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Congratulations! Your Fate is now Level 6. Continue exposing your fate to powerful opponents to increase its Level. Current Benefits: 101 Health and 12 Stat Points have been gained. Agility is increased by 30.

Congratulations! Your Skill Corrosive Touch (System) has evolved as your Fate grows. It is now Level 41. This Level is capped by the Level of your Fate times 10.

Platton straightened, his left hand throbbing with a dull ache. It was not easy for his body to withstand the force of using his Fate for such a long time. It was one of the reasons that he had barely increased its Level after having it for almost six months. Of course, that was the lesser reason.

Out of the corner of his eye, Platton considered Silo. He blazed with a bright light as he struck the giant puppet from afar, forcing the thing to turn its attention from Platton to Silo. Although most of the frame of its body was intact, the inexorable corrosion from Platton’s Skill was already beginning to show its effects on the puppet. Some of the metal of its chest was thin and brittle, as though slowly consume by rust. Its head, aside from its pale eyes, was beginning to have deep holes.

That was the power of the System Level Skills but was also its curse.

Because once it began consuming, it wouldn’t stop. If Silo was hit with even the tiniest bit of Platton’s Corrosive Touch…

It wouldn’t happen today, or likely even this year, but Corrosive Touch would never stop consuming him. Someday, Platton’s Skill would either weaken Silo enough that he would fall to a lesser enemy, or it would kill him outright. This was the true reason that Platton never trained this Skill. Because this power held no discernment: it was a weapon of mass destruction.

A swift kick from the puppet hit Silo’s block and knocked the kid backward. Platton winced. For whatever reason, the fool just didn’t learn how dangerous those attacks were. Silo flew backward, tumbling, when-

“...Domain… Realm of the Crystal Spires!”

A ripple passed through the air, and a portion of the cracked and ripped up battlefield they had made for the last 10 minutes was covered by a huge crystalline dome. Immediately, Platton flew over. The portion covered included Silo, Azriel, and the Ghosthound. In addition, the Propagator was there with them. Perhaps even more shockingly… the Propagator was the one who used the Domain Class Skill in order to lock them up.

Platton knew that its power in that air would shoot upwards. He hadn’t been watching closely since it had moved to attack the Hhosthound, but it seemed clear that he was immensely pressured. If that version was too much for him…

His gauntlet throbbed. Platton looked down at it, a frown on his face. Domains were almost unbreakable from the outside. That was their power. But of course, a System rarity Skill invalidated that. However… if he used Corrosive Touch to break through… There was a high chance of all three of those young geniuses being afflicted with the Skill.

But Platton was a military man. Those three might have bravely sacrificed themselves for others, but they were here because they were soldiers, in name at least. Their potential would be ruined… but their testimony was necessary. Platton raised his gauntlet, which emitted a pale light. He was careful to keep it well away from his body.

*****

Abruptly, Azriel found herself in a strange multicolored landscape. The sky was deep and dark above them, sprinkled with stars. Strange almost liquid lights danced in the sky as well, flowing red and purple and orange. The ground they were standing on appeared to just be a type of snow, but a metallic, blue variety.

But this was a Domain. Azriel had only ever experienced her master’s Domain, and it was not something she was likely to forget. The power it could exercise within that Domain…

“We need to get out of here,” Azriel said shortly. Inwardly, she felt somewhat helpless. Dearly, she wished that she had something more helpful to say at the moment. But in most instances, her mouth moved and straightforwardly transferred her thoughts into the world without consulting her at all. It was something of a curse.

“Hmmm…. Any ideas? Ah, it looks like Silo is joining us.” Randidly said, glancing over at a body that rolled up against a crystal spire.

That was the other thing about this land. It was covered in crystal spires. They were somewhere between two and four meters tall and ended at spiraled points. Some were almost perfect, flawlessly pointing upwards, but others were gnarled and leaning. It was like being in a strange forest that had been completely stripped bare.

“This is a lifeless place,” Azriel announced with the same conviction. “Generally, one fights against a Domain by utilizing their own Domain… then it becomes about which individual can exert more dominion over the area. It becomes a battle in a mix of the two locations. Otherwise, you are simply beat up by the owner of the Dominion. We are not in a good place.”

