Congratulations! You have received the Blessing of Devouring Ash! Strength +8, Willpower +9, Focus +5. Your body temperature increases. Your immune system grows more robust, resistance to all status ailments and debuffs increases by 1%. Free stats +6.
The world of your Soul Skill turns! The denizens of your inner world evolve. As the more pressing concerns of state rise to the forefront, the religious infighting withdraws to the shadows, growing more vicious and cruel. At its heart lies the existence of the mysterious woman and the personality of the Progenitor who sent her to this world. In the darkness, more extreme views begin to brew...
The Monster King has returned, riding a great tortoise and bearing great power. He has launched a crusade against the other races, pushing far into the Spriggit Territory. The solitary Earth Golems have joined the struggle, and even the Weavers begin to move against him, binding his power. They worry that he will be the next coming of the previous emperor, who conquered the world.
The Spriggit Thief ultimately cannot resist the urge to take up the request to steal the spear, and has performed the greatest heist in history, stealing the holy relic. Tragically, she was unable to make it away unscathed, as the Weaver defenses are not to be trifled with. Her lifeblood bleeding out, she trembles and looks at the stars, wondering what the point has been...
It has been six cycles since this world’s creation. Would you like to add anything to the world? (Warning, the added qualities will be taken from a skill. A single skill level will be consumed in the taking. Other side-effects are unknown).
The religious infighting and the death of the thief was something that Randidly knew might be trouble going forward, especially if the spear was simply left there, on the ground where the Thief had crawled off to, but it was nowhere near the surface of his thoughts right now. Instead, his senses instantly spread out, as well as he could over his inner world, and very quickly, he found what he was looking for.
To his surprise, Lucretia was rather still, standing over the dying Thief. Randidly concentrated bringing the entirety of his being into a concentrated spot near them. It was still a flimsy thing, without much substance, but instantly Lucretia smiled, not looking up from the Thief.
“Good morning, Mr. Ghosthound. You seem ill at ease. Is something wrong?”
Randidly frowned, looking at her. But as she seemed content to sit in the silence, he followed her gaze and looked at the Thief. The girl was young, far younger than Randidly would have expected, perhaps only 15 or 16, wrapped in the powerful cloak that he had made with his Grace Skill. Her breathing was uneven, and her eyelids fluttered as her blood poured out, staining the cloak and spear.
The stars really were brilliant here, Randidly thought.
“Let’s not beat around the bush. I’m not comfortable with you being here.” Randidly said bluntly. “Leave of your own volition, or I will eject you.”
Lucretia smiled a little bit wider, but shrugged. “...I cannot, at present. You bringing me here has… effectively weakened me a great deal. Unless I recover for a time, I will be unable to survive in my own Cohort, let alone here.”
Randidly snorted. “With the level of strength here, I hardly-”
“You forget,” Lucretia whispered. “The cardinal rule of the System. One may climb towards the source, but you may never allow the current to carry you downstream. The System will devour you. If I wasn’t isolated like this, inside of you… the very Aether around would poison me slowly.”
After opening his mouth to respond, Randidly slowly closed it. Although he wasn’t exactly sure of the methods of such things, Shal seemed to imply something similar. So in this case, he would have to believe her. He really wasn’t sure of Lucretia’s motives, but he could be sure that if he tried to kill her, she would respond with similar deadly force. As he mulled this over, Lucretia spoke again.
“You shouldn’t worry too much, you know. Just like the Village Spirits and Champions that have come down to your Cohort from higher places need to be within a ‘Cage’ of rules in order to have the toxic Aether filtered, it’s the same for me. You are just an incredibly interesting filter, with your own private world. Harming you would be harming myself. Rest at ease.”
Of course, Randidly would not rest at ease, especially after he was told by Lucretia to relax, but there was little he could do about it. For now, he simply said. “...Then what do you want.”
