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A note from puddles4263

12/14

Once Randidly had the assistance of Nether Resistance, the battle became immensely easier. Although it could still blur the edges of the Grim Chimera image, much of its potency had been sucked from it. With the additional image strength from his victory in the Eidolon Crucible, his victory was no longer in doubt.

Of course, a sufficient amount of Nether would still be deadly to Randidly. Activating this Skill would not mean that Randidly could act with impunity in the front lines. The lingering damage to the image of the Grim Chimera was a testament to those tense first ten seconds of bitter confrontation.

But with the periodic pulses of Aether from the Aether Key in his hand, Randidly was nigh unstoppable in the current battle. He methodically used Molten Fang of the Pariah to eradicate the remainder of the black jellyfish that covered the ground of the arena. He even earned several additional Skill Levels in his Grim Chimera Skills and Nether Resistance.

But those notifications soon twisted his mouth into a scowl. I get the Skill Levels sure, and that will help. But without my main body, I won’t have any way to use the PP to follow Paths…

Yet that annoyance quickly gave way to hesitation. ...then again, I would have said the same thing about my ability to use non-Grim Chimera Skills. So perhaps it's doable, I just need to find a way to cause a resonance as happened with Nether Resist. But a resonance with my Status…?

But causing such a phenomenon was easier said than done. In this case, the direct cause was obvious; exposure to Nether. After that switch had been flicked inside of himself to grant access to Nether Resistance, it felt like a tenuous connection was established with his main body that allowed him to utilize the Skill. Perhaps it was due to whatever actions Yggdrasil used, but there was enough sympathy between the two of them that Randidly could probably worm his way into access to all of his main body’s Skills.

However, very few other Skills possessed the same extremely blunt activation pattern as the Resistance series of Skills did.

And of course, the traitorous Skill Pain Resistance doesn’t work at all from the pain resulting from Nether damage… Randidly gloomily regarded the burnt skin of his arm and chest. So torturing myself here is a waste of time.

Once the creature of Nether was gone, Randidly felt rather bored as the Aether Key continued to pulse out waves of energy into the surrounding air. Some wild part of himself almost wished more enemies would show up. Still, he had his hands rather full doing his best to repair some of the damage that Nether had done to the Grim Chimera and decided a peaceful conclusion to his trip out here wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Nether Resistance probably didn’t win the battle for Randidly, but it certainly saved him from a lot of pointless suffering. But even with that advantage, Randidly could feel portions of his image that had grown vague and blurry. While sitting on that imagined arena that Randidly had left destroyed in the past, he slowly repaired the damage to the Grim Chimera.

He reinforced the image of violence, added more detail and texture to the physical body of the Grim Chimera, and slowly upped the ravenous hunger than animated it. Even though the exertion left Randidly in a state that was close to dizzy, Randidly was able to quickly repair his image.

Of course, there were some spots that Randidly spotted the tenacious touch of Nether lingering despite his best efforts. It wasn’t pure Nether, as it had been mixed too thoroughly with Randidly’s energy into a strange mixture that was probably useless to both types of beings. But it became part of the fabric of his Grim Chimera. As Randidly examined it, it even seemed to strengthen the shadow of loneliness that covered the Grim Chimera.

This will be the part that becomes a star then… Randidly tapped his lip and then shrugged. Although he couldn’t remove it here, it might be possible to purify his image if he had access to his main body. Even if the strange process of transforming the Nether into a star didn’t pan out, Randidly didn’t believe he wouldn’t find a way to handle it.

With his repairs sorted, Randidly moved onto a restive type of meditation. His breathing evened out and Randidly let himself drift for quite some time. Some of the edge returned to his Willpower. Only after Randidly felt himself grounded and capable did Randidly open his eyes.

With most of his internal state sorted out, Randidly glanced around at the surrounding area. At the moment, he dearly wished he could find a way to cause resonance between himself and the Skill Absolute Timing because Randidly wasn’t sure how long he had been here. The battle against the being of Nether couldn’t have been long, but it left him drained. As for how long his recovery meditation lasted…

Randidly sighed and shook his head. Honestly, he had no idea. It could have been an hour since he was teleported here, it could have been a day. But it did seem like the energy within the Aether Key was slowly starting to die down, so the return should trigger sometime very soon…

With the being of Nether eradicated, the arena came back with perfect clarity. The point of impact, where the ground had been destabilized, slowly settled back together like a magical self-solving jigsaw puzzle. The pristine water of the quarry reflected the blue sky. But beyond that…

Randidly walked slowly with the Aether Key in his claw to the edge of the area. Just like it was with the frontlines, the edge of Randidly’s stabilized space ended with a sharp wall of ominous blackness. The azure veins added some depth, but the view still struck Randidly with a physical force. It was difficult to imagine what existence for the Nether beings was like, looking at those strange azure patterns flickering across the blackness.

Randidly glanced up. The blue sky ended sharply at the edge of the blackness. Rather than any true phenomenon, that color was likely created based upon his image. But it was still rather off-putting to see the stark line where the edge of Randidly’s small world ran up against the surrounding vast darkness.

