On the other hand, Influence of the Molten Core was a delight to experiment with. Setting aside the ability to use the Gravity Manipulation, which was a much improved Gravity Affinity, the core itself was incredibly useful.
It reminded Randidly somewhat of the weapon Tykes used. Except he didn’t need to touch it, and it was hot enough to sear skin just by being within a meter of someone. In addition, Randidly could control it rather easily. It would take some getting used to before he was comfortable using it in battle, but it seemed simple enough to use bluntly.
Tactics would come later, but…
Then Randidly stilled. With a wave, a small amount of Mana summoned a blade of grass that became a platform underneath his feet and lifted him high into the sky. When he was perhaps 30 meters off the ground, Randidly pulled his Molten Core up to him. Randidly inspected the ball of metal carefully. It didn’t drip, as he would expect considering how almost liquid it seemed. But instead, it seemed to be self-contained, almost like a lava lamp.
The strange minerals in the core swirled mysteriously before Randidly’s eyes. Smiling slightly, Randidly reached out and touched it. Although it was painful, Randidly didn’t truly mind. There were worse things in the world then pain.
“As the Sun Stills,” Randidly said softly.
The Molten Core began to slowly fall. Randidly’s eyes narrowed because it truly looked like the ball was falling in slow motion. The air seemed to congeal. There was something almost… stately about the core as it fell. Its movements were simple. His Stamina was rapidly fleeing him as he continued to channel the Skill, and the ball grew heavier and heavier. It seemed to move slower and slower.
Abruptly, Randidly wondered if there was something about using Stamina that seemed to slow the passage of time.
Then the core alighted on the ground, seeming to kiss it.
Everything shook, and Randidly’s control with his new plant Skill wasn’t enough to keep on top of the platform. As the grass platform swayed, Randidly let himself fall off. Flipping midair, he rushed feet first towards the dust-filled crater the core had descended into.
With a soft tap, Randidly landed. The ground was split, the core pounding its way almost 10 meters into the ground through solid rock. Powder and dust from the rocks that had been smashed to annihilation still filled the air.
A good combination, despite how much Stamina it required. If he could somehow work out a way to use Spells while striking with the core… But no, that likely wouldn’t work. It was never a good idea to use two images at once. Both were weakened by the experience. Randidly frowned at the ground.
Which meant that the As the Sun Stills was already weakened by Influence of the Molten Core, and it still accomplished this? Perhaps he should spend some more time making those images harmonious. If he could use it freely in fights…
Muttering to himself, Randidly set off towards the town. It was not easy to find the most cost-efficient way to use his new Skills, and it would take some time to figure it out. But at the last second, Randidly paused and spun around. He reached out with his Mana, intending to clean up the area, but then he faltered.
Slowly, Randidly lowered his hand. His expression turned bitter as he considered his hand. He supposed… in the grand scheme of things, this was a small price to pay for power. To never use plants without destroying them again… that was just the way of things. It reminded Randidly a lot of his roots. The Cycle of Ash and Rot. He would burn so things would grow.
So Randidly seized a single blade of grass again and swelled and split it into a dozen vines that moved throughout the broken ground and moved the shattered rock back into the hole he had created. It wasn’t perfect, and the dust in the air meant that there were numerous spaces that need to be filled, but at least it was no longer such an eyesore.
Satisfied, Randidly leaped and began heading towards the town. He wanted to be far away from the canyon when fire consumed that blade of grass from the inside out.
The inn was small, and as soon as Azriel walked in she was very conscious of the fact that she could defeat everyone within the building. With a force of will, Azriel eased up her vicious killing intent as everyone froze at their entrance. Azriel had been to the front lines before, but that was a different world than the invasion they had fought against in the last month. It pushed towards a certain very specific worldview. One that wasn’t helpful with social interaction.
There was a group of seven laborers eating at a long table on the left wall, and they seemed to have missed most of her pointed bloodlust, but there was a man sitting with a young woman at the bar who jumped to his feet when she and Skarch entered.