“A transaction, of course.” She said with fake cheer. “Because we both know that gifts are dangerous…”
Randidly’s face stayed impassive, but he acknowledged this. In addition, gifts were unpredictable. His trap of three gifts had been effective at removing Lucretia from the picture, giving him time during his fight with Drak to focus on other things, but there were still consequences, from his perspective. After all, she was now living inside of him. In addition…
The Aether connection between them existed still, Aether traveling cleanly back and forth. He had restricted it as best he could, making sure it wouldn’t swell to the size of the other connections that he had, but there seemed to be little he could do to sever the connection.
“So I propose that I pay ‘rent’ while I’m here. In addition, as a gesture of goodwill, I’ll tell you a secret about Ten’Malla. My view of the outside world is limited to your perspective, but you are wondering what her endgame is, yes? I believe I have the general idea.”
“What sort of rent?” Randidly asked, ignoring the obvious bait. Following the direction that Lucretia wanted you to focus on was extremely dangerous. And his every instinct was sharpening as the conversation continued, and she remained… amicable with him, who effectively trapped her here in this strange inner world.
“Assistance…” Lucretia’s voice was oddly seductive, and her eyes glowed. She raised her hands, pointing to the ground beneath them. To their side, the Thief coughed, blood staining her lips. “With understanding this world. You have the skills, but you don’t know what is at this world’s core, yes? No offense, but you don’t seem to have the artisanship to create such an exquisite work… I believe I can help you understand and harness it.”
Now that was a disturbing offer. Randidly knew he couldn’t just let it sit there, especially when there would be intermittent mentions of the composition of the clockwork world changing, perfecting itself and moving forward. If it were to transform into something unrecognizable while he watched, without him understanding it, it would be a disastrous blow to his Soul Skill.
And yet the prospect of Lucretia getting her hands on it…
On the other hand, it’s not like he could really even stop her, if she tried to work on it. He simply didn’t have enough Progenitor’s Influence to intervene in the world. Even just talking like this was only possible due to Lucretia’s abilities, rather than his own presence in his Soul Skill
If he didn’t give Lucretia the go ahead, she would likely do it anyway, and would be out of the loop. But there would be no benefit to agreeing if she simply lied to him…
It made Randidly want to scratch his head in frustration. But he was distracted by a small voice from the figure in front of him.
“...Are you…. proud of me…..?” The Thief on the ground seemed to struggle for a second, then realize that it was impossible, and slumped back on the ground, her breathing heavy. Randidly frowned, and Lucretia folded her hands.
“I’m…. the best Thief… this world has ever seen…. I’ll die like this…. And the legends about me will spread… But I’m so sad…. They won’t ever- ever know my name, you know? I’m sure….. I’m sure you understand. Is it hard, being only the Progenitor to them. You…. you…. you…. have a name…..too?”
The Thief, with a supreme effort of will, rolled the spear off of herself, and reached up to the sky, straining for something.
“My name’s Tatilia. You will remember it, at least…. Won’t you…?”
Randidly pressed his eyes shut, unwilling to watch as the Thief strained further, reaching for the sky.
“I can-” Lucretia began, but Randidly cut her off with a harsh gesture, his eyes hardening as he opened them and looked closely at the small body on the ground. Of all the outcomes here, Lucretia’s influence was the most dangerous. Better to keep her uninvolved. Then the only decision remaining was….
But it was an easy decision. She was a fool, and had effectively been the lever that freed Lucretia, but she was still a person of his world, bearing one of his gifts. She surely had a great will inside of her, and a great destiny ahead of her, if she were to accomplish so much, at such a young age. If she was to burn brightly and then die out, she would become a legend, but if her life was saved, and that light was allowed to continue… the world might change.
Randidly gave a level of his Bacterial Regeneration to bring it to the world, giving another dose everywhere, but concentrating half of it in the body of Tatilia. Immediately, she gasped, as her wounds began to slowly come together, her bone marrow going into overdrive to produce more blood to replace what had been lost.
It was a long and painful process, but after about 15 minutes, Randidly comforted himself with the fact that she would live. Her light had not left his world. Almost bemused, he wondered what she would do next.