rather depressing expression that Randidly wandered out of his workshop and headed toward the network of tunnels that was the current construction area. Over the past few days, Ghost’s assembly ability had rapidly accelerated as he could finally earn Skill Levels by being near the tasks his drones finished.

Which meant that while some of that time up front was used to expand the tunnels to accommodate Ghost’s new body, that investment paid dividends after only a short amount of time. Although everything wasn’t entirely finished, Randidly believed that he could safely start at one end of the city and Ghost would be able to handle the construction in specific areas to ensure that Randidly didn’t need to pause.

It didn’t take long for Randidly to locate Ghost; with Randidly’s Perception, it was easy for him to follow the distinctive sound of the anti-gravity Engravings that gave Ghost’s new body such wonderful mobility. So Randidly approached Ghost on the Western edge of the tunnel system. Ghost’s sensors also received quite the boost in his new form, so as Randidly approached he sensed Ghost ceasing his work and preparing to greet him.

“Truly,” Ghost’s mechanical voice boomed out when Randidly neared. “This Wendy individual is a genius. What she has managed to accomplish with your Engraving patterns and energy conservation principles… it has given me much inspiration. I cannot wait to construct my own personal workshop.”

“She’s a treasure,” Randidly grunted. Perhaps out of habit, he scanned the flow of energy running through Ghost’s body. After all, he had thought deeply about the shape and function but now was its first real test run.

Ghost’s new body was currently in its basic, and rather blunt looking, new form. There was a rather thin band of metal in the shape of a disc that was covered in runes hovering some distance from the bottom, with a glowing sphere floating in the middle of the disc. The sphere supplied the power for the antigravity, while the disc handled the rather demanding task of applying the energy in the right minute amounts so Ghost’s body would neither scrape on the ground or float awkwardly up into the air.

Which was manipulated directly by Ghost, of course. Because he could make those calculations on the fly.

Above the sphere and disc was a heavy, squat bundle of metal about the size of a mobile home. Tools, Engravings, stored drones, valuable materials, and Ghost’s six biological bodies filled that densely packed area. Honestly, the only portion of its body that Ghost had given opinions on was the interior, where his AI’s computational power had easily optimized the space.

Basically, this mobile home sized space was every bit as capable of holding precious cargo as an entire warehouse.

Rising up from the main body were two “limbs” made of layered triangles of metal. There were no hands at the ends of the limbs with which to grip, but the triangles could be easily compressed into either a shovel or a blade in order to handle materials. Which was, of course, a design that Randidly had entirely stolen from Wendy’s own scale mail design for his arm.

For any work that required more delicacy than those two limbs could provide, the many spider drones that were skittering across Ghost’s main body could jump into action without Ghost missing a beat.

Of course, this was only the standard form. But due to the limits on space here in the tunnels...

Only after he was satisfied that it was running perfectly did Randidly refocus his attention. “Don’t go getting any ideas to steal one of the Providences for your own; I’m sure your liberty will be alarming enough for Zone 1 when they discover it. Let alone the theft of an entire workshop.”

“Relax. I will do nothing hastily. But I don’t it will matter. Heh, I have no doubt that I will become the subject of many laws once they discover the truth.” Ghost hummed. But despite the serious subject matter, Randidly was surprised to hear a thin thread of satisfaction in Ghost’s voice. Randidly shook his head helplessly at the smug satisfaction of the AI.

“Well, it’s not like I can give you any good advice on not antagonizing a whole Zone…” Randidly shrugged; his track record on that front spoke for itself. “But be careful. I’ll be taking Zone 1 by surprise, but that’s only because they don’t understand how to deal with me. I bet the second being to surprise this government… will be dealt with much more harshly.”

“I have watched them carefully these past months,” Ghost intoned. “They have, in fact, hidden much of their own secret research from my eyes. But I have no doubt that they have been furiously developing a blunt instrument with you in mind. Rest assured… with the sword you have given me, I will make sure they don’t destroy any innocent lies.”

Randidly’s gaze sharpened. “...what sort of secret research are they pursuing?”

Instantly, Randidly vividly recalled the atrocities committed on humans and Raid Bosses repeated before his very eyes during his first months spent within the Zone. Despite the fact that Randidly had killed the original perpetrator… the events still left a bitter taste in his mouth.

Ghost chuckled. “Even if your suspicions were correct… do you have time to address them before you are departing?”

That stopped Randidly dead. I can see so many seeds being planted… but I know I need to leave. I just hope… when I return I won’t find chaos. Erickson Steel and the Order Ducis… Donnyton possessing images… Ghost and Neveah… they need to be enough. There isn’t anything else I can do. Earth, for as long as I will be away, will be on its own.

“...you’re right,” Randidly sighed. Then he shook his head. “I just came to tell you that I’m going to start the final phase of the construction. I’ll start Engraving from the core and work outwards, so I hope you can handle the finishing touches in all the places that I’ll be going initially while the rest of the work is finished.”

Ghost’s anti-gravity disc buzzed as he considered this. “Understood. It is recommended that you give me one hour and thirty-six minutes of time as preparation. That way, I can eliminate the possibility of you being disturbed during the process.”

“That’s fine.” Waving his hand, Randidly turned away and began to walk back to the surface. He chewed on his lip and muttered to himself. “Plus, there is something I wanted to check on anyway…”

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