Randidly grunted. The strange juxtaposition of the darkness of his crown and the pale light that shined from it drew the eyes and made him seem somewhat otherworldly. Although she scanned their surroundings for the Propagator, she kept a portion of her attention on him. So far, Azriel had been repeatedly surprised by his resilience and resourcefulness when adapting to different challenges.

It was clear that the strange energy that he had given Azriel access to gave him an almost fraudulent amount of Skills. But it seemed the large lava flume he had struck the Propagator with originally had taken a lot out of him.

Then it seemed that he was out of cards. Azriel wondered if she had anything that would be sufficiently powerful enough to help them here. Or perhaps they would die here.

Even though she had already experienced the moments when Randidly stole her thunder in the tournament, and the time where Azriel had resigned herself to the wound she had received while fighting at NIergem, the realization they might die here still hit her like a bolt of lightning.

Not that Azriel feared death, her life was worth almost nothing to her. It was a means to an end. And that end was accomplishing the dream of the being that had given her a future. Before that dream… this was nothing.

Azriel’s eyes hardened. Almost subconsciously, she raised her spear and looked around at the spears. As of yet, the Propagator had yet to show itself. But as soon as Azriel thought that, the thing was there, standing amongst the Crystal Spires.

Silo also noticed the Propagator at the same moment, and snorted. “Hmph, it was foolish of you to challenge us without the benefit of your minions. Let me collect the price of your arrogance. Defiant Light! Pinnacle…. Spear!”

A huge amount of golden energy gathered around Silo upon his usage of his first Skill. Then he rushed forward towards the Propagator, and as he did so all that energy around him coalesced into a giant golden spear, sliding towards the Propagator. In this form, she was a tall, willowy woman with red hair. But she exuded a danger that wasn’t there previously. From somewhere, the Propagator had found a short emerald dress that stopped about mid thigh for its host body.

Honestly, it reminded Azriel of Randidly’s eyes.

As the huge golden spear built up momentum, the Propagator just smiled. It was pretty.

“Sing… my children.”

Softly at first, but then with increasing volume, the crystal spires around them began to resonate a strange song. It rapidly rose in pitch and frequency until it was a keening wail that seemed to cut through Azriel’s brain and strike at some vital part of herself. The pain slowly built.

Just as Azriel began to grimace and tremble, the momentum of the giant golden spear shattered, and Silo rolled out of it and to a stop. He head his head and moaned. Still, the volume of the song rose higher. So high that all other noise was made irrelevant.

Azriel saw the Propagator opened its mouth to laugh, but it was just a picture without any meaning. The sound of the song was so loud now that everything seem to fracture around Azriel. She fell to her knees. Still, the song grew louder.

“It hurts,” Azriel whispered, or at least she thought she did. But the noise had no meaning. It was agony and that was it. It was honestly not so much different from her life before. Stifling, exhausting, a maze filled with soft faces and reaching hands.

But then a hand touched her shoulder. Surprisingly, as it did so, the sound receded somewhat, filling Azriel’s ears with the sound of her own beating and the quick beat of her heart. SHe looked up and Randidly stood their. His crown was shimmering, waves of black power spreading out to cover her.

As she watched, blurs rushed forward out of the corner of her eye. They were crystal shards, and they took Randidly in his chest. Instantly, his expression twisted into one filled agony. He took only a single a step back and his grip on her shoulder tightened. But in that moment, the song grew louder once more.

But now Azriel was filled with a numbness that seemed to shrug off the pain. With red eyes, she turned to look at the Progator. Around it, another spire broke into pieces and several shards floated up next to her host body, points aimed towards Randidly.

Ignoring the pain, Azriel rushed forward. As she pulled out of Randidly’s grip, the pain hit her like a physical weight. That first step seemed like an eternity. But with a huge effort of will, she took that second step. Then she was off, her spear raised, the crimson trails behind her. All the while, the Propagator didn’t even look at her. The host body was smiling and fixated on Randidly behind her.

It was infuriating. Time stretched, and Azriel's perception narrowed to the face of the Propagator, looking past her to another enemy.

Before Azriel could reach the Propagator, its expression twisted. The area around them flickered, and then the domain shattered. A sickly, yellow light rushed out and covered them all, followed by the billowing smoke of Platton. Instantly, a message arrived from Platton.

Grab Silo, I’ll get the Ghosthound. We need to get out of here.

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