The light was still there, emerging from the smaller sigil above Randidly’s chest, but it had changed, becoming softer. The whole thing exuded this aura of softness and strength. The strength was brutally dangerous, but it was guided by a calm determination. Whereas the Class itself was filled with a baleful fatality, what animated this one was not that, but…
“Very effective,” Octavius said, his voice conveying how impressed he was. “You did well with your word choice I suppose.”
“Thank you,” Mrs. Hamilton said, nodding her head, as she watched the smaller sigil float up and join the larger one. There was a ripple through it, and a small shift in it, as they adjusted to each other’s presence. Some of the evilness of the Class’ aura was abated, but honestly…
It just made it more of an insidious thing, more self-righteous and demanding. That responsibility had perhaps been more twisted than it had done twisting…
“Now what?” Mrs. Hamilton inquired, turning to Octavius. He gave her a wide smile.
“Well, now that you took your turn, we allow the others to go. Who would like to go next? With this amount of Aether…”
Mrs. Hamilton turned, and saw a stubborn looking woman with long, pale lavender hair riding… what appeared to be Neveah, slithering over towards the group that was already gathered around Randidly. As they arrived, the woman hopped off, not even sparing the three sitting individuals a glance. Instead, she just looked up at the sigil with furious eyes.
Then she turned her gaze down to Randidly, and the look she had softened. “It wouldn’t have been a betrayal, just… guidance that you needed. And would have ignored otherwise.”
Neveah rumbled her displeasure, and the woman waved her hand. “It didn’t work, alright? He ripped everything to shreds with raw power. Don’t go getting your bones in a bunch. Hm….”
After tapping her chin for several seconds, she said, “Progenitor of the Four-Shaded Evolution.”
Again, a ripple ran through their strange location. Again, the light began to gather, slowly building to a blinding crescendo. And as it fell down, it revealed a glittering sigil, that glowed with four different lights. There was something strange about this sigil too, or multiple things.
The first was that it was oddly mechanical, and in motion, shifting and clicking together, merging into new forms, always growing, moving forwards. The second thing was that it was hidden at first, but the more that the four pieces moved, the more Mrs. Hamilton could sense that at its core, there was an unrelenting engine acting, a powerful energy source that held almost too much power to be channeled.
Slowly, that sigil too, rose and joined into the larger mass, causing the other to twist and shift. This time, the change was more… Mrs. Hamilton wanted to say superficial, but she suspected that this wasn’t actually the case. It was just that the changes were much easier to see. The varied, mechanical style had been absorbed, and now there were dozens of smaller, shifting parts that made up Randidly’s larger Class.
In addition… the aura that it emanated had intensified, perhaps driven by the addition of that energy source…
“Another fine synchronization with the image.” Octavius said, making another note. “Still more Aether remains, perhaps…?”
“You can sense me, can’t you? Well, I suppose there is no point in remaining then.” From Randidly’s chest a figure appeared, first blurry, but then slowly condensing to a grey, ashy form, and then resolving itself into a man holding a simple spear. Immediately, Mrs. Hamilton’s spider felt the strength of this shape, and was filled with caution. This man…. was probably the most powerful thing she had ever seen.
Even more so than Octavius. He simply seemed unstoppable.
After sparing Mrs. Hamilton a glance, seemingly aware of her assessment, the man looked at Octavius with an easy smile. “...I suppose that you will not allow me to dwell within his emotions? Many of them were inherited from me.”
“I am… aware of your situation….” Octavius checked something on his wrist. “...Aemont. But most of your personality has sacrificed itself to give the boy additional power. You are just the memory of the true Aemont’s shape, feeding on the ample Aether this Heretic possesses. Not that I would act against you, the boy’s safety is none of my concern, but when the Class is instituted, you will be purified. And you don’t have the luxury of this woman’s refuge, who cowers in his Soul Skill.”
The lavender haired woman pursed her lips, but said nothing. The figure, Aemont, nodded slowly. Then, he turned and looked at Randidly. “I…. sense you can be considered my family, even though I don’t remember clearly why. But yes, I remain because of you, and because of my resolution, that won’t let me rest. Perhaps…. it is best that I pass that onto you as well…”
Aemont straightened, his eyes becoming deeper and darker, filled with a wild hatred. “I feel in you a kindred spirit, boy. You have taken my emotions, then you took my techniques. Now, take my resolve. It is all I have left, but I feel like…. You too have the tenacity to seek its completion. Phantom of the Foreshadowed End.”