The man turned and looked at Azriel, his face pale. Azriel calmly returned his gaze and nodded her head. Forcing out a laugh, the man sat down next to the young and began waving away her questions about his outburst.
“Was that on purpose? We should do this more often. It is a fun game; whoever can get a bigger reaction wins.” Skarch said with a smile.
“Are there a lot of children like you in the Spear School?” Azriel asked with a little bit of interest as they walked towards the bar. The woman behind the bar noticed the bloodlust too; she watched them with obvious wariness as the two approached.
Skarch knocked the butt of her spear twice against the ground. “Are there a lot of children like you in the Northern Domain?”
Azriel gave Skarch a withering look and then smiled at the woman behind the counter. “Excuse me, Madam, we would like to purchase a room for the night.”
The woman grunted. “Oh? Well, we don’t have many amenities to offer warriors such as thee. Perhaps it would be best to continue another hour on the road and reach Hastam. There are plenty of places there that would undoubtedly be a better fit for you.”
“That won’t be necessary, a room here is fine,” Azriel said. She let some more of the tension leave her shoulders. It was her mistake to come in with so much killing intent laid bare. The rest of her squad had such similarly vicious gazes that they likely didn’t notice it. But Azriel should've known better. That was her role: to understand and adjust.
“It seems like we disagree,” The woman said blandly. The talk at the laborers' table was tapering off, and they were all looking over towards the two newly arrived woman. The man talking to the young woman kept laughing too loud and looking over his shoulder at Azriel and Skarch.
“Do you take money?” Skarch asked. For good measure, she took some out and put the cold metal onto the counter. She tapped them with her pointer finger, clinking them against each other. “We have money.”
The woman seemed to consider the money on the bar. Money which was more than enough to pay for almost a week of room and board. But she made no movement to take the coins. Instead, she just looked up at Azriel and Skarch. Her eyes were red-rimmed, and it was clear the woman hadn’t been sleeping well lately. “It’s not a matter of money. You’ll be wanting food, yes? Well, there is none. With the raids on the farms to the South, we have nothing. I won’t spare even a spoonful of food for strangers when I barely have enough to feed my kin. You are welcome to sleep down here by the fire, but we are filled to bursting with refugees who have been mistreated by soldiers for weeks. Soldiers who ‘extorted’ them for the protection to be dumped even a few more kilometers North. I think you might be in danger if you stay here, so-”
“Let me be clear,” Azriel said quietly. It was just lark to stay inside after they had sold the cart, and Azriel now regretted it. But she wasn’t going to let this woman take out her woes on her and blame, not after how much blood Azriel had shed for this land. “It is not us who would die if someone pursued the foolishness you speak of.”
Fear filled the woman’s face. Before the confrontation could continue, the door opened. Muttering to himself and smelling of smoke, Randidly walked into the inn. His bare feet were dirty and his hair was starting to grow out. The stumble across his jaw was starting to form a thin beard. But he carried a spear and bag over his shoulder, even though he possessed an interspatial ring. It was a habit he had gotten into as a soldier.
The woman’s eyes turned flat, “You soldiers all can just fuck right-”
Randidly’s gaze shifted to the woman, and then when the other person spoke, it shifted again. To Azriel’s surprise, the man who was sitting at the bar stood suddenly, with much more grace than he had jumped up previously. He turned around and regarded them all. He scratched his hair and stared at Randidly for several seconds. Randidly’s eyes widened as he looked at the man.
“Before you kick them out, I owe this man a drink. It’s good to see you again, Randidly Ghosthound” The man announced. He offered a hand with a cocky grin.
Randidly blinked. “...uh? Oh, Orangey?!? Is that you?”
Orangey, as Randidly called him, opened his mouth, and then closed it. Then he opened it again with a frown. “M-my Tassle was orange, yes, but… we had such a confrontation in the preliminaries to the Regional Tournament. …did you really forget my name?”
Randidly scratched his cheek. Azriel chuckled.
Skarch turned back to the woman and pounded her finger against the coins again. “I’ll take a drink too.”