Very slowly, Randidly opened his eyes. His Soulskill would keep, at least for now. He had considered confronting Alta or Lucretia before he left, but from what he sensed in Alta, more interference would be met only with a flat refusal. And to this point, Lucretia had made it clear that her stance was to follow Alta’s decisions.
Besides, he had some real-world time. The horde of people had to travel across two more lands before they arrived at the gate they planned to use to attack him. In that time, Randidly needed to figure out what he could do to prevent karma from compelling him to do something foolish.
Breathing through his nose, Randidly shook those thoughts aside. Better not to dwell. There were things to do here, as well.
Danz’s death was a small thing. Unexpected. Rather anticlimactic, considering how much Randidly knew about him. But perhaps that strange disconnect with the way Randidly felt he should feel and the way he actually responded was what made him so weary. Karma, of some sort, had guided Randidly to that spot to witness Danz’s last moments.
His was a cautionary tale, an example of a life so wrapped up in that demands of minutia that he found himself living as someone he didn’t recognize. The reasons supporting him had slowly faded away and left the behavior unchanged. It was a man that had become an abandoned ship running on old ocean currents.
Randidly frowned. Not quite right.
Perhaps the lesson was one of the consequences. It spoke to the unintended consequences that followed every action, no matter how small. That was perhaps more applicable to Randidly’s own life. Even his movements here in this strange camp, the attack he had made to iron out the wrinkles in getting food for himself… what sort of consequences would result from that?
Randidly’s expression soured. Perhