Randidly spun around, right before he was going to crack a joke at Rose’s expense, as the only individual here worthless in combat. But before he could finish, a flash of power pulled his attention back towards the Dungeon.
There was a flash and swirl of Aether, causing his eyes to widen. Could the Creature…?
Definitely not, based on the memories we recovered, Lucretia cut in, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a sign of trouble.
Memories...! Randidly blinked several times. Then he did his best to put it out of his mind as he moved back over towards the front of the Dungeon, where Thea still sat, crying-
Where he had left the two Regalia, feeling rather awkward about walking over next to Thea and picking them up while she was so seized by grief. Inwardly, Randidly cursed himself for not just putting them into his spatial ring, but he had felt…
Everything had happened so fast, the end of the fight, Chrysanthemum using her body to protect him, returning to the world. Randidly was lost in some of his personal grief and had let things slip a bit. He had even forgotten to lock down the Regalia and instead went off with the rest of the group, trying to prep them for the emotional toll that strength would have on them.
What the fuck sorta move was that…?
Randidly stopped up short, somewhat stunned when he returned to Thea’s location. She seemed to still be on the ground, sobbing without any bit of attention spared to the tornado of Aether next to her. The sword and the helmet were gone, swirling until they were simply two motes of light, rapidly rotating in a circle. There was… something at the center of that energy, but it wasn’t anything that he could detect.
Even his Aether Detection only managed to catch a sniff of it. What was...!?
Then Randidly realized what was going on and his shoulders slumped downwards. The motes of light spun until they reached a speed at which they transformed into bands of light, that then sunk into that being in the center of the tornado. A notification popped up, confirming Randidly’s worst fears.
After trial and strife, a Champion has emerged in your Zone: the Eternal Dreamer. You may pledge to the Eternal Dreamer in order to gain the Skill Lesser Illusion. Skills gained from previous Champions may be retrained but will be lost upon pledging to the current Champion. Abilities relating to Scrying, Fortune Telling, and Illusions will be easier to learn for those originally from Zone 32. While in the area of Zone 32, Skills relating to Scrying, Fortune Telling, and Illusions will Level more quickly. Now that a Champion has been selected, be on the lookout for special related quests.
The Aether settled, revealing a small bird, floating in mid-air. Compared to the previous iterations, this bird seemed to pulse with power, its body possessing a level of detail that was not comparable to how it was before. It fluttered its wings and hopped, moving naturally, and Randidly wasn’t able to tell that it was a fake, aside from its sudden appearance.
Still, Randidly swore aloud. Of all things, a Champion related to illusions and scrying…?
“You spoiled brat. That wasn’t your decision to make.”
There was no reply from the bird, but very quickly it hopped over to Thea and landed on her shoulder. It raised its head and began to sing, and instantly the sky darkened. White petals fell from the sky in something akin to a blizzard. Heedless, Thea sobbed on, her fingers tight on Chrysanthemum’s fur.
It only occurred to Randidly now, but if he had made Ptolemy the Champion… or even Regina Northwind, back in Donnyton, perhaps-
But no, Chrysanthemum was nearing the end of her life. Healing… healing could only do so much.
It was pretty, this display, but that was all it was. Randidly fervently hoped that this prick would learn to use the Skill he had usurped to a much more efficient degree. Without a word, Randidly turned and walked away, as Chrysanthemum’s chest fluttered one last time, and then stilled, while the petals continued to fall down around them.
Very quickly, the group arrived back at Star Crossing. Some of them had given Randidly looks, likely in response to the naming of Simon as a Champion, but his visage apparently conveyed his opinion on the matter well enough that no one, even Ace, asked. There, the group parted: Ace and Rose back to the Refuge, Drake back to East End, while Lucifer came with them to teleport back to Donnyton.
Before he went, Randidly gave a long look towards the source of a pulsating sphere of Aether, on a nearby hill. Likely Simon was there, even now, experimenting with his new power, or performing minor parlor tricks for Thea in order to cheer her up.
Randidly’s hands tightened into fists. Was that… was this really what they had struggled in the Dungeon to recover…?
A rational part of Randidly could understand the way these abilities could be useful, but that part was just swept away by a vengeful rage. Part of the reason he had departed so quickly, even while Thea remained, was that he couldn’t trust himself not to tear into Simon, had he remained. Randidly wasn’t sure how powerful Simon had become post-transformation, but he was likely at a similar level to the prior Champions.
Which were a bit lower in power than Randidly, prior to him entering the Raid Dungeon. And Simon was primarily focused on Illusions.
Randidly had no doubt that he could track him down and rip out the foolish kid’s throat, but he wasn’t sure that he could assign the Champion status to someone else. What if his act killed the Champion position permanently?
There was also the fact that he was planning on murdering a kid who was just a teenager, which made Randidly sullen and bitter, more than anything. No, right now was not the time to make any decisions. Better to head back to Donnyton as quickly as possible, check in on Neveah, inform Mrs. Hamilton and Co. what he had learned in the Raid Dungeon.
It looked like Star Crossing was throwing together a celebration, but Randidly blew past their council, with only the barest excuses. He wasn’t in the mood.
When they returned to Donnyton, he immediately launched himself at full speed in the air, throwing himself out of the teleporter area and into the treeline. Instantly, he accelerated as fast as he possibly could, not caring about how he physically tore through the terrain with the force of his passage. Instead, he simply made a beeline North and East, shooting towards Neveah.
As soon as he had arrived back on Earth, he had felt the energy he had gained from growing in Levels coiling and growing, then slamming into the strangely suspended form of Neveah’s soul. Even now, Aether flowed into her, revitalizing her in some necessary way. Whatever changes that Randidly had caused in Neveah due to gaining a Class, this burst of energy catalyzed it, and they continued at hyper speed.
Fueled by the flood of energy, he could feel her body reforming, forcefully now, rather than the gradual process it had been before.
So many things had changed in the Raid Dungeon, and Randidly hadn’t even dipped his toe in understanding everything he knew now. Those memories… would have to wait, no matter how curious he was. Without Neveah, the Raid Dungeon had been a constant struggle. Her presence at his side would make similar challenges appear like child’s play.
He arrived at the crevasse she had fallen into and was surprised to find someone else there, cooking a meal of fish over a small fire. The man, seeing Randidly, blinked and leaped to his feet. Immediately, Randidly’s eyes refocused, and he recognized the man: it was the friend of Kayle and Paolo, Dinesh. The slender Indian man blinked for a few seconds, then bowed hurriedly.
Randidly opened his mouth to ask why he was here, but the ground rumbled. Through their bond, Randidly could feel that Neveah was stirring, the short, sharp twitches of someone who was about to wake.
Instead of speaking, Randidly blew past him, heading to the edge of the hole. Below, he could see twisting and cracking bones, and a thick mist made from condensed Aether. The mist seemed to pulse with Neveah’s breath, moving slowly, rising and falling, rising and falling.
Neveah? Randidly thought towards her along the lines of their bond.
There was stillness, and then the rumbling intensified. The pull of Aether grew until it seemed that Neveah’s transformation began to occur so quickly it lost sight of itself. Cracks rang out of the ground, bits of bone and rock ground to dust as the different sections below pulsed and shifted, seeking a final resting place.
“Is this… good?” Dinesh asked, his face pale.
Randidly said nothing.
After 15 minutes of the constantly increasing cracking noises, there was a crescendo, a low rumbling happening concurrently with high, sharp cracks. Then there was silence. Within the crevasse, there was only stillness. Then, a handmade entirely of bone reached out and dragged a body behind it.
Randidly chuckled as Neveah, slowly and ponderously clambered out of her resting place, even while Dinesh became increasingly nervous. She had certainly lost quite a bit of her size, but Randidly didn’t mind that so much. He could already sense how the changes would make her more powerful overall, even if she didn’t retain the same overwhelming momentum that she could have previously.
Neveah had shifted from being a thick worm on the ground to a more humanoid form about 2.5 meters tall. But in terms of humanoid, it was much closer to a lizardman than a human. Her legs were thick and powerful, soft grey flesh covered in a thick armor of bones. The torso was elongated, and from the back there was a powerful tail, extending perhaps three times the length of the torso itself.
Her arms were relatively thinner, but they were tipped with gleaming daggers of bone. From her back stretched two wings, made entirely of bone, and Randidly doubted that they possessed the requisite lift for flight, but they undoubtedly be a powerful weapon in a close range fight.
Perhaps the most stunning change, or lack of one, was Neveah’s face. Because instead of a humanoid face, she retained the same face of the bone wyrm, possessing cold black eyes over a circular maw of a mouth that was lined with sharp teeth.
“Ran...d…. I…. back….” Neveah said, her mouth twisting in glee. Dinesh excused himself and fled the area rapidly.