Yggdrasil’s extremely vivid leaves rustled as his branches continued to sway over the frowning form of Randidly. It was, at least, an extremely soothing sound. Pressing his eyes closed, Randidly did his best to not think about the horrendous headache that was only now being soothed away by Yggdrasil’s Skills.
The specter of the experience he just endured still hung over Randidly.
That was close. If Abiodun had taken only a little longer to arrive… If the main body hadn’t been able to provide Aether to me while I was lost in the Great Rift… If those batbeasts had arrived a little sooner… Even with Nether Resistance, I’m still not strong enough to stay out there alone without a body.
But there isn’t much I can do about that right now, is there?
Eventually, Yggdrasil pulled his branches back. “Huuuu, I apologize, but I have reached the end of my strength. If I am to continue assisting Ignition Essence today, you will have to recover on your own from here.”
“This is plenty,” Randidly said as he used his claw to leverage himself up into a sitting position. He spared a glance to the flickering form of Ignition Essence, which continued to remain dormant and dim in the corner of the tent. “Save your strength for Ignition Essence. I have a feeling that our recovery will become immensely easier if we manage to bring him back around to wakefulness.”
Inclining his canopy, Yggdrasil turned and used his roots to pull his body across the interior of the tent to huddle over Ignition Essence. Randidly shook his head, probing the dull ache that remained behind his eyes with not a little bitterness. It wasn’t a complete recovery that Yggdrasil had powered, but it certainly had restored a lot of Randidly’s capabilities. Enough that he should be unencumbered for normal activities.
Enough that he had some time to reflect on the aid given to him by the main body. Although he had felt the distinct sensation of having that large amount of Aether being given directly to him, there needed to be some Aether flowing between them. Otherwise, it would have been near impossible for Randidly to recover so abruptly.
And in addition…
Randidly closed his eyes again. While he was being healed, there had been strange flickers of images that he could see on the interior of his eyelids. When he focused on it, it would immediately disappear. But if Randidly remained relaxed, he could see a version of the Grim Chimera projected there. Instantly, Randidly had a deep impression that this too was a gift sent to him by the main body.
It was an older version of the Grim Chimera, likely the one that had originally come to the land of Nether before being knocked out and separated. But it possessed certain characteristics had since been burned away by the acidic touch of Nether. For example, Randidly had lost both of the tails that extended out from his waist and the base of his neck, as well as a lot of the texture of his skin and body.
Not that Randidly could really be blamed for losing these details as his focus was locked onto surviving in the Great Rift, but Randidly knew that the very fact he lost these details was proof that he wasn’t powerful enough. If he knew his image more intimately, surviving while submerged in Nether would be much easier.
So after Yggdrasil healed Randidly as best as he could, Randidly spent some time refining his image once more with this new information. He brought back the detail and texture, while also allowing some of the lingering damage from Nether to remain. After all, the Grim Chimera had never flinched from obtaining scares. In its eyes, the only thing that was really important was survival.
And Randidly had survived.
Cracking his neck, Randidly straightened and looked at Yggdrasil. After realizing that there was likely Aether flowing between the main body and him, Randidly was slightly worried. They had been cut off from System Aether, which meant that it would be difficult to explain where the Aether originated.
Then Randidly glanced slowly around; He couldn’t detect any other movement in the nearby area. Turning to Yggdrasil, Randidly said, “There is something else I need to tell you. While I was in the Great Rift… I received a great deal of Aether. I believe it was directly from the main body. But I cannot tell if was done purposefully due to my need or the main body was simply sending random aid. It has not happened since.”
Yggdrasil, who had been bent over the flickering emerald flames of Ignition Essence, straightened. The golden characters that were scrawled across his bark shimmered as his body shifted. “Hum. Indeed? Then it seems that our actions weren’t in vain. You possess the deepest connection to the main body of us all. For now, there is no need to be impatient. It has been less than a week since we were severed from the main body.
“If the sympathy between you grows as you grow in strength, or as you and the main body recover… I expect that we will soon find a way to escape this hellish situation.”
“I agree,” Randidly grunted. The right side of his face itched, but it was rather difficult to reach across his back to touch that spot with his claw of a left hand. In addition, his right arm was too blunt an instrument to handle a delicate operation like a scratch. “But I also had another thought; it was clear from Abiodun’s reaction that he was quite surprised to find I had survived, likely due to the fact that I’m an image without a body.”
“...you think they will begin to question how you managed it?” Yggdrasil’s roots curled into tight knots.