The form of the man dissipated, leaving only the sigil, that grew, and then became eclipsed with light. As it dispersed, what remained was the smallest of all the sigils created, but also the heaviest. Mrs. Hamilton felt it like a weight against her heart. Every beat was a struggle, as long as that sigil hung before them.
It was a dark, dense thing. It didn’t have much meaning, on its own, but it was like a promise. Or a seed. Or an egg, that would hatch the most vicious monster that Mrs. Hamilton could imagine, a thing of black limbs, cracked bones, and desperate teeth. Very slowly, it floated up and joined the larger Class.
The only change was that the light it was producing was a hair darker now than it had been in the past. But it was enough to give Mrs. Hamilton a sense of foreboding. Just… who was…. Aemont….? The fact that he carried that around with him, in his chest….
“The Aether is being depleted. Perhaps now…?” Octavius turned and looked at the darkness.
“Yes, I will go. I just… figured I would let the children act first,” A deep, amused voice sounded out, and a figure appeared above them, a face made of ash and lava, twisted into a lopsided grin. “I will name this boy too, as is my right.”
"You choose to name him...?" Octavius almost seemed amused, scratching his horn in a practiced motion, getting around the place where his ivory met his skin. "These nice denizens of Cohort 7... and otherwise... seem to have a vested interest in his potential. I might-"
"Worry... not." The huge face of ash said, its mouth stretching wide, and what appeared to be a car sized droplet of lava oozing from the corner of its strange mouth. "He is not there yet.... but soon he will be chosen. And then he will have the potential to go even further...to take up the mantle...I have held for so long..."
Octavius' eyes widened. "You mean-"
"For he is the Patron of the Fallen Earth." The face said, and when he spoke, the rumble that went through the platform was not small. More than that though, the face began to vibrate too, shaking and stuttering, large, hot red cracks emerging in the face, lava oozing slowly outward from the wounds, dripping down and landing on the grey ivory with dull thwaps. Mrs. Hamilton pursed her lips as she watched. This thing... was one of the rare Patrons...?
There were of course people from Donnyton who had obtained Patrons, and went on the strange teleportation to the Patron’s world, where they were tested to see if they were worthy of the powers of the Patron. If she recalled correctly, there were three levels to Patronage, Initiate, Anointed, and Chosen. This Patron spoke of Randidly as though all he had yet to do was become Chosen, which would mean he was already Anointed... Mrs. Hamilton made a mental note to ask him about the process.
That boy went through so much...! The amount of knowledge she could probably gain about the methods of the System just by following him around was probably 10x the amount she learned in Donnyton, even with multiple experiments running.... Somewhat frustrating.
More than that though, this being seemed to be implying that what he was giving Randidly was the ability to move beyond simply being a Chosen, to the next level: being a Patron himself.
Even now, Mrs. Hamilton gritted her teeth as the shuddering rumbling grew more intense, so that if she didn't, her teeth would rattle right out of her mouth. More and more chunks of rock fell off the giant face, revealing a bright red molten core, but as that was exposed to the air, it cooled and darkened, then cracked and fell.
For the first time since Octavius arrived, Mrs. Hamilton sensed that he was truly shocked and worried. There seemed to be a sheen of sweat on his brow. "Senior-"
"Nonsense." At last, the central chunk of rock that had composed the face was revealed, hardened, and fell. From it, a stone form, shaped roughly like a human with large, clublike arms stood. Its body was brown-grey, and its mouth and eyes glowed with the red of molten rock. "Among Patrons, I am rather young; I hailed from the 3rd Cohort. I was born as a treant, you know, before I became a Patron. And in this boy... I see the potential to die as one."
'Titles...' Mrs. Hamilton thought, tapping her finger against her lip. '...Were important. The System designation...'
She considered how much Lyra had worsened after becoming a Village Spirit. It wasn't just power, it was information. Seeing behind the curtain of the System to the inner workings. But the power was not insignificant, either. It was enough to make Champions of men...
Finally, the vibrations ceased. A glittering rune floated in the air, larger than all that had come before, almost of a size of the Class rune that was originally made, albeit much more slender and basic. It was all burning reds and hard lines, a vicious thing, a desolate thing without any soft portions. Mrs. Hamilton, looking at that floating rune, was very dubious how much effect their addition to his Skill would ultimately be. Although they added some softness and understanding, everyone else seemed to add hard, brutal, unrelenting and unforgiving shapes and meanings. These would emphasize his stubbornness and foolhardy tendencies, not soften them.
How much could a Class change a person, Mrs. Hamilton wondered. How much could that boy be warped by this unyielding image…?