Just as Randidly was thinking about the Ashen Image, there was a deep searing pain in his chest. Pressed as he was against the ground, Randidly could basically only wince. But the seconds stretched and the pain only grew worse. At some point, Randidly began to tremble.
Hissing, Randidly did his best to suppress the trembling. After all, trembling in this room basically just shedding all of his Stamina before he could use it productively. Yet the pain continued to grow.
Randidly was a fair hand at dealing with pain. Even from the first arrival of the System, Randidly had very quickly dealt with the unenviable feeling of having his skin melted off by acid. Since then, things had only gotten worse. Cruel Indignation of Yggdrasil was an offensive Skill that did little but cause himself a great deal of pain. Well, that was harsh. It simply hurt quite a bit to use.
But very quickly, this pain in Randidly’s chest was moving past purely physical sensation to pure disruption of self. It was difficult for Randidly to concentrate as waves of pain crashed against his psyche. However, Randidly’s emerald eyes remained clear. Gritting his teeth, he managed to turn the trembling into a small roll so he was looking up at the ceiling.
Laying there, Randidly endured the pain. It seemed eternal in a way, but Randidly knew it was likely somewhere between a half hour and an hour. That was the time limit. After that point, the pain in his chest slowly began to fade.
At Randidly looked upward, he realized that he had initially assumed that he was within something similar to a prison, but he had no proof as to that statement. He had been in a hammock and then crawled a short distance without finding anything except dozens of sharp rocks on which to scratch himself.
And these were not the good kind of scratches.
But the pain in his chest highlighted a problem that Randidly had not dealt with in a long time; Randidly had no idea what was occurring inside of his Soulskill. Hell, he hadn’t checked since Lucretia had left. Considering that the time difference was extremely weird, it was almost impossible to predict what had changed inside of himself.
Sighing, Randidly turned his attention inward. He couldn’t spend much time inside his Soulskill due to the looming threat of whatever Darke was planning for him, but it would be enough to just get a lay of the land. Perhaps he would even discover some inspiration for how to leave…
Randidly frowned, squandering a minute’s worth of Stamina. This was… unexpected.
It wasn’t that Randidly wasn’t aware of his Soulskill. He could feel it inside of his chest even now, throbbing with a strange ache. But if his inner world filled with Skills was something like a complicated building, it was like someone turned off the light. Randidly frowned. Over and over, he encountered the mental equivalent of walking into a wall in the dark and stubbing his toe.
That, combined with the constant feeling of exhaustion that suffused Randidly in this room, was profoundly frustration.
After a few minutes, Randidly put aside the task of discovering the circuitous path through himself for the short term. He wanted to concentrate his focus on recovering Stamina and exploring the surrounding area. It wasn’t a waste of resources as much as it was distracting.
Besides, Randidly got the distinct impression with his Aether Perception that the System was giving him notifications about his Soulskill, but he couldn’t interpret the vague feelings the had about the constructs of Aether that the System was providing for him. Without the overlay System to translate, he was completely illiterate.
It was somewhat disconcerting in two ways. First, Randidly couldn’t believe that the overlay System was privy to so many integral parts of his experience. Second, Randidly couldn’t believe that even after studying the System’s use of Aether he would be so out of his depth when he was given the chance to put his knowledge to the test. It was somewhat discouraging.
Randidly pressed his eyes closed. Or just flexed his eyelids. It was difficult to tell without any light whether his eyes were open or closed at any point. But Randidly forced himself to let himself go of all of his emotions in that moment. He was in trouble. For now, he should review his options and explore the area. He couldn’t let his emotions become clouded before he understood what was going on.
So Randidly began to slowly crawl around while his mind wandered. The first thing Randidly did was to test his Aether Perception against the edge of the room. Based on what he could tell, the area governed by the rooms of the room was a circular room 30 meters in diameter. As Randidly pressed his Perception against this boundary, he encountered a very dense layer of Aether that covered the whole of the room. It didn’t appear solid, but Randidly’s Aether Perception was incapable of striking at the barrier to test it. So for now, Randidly was stuck in this area.