Randidly did his best to manipulate the recently recreated small tail from his neck to curl around and try and scratch the side of his face. The tail swept back and forth awkwardly, unfamiliar with the motion he was attempting. Scratching turned out to be an extremely difficult task. “Perhaps, but I think they will accept my survival as true. But… It is hard to explain what I am thinking without you having been in the Aether and seeing how it damages images that have no body to act as a shield. I believe it they will be incredibly suspicious at how quickly I recovered, rather than my survival.
“In the Nether, I realized that these image bodies we possess are our images. When they are damaged, the image is damaged as well. Therefore, any damage is incredibly difficult to recover from for images. Due to the main body’s presence, I’ve been able to… sense flaws that were created in the Grim Chimera image. But I suspect that I shouldn’t have that sense. That a typical connection wouldn’t allow such an experience.”
“So what are you saying?” Yggdrasil asked quietly.
Finally, Randidly’s efforts paid off; the small tail was able to reach the offending itch. “Not to put you on the spot, but it might be best to offer them your ability to calm and repair images as the special thing about us, rather than something relating to the main body.”
“Ah… I see. It will act as an explanation for the unlikely. But one that may require that I use my abilities to heal others when the truth of it is discovered. Which is why you bring it up now.”
Randidly nodded sharply. His initial impression of Iellaya was that of a capable and determined woman. If she would learn of this ability, she did not seem like the type to allow such a useful tool to lay fallow.
Yet Yggdrasil’s earlier comments were exactly why Randidly believed that this was necessary. Only a few days had passed since he had awakened from being split from the main body. Perhaps as time passed, more and more Aether would be able to flow between them. Which certainly didn’t appear to be what happened with other images.
And the Grim Chimera had long ago learned how dangerous it was to be seen as different by those in power. Especially when those powerful individuals wished to use you for their own benefit.
“Yet I wonder…” Yggdrasil’s many branches shifted and rustled. “Do we know for sure that they will really care about this connection?”
“I don’t know,” Randidly sighed.
“The unknown can perhaps doom us.” Yggdrasil sighed. “Let it be so. In truth, a portion of my image could be accurately called recovery-focused. But it is not an easy thing to accomplish without familiarity with the image on the receiving end. Our similarities make it possible, but with others… we shall see.”
Randidly opened his mouth to say some more, perhaps to thank Yggdrasil or offer some apology for him having to bear this responsibility, but the noise of footsteps on the rough dirt seized his tongue with an iron fist. Both images sat over their dormant companion and waited as the sound drifted closer.
As Randidly had expected, the footsteps stopped outside of their tent and there was a knock on the tent flap. Without waiting for a response, the tent flap was pushed open to reveal the granite torso of Abiodun.
His eyes winked in and out slowly as he considered the interior of the tent. “...truly extraordinary. You hardly appear the worse for wear after being reduced to a blob of spectral goo not six hours ago. But perhaps such a situation is common for you?”
“Ha,” Randidly laughed hollowly. Truly, he felt incredibly exhausted at the moment. Even with most of his image repaired and reinforced, the remnants of his headache continued to grate against the healthy operation of his own thoughts. It hadn’t helped that he had spent time repairing his image and also was trying to parse apart what information it was safe to share.
But what was immediately made clear by Abiodun’s statement was that Randidly’s suspicions about how they would view his recovery were correct. As Randidly’s tongue twisted in his mouth to arrange the prepared lie in a form that would encourage very few questions, Yggdrasil just bluntly spoke.
“Due to our common body and my own image… I was able to heal Randidly to a greater or lesser degree. At the moment he is incredibly weak, but it should not take long for him to recover his combat capability.”
Because capability is what matters here, more than anything else. As long as I remain capable, I will remain useful. Randidly gritted his teeth but added nothing to Yggdrasil’s short explanation.
Abiodun simply nodded. “Indeed? A lucky thing for this cretin, to have companions who can clean up after his mistakes-”
“Insult me one more time and ill rip out your throat,” Randidly growled, unable to repress the hot rage that was pumped outward with each beat of his heart. It was doubly infuriating because Randidly wasn’t sure that Abiodun even had a throat that he could rip out.
But Abiodun just smiled. “Apologies. I must admit I goaded you purposefully only because it worried me to see you as indecisive and feeble as a falling leaf- ah, no offense Sir Tree.”
Yggdrasil chuckled. “We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. But I'll agree that Randidly was not one designed for planning or waiting. His is the brutality of action and impulse.”
“Virtue in motion,” Abiodun clicked his stone teeth. “Well, if you have recovered, my job is much easier. I came earlier and asked and your tree friend refused on your behalf, but it is protocol to ask the wounded individual directly: do you wish to receive the blessing of the Aether Fountain?”