Luckily, the Progenitor’s Influence had bought him the time. Unfortunately, that strength was clearly spent, and the Ashen Image was releasing a keening wail filled with vicious intent. There were grief and madness in the sound, but more than that…
...it was loneliness…?
Even if I was hated… that was still my source…!
Randidly blinked. Was the Ashen Image speaking…? Did it realize that the Patron of Ash was no more...? If so, Randidly had once again underestimated its intelligence.
I’ll...I’ll burn this all. Everything will be ash…!
The heat spiked upwards. Randidly swayed mentally. His Skills flickered, struggling to withstand the explosion of the Ashen Image’s power. It was hot and baleful. A doom for all that neared the ash. All would become ash.
With both the sickle and the gauntlet used, how could he persist…? On the strength of his images, Randidly had no illusions of overcoming the Ashen Image. Besides, his usage of Erode Image had taught Randidly how such a clash of images would often result in mutual destruction. If not facing it directly, then…
Caring and familiarity are the most important.
Skarch’s words once more grounded him. Because Randidly remembered a time where he had abruptly lost to Skarch in an image due. For some reason, his image just parted before Skarch. Afterward, she had laughed at him.
“Did you think it was only your own images that you could become familiar with? With enough exposure, you can become intimate with anything.”
Randidly felt a tingling in the back of the head. If this was the image that Ulaat formed at the beginning, then he knew its story. The Patron of Ash had given him the answer. A desperate hope to save the world. Frustration due to no one listening. Regret and fear, because of the destructive effects. Loneliness, because all else was burned away by the strength of the image.
“You…” Randidly said slowly in his Soulspace. To his surprise, the furious aura rolling off of the Ashen Image paused. But a second later, it redoubled in stubborn fury. But it was all the proof Randidly needed to try something.
Slowly, Randidly’s focus in his Soulskill moved forward. It formed a body in the space. Aether continued to rush through him without end to defend his Soulspace. The pain had turned into jagged bolts of lightning stabbing outward from his chest. It felt like he was drawing very deeply from Neveah’s Health in the wake of stopping the Patron of Ash from supporting him. Panic was rising in Randidly’s chest.
But he ignored it as he walked slowly towards the Ashen Image. Without stopping, he passed the line of defense of his most powerful Skills with the best images. Immediately, the pain seemed to cause fissures through his vision as everything began to shudder under the constant barrage of agony.
More notifications came up for Pain Resistance, Chosen of Fire, and Visualization, but Randidly ignored him. He was just happy that those Skills were still functioning.
Leave me alone! All of this… all of you… will be ash!
“I need help,” Randidly said simply.”I need strength.”
The Skills in the Kata of the Ashen spear began to vibrate.
I will help you do oblivion, the answer came quietly. It is all I can do for you.
“No, you can do more,” Randidly countered. Even in his mental form, he stumbled as he walked forward towards the Ashen image. It was a small thing, a tiny glowing ember burning brightly in Randidly’s Soulspace. Even now, Randidly couldn’t look at it directly. The terrible heat and light from it burned his mental vision. “You can save a world.”
My world is dead. I am the world. I am Doom. The heat was rising once more, and not because Randidly was approaching the Ashen Image. It seemed he had struck a nerve.
Beyond white-hot pain, there was black paint, and that was a sea that threatened to drown Randidly and never allow him to resurface. But Randidly continued walking forward.
Warning, irreparable damage-
Randidly ignored it and walked forward. “I was alone too, for a long time. Sometimes… sometimes I feel alone now."
FOOL. I AM ALONE BECAUSE I DESTROYED EVERYTHING THAT COULD BE NEAR ME. I AM MY OWN ETERNITY.
This time, Randidly did get submerged in that black sea of pain. All sensation began to fade away. With a surge of panic, he returned to the surface, breaking through it. What was waiting for him was the white pain. It felt like someone was hammering icicles into his eye sockets. Even distantly, Randidly could feel his physical body had collapsed and was shivering in agony.
His Skills were flickering. The Crown of Silence and Upheaval darkened as almost 40% was lost to the ash. Gritting his teeth, Randidly continued to walk forward.
“I am alone because my Path ascends past the limit that my people can follow. Is that not similar?”
But despite the vehement denial, the violence of the power the Ashen Image was throwing off seemed to stall out somewhat. In that space, Randidly advanced forward.
“You have not turned me to ash,” Randidly said quietly.
There was no explosion of energy, just derision. Yet. Eventually, all becomes ash.
“Perhaps. If you choose that Path.” Randidly said through the jumbled mess of thoughts. He was now right before the Ashen Image. Although to look at it was painful, there was nothing in front of him but the vision of that consuming ash. Over and over, Randidly felt the slow death of the World Seed. He felt the dark jumble of emotions from Ulaat, still here. This was his image, kindled since he was young.
‘It is just a desperate child,’ Randidly realized. The Crown of Upheaval and Silence blazed brilliantly for several seconds, forcing the ash back. It angrily rose in intensity after tapering off in response to that.
It is what I am. There are no other paths to one such as I. All will become Ash. It is how it has always been.
One by one, the Skills around Randidly dimmed. He raised his hands. Stabbing numbness consumed his perception he had been near this thing for too long. He didn't’ have time to be subtle anymore. His strength was failing. “Perhaps not a path for an image… but maybe a Path for us both. What do you think… about making a home here? I need you.”
It was a desperate gamble. But all at once, Randidly stopped forcing Aether into the Skills to resist the Ashen Image. They all went dark. That insidious image of all turning to ash exploded outward through Randidly like a tidal wave. His Class was shrieking under the strain. His mouth tasted like ashes.
But he felt it. Shock and… confusion. And…. wonder.
You are… going to die like this…
“Am I not already partially ash? A little more won’t hurt. Make... yourself at....” Randidly smiled. He could feel the three Skills from Kata of the Ashen Spear pulse. They were calling the Ashen Image. But Randidly had run out of gas. Although he wanted to entreat the strange sentience of the image more, the black pain rose up and took him. Silently, he drifted downwards into numb darkness.