That was relieving and disappointing, all at once. It made this seem like it wasn’t just a jail cell with a hammock, but that also made Randidly realize that this was probably something made with some very high-level Engraving.
That elicited a flash of annoyance from Randidly. It was also somewhat confusing why the Wights were in control of the Engraving Guilds, but perhaps it made a certain sort of sense. It had struck Randidly once, a long time ago, how strange it was that the people of Tellus had spears and… Mana Engraving. Those were their two main industries.
But the longer Randidly spent in Tellus the first time, he realized that was just the area that he was exposed to. There were other industries, including things like farming and leatherworking.
And some of Darke’s words were somewhat confusing. From what he was saying, it seemed that the Engraving Guild believed that Randidly had some information they wanted. Or that Randidly was somehow related to the Wights in the past, and that was why he was able to Engrave.
Which did much to explain why he was left alive, but it was difficult to figure out what such a thing meant for Tellus. Were the Wights really free to do as they pleased so far into the past that they could monopolize the Engraving Guilds…?
There just wasn’t enough information available in here. So Randidly continued to crawl. Somewhat, it reminded Randidly of those times as a child where he was in a swimming pool and he had held his breath and dropped to the bottom. Immediately, he would push off the wall and swim wildly forward, aiming blindly for the other side of the pool.
Eyes clenched shut and ears covered by the thick barrier of liquid, there was only the strange sensation of water on skin. Isolated, there would often be times that the fear that he wouldn’t reach the other side of the pool would spiral out of control. With no sort of feedback, emotions could warp far beyond their usual size.
Eventually, however, his head with a thunk into the far wall and Randidly would explode out of the water gasping for air. That was how this snail’s pace crawling felt.
Except Randidly wasn’t sure what to expect when he reached the far edge.
As the minutes continued to drag by, Randidly began mentally reviewing his Skills. Most notable among them was Inspiration. It empowered the next Mana Skill used and took all of the Mana Randidly had for a day. But if the effect was similarly reduced based on Mana cost, was it possible that Inspiration would result in just a regular powered spell?
That thought was a disturbing one to have. In addition, Randidly also had the dilemma of either outcome of using Inspiration would probably still attract attention. Could Randidly escape Darke, or even the combination of Darke and a Propagator, with basically depleted Stamina and an empty Mana pool? Even if the spell broke the effect of the room, they wouldn’t just sit back and allow Randidly to recover before they struck.
It was still very possible that Randidly could escape no matter what, but that was a tougher sell. The opponent was capable. If his fight in the deserted district of Hastam had taught Randidly anything, it was that failing to give your all in most situations was asking to be punished by fate.
No, Inspiration would be a last-ditch resort. That sort of volatility of result was not very attractive to Randidly.
Other than that... Randidly’s main lead would be to use one of the small seeds in the pouch at his throat with Grasp of the World Seed. After he had explored the area as best as possible, Randidly would attempt that.
Other than that… there was little that seemed feasible to Randidly. All of his sort of summon Skills cost so much Mana underneath the influence of the room that none of them were possible. Without using Skills that cost Stamina or Mana, two backup options came to mind. The first was using the caustic property of his blood to break out of here and the second was to create a Soulseed designed to break out while he was here.
The former seemed like even if it was effective, it would take too long for Randidly’s situation. He truly didn’t know why he was here, and how long he would have before someone would check on him. Hell, they could be watching him now, as he crawled what was like 10 meters over an hour and a half.
The latter was unappealing because it was possible that the room would affect Soulseeds as well. Even if he created a perfect plant assistant, how useful would it be if it was just as restricted as he was in this place? And again, the time frame for making the Soulseed grow…
Randidly paused in his crawling. The ground in front of him fell away. His hand was touching the sharp 90-degree corner that signaled a cliff. Over five minutes, Randidly shuffled closer and felt around with his hand.
It was water.
Randidly was on an island surrounded by water.
Good thing I can float, Randidly thought with a morose smile.