“The Great Rift, huh…” Randidly mumbled. Then he shook his head and walked back to the center of the arena. Once there, he sat down once more and returned to meditation. This time, rather than trying to refine his image, Randidly let his mind go completely blank in order to recover from the strain of his confrontation with the being of Nether.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Don’t lose yourself.

Breathe in, breathe out.

In the past, this would likely be a time where Randidly would slip into his growing image verse and feel the movements that he could sense with his Crown, which had now been restructured into the Reign of the Eidolon Crucible. But displayed on the inside of his eyelids Randidly now only found blackness. He wondered idly how Ignition Essence was doing and what Yggdrasil did to pass the time while he was performing missions.

Would his growth here help the main body grow more powerful?

The concept of time writhed and slithered around Randidly like a naughty serpent. The only constant was his own breath and the intermittent pulses of the Aether key grasped tightly in his claw. After focusing on his mental recovery for what felt like days, Randidly soon felt himself returning to his peak.

Well, rather than his peak, it was the rather gritty reality of feeling good in not the best of circumstances. Which, considering where he was, seemed good enough to consider it a victory. So Randidly returned to the rather endless task of refining his image of the Grim Chimera.

And when he did so, Randidly was met with the rather shocking realization that his earlier ‘refinements’ were extremely crude and clumsy. They stuck out like a sore thumb against the rather smooth rest of his image. He had wielded a blunt instrument to repair the damage done by Nether, leaving the finished product extremely rough.

Randidly grimaced as he went about correcting and enhancing the pieces he had added to his image earlier. Well, I suppose that’s a sharp lesson about trying to perform surgery on yourself directly after a battle… the results are pretty abysmal. But I’m not sure whether it’s better to add such stopgaps to an image or simply focus on recovering mental acuity first, leaving those wounds to the image to bleed during the intervening time…

Shaking his head, Randidly stretched and straightened. He glared down at the Aether Key as though it was responsible for his current predicament. Weak pulses of Aether continued to flow outward about once every five minutes or so. In order to pass the time, Randidly stuck his feet into the cool water of the quarry. But although the sensation was enjoyable, it felt… hollow.

Hard to tell if that’s because I don’t have a body or because this place was made off of my rather fuzzy memory… Randidly sighed and closed his eyes once more. Instead of simply focusing on himself or his image, Randidly focused on the Aether Key in his hand.

With the Grim Chimera’s instincts, he could clearly feel the dense Aether that was held within the glass sphere. But it was also clear that much of that energy had already dispersed into the surrounding area. Which, considering it was used to stabilize the space, made Randidly wonder how exactly Aether worked. Why did its presence give Randidly something to affix his image to? If it was just an energy form-

Of course, Randidly knew it wasn’t just energy. It was also shape. But-

Then Randidly froze. Because while his focus was directed at the continually pulsing waves of Aether, there was a subtle stirring in his chest. Something was resonating.

Instantly, the excitement in Randidly’s chest bubbled up and completely destroyed his focus. But now, Randidly stared down at the Aether Key with a hungry intensity. Of course! Even if I can’t get some of the other Skills, if I can get Aether Detection to resonate by holding such a powerful bit of concentrated Aether for a prolonged period of time…

So Randidly took several breaths to calm himself down and focused on the slow beats of Aether that were spreading outward from the sphere in his hand. Of course, the time between the pulses of Aether seemed extremely long to Randidly’s impatient senses. Almost prohibitively slow.

Yet after every pulse, the resonance in his chest would increase by the smallest bit. The energy would clearly trigger something and come back with more vigor than before, only then to slowly fade as the space between pulses stretched.

Randidly frowned while keeping his eyes closed. Focusing like this earlier would have been better when the Aether held within the Aether Key still possessed most of its potency. But even so… with a few more pulses…

The resonance in his chest continued to climb in intensity. Randidly didn’t remember exactly when the resonance had reached a tipping point, but he suspected it was very close-

Randidly’s stomach lurched as he was pulled through teleportation once more. The resonance rapidly faded to nothing. With a quick look, it was clear that the sphere in Randidly’s hand was completely devoid of energy. Randidly released a long stream of curses.

And based on what Zagnal said, I’ll need to handle three defensive missions before I’ll have another chance at an offensive one again. Randidly wanted to rip out his hair. But maybe there will be a way to get access to a spare Aether Key without waiting for another mission… What are they anyway? I would assume its concentrated System Aether but without Aether Detection-

A split second later, Randidly was standing once more in the pentagram of pillars. Zagnal looked up and met his gaze with Randidly, whose face was probably covered in an expression of a man whose fiance died of a heart attack at the alter across from him.

Zagnal patted Randidly shoulder with a commiserating expression. “Not so easy, is it? And it will only get harder from here… but you survived, that’s what’s important. When you’ve recovered, follow me. It’s time to take you to your new lodgings. Now you report to Iellaya.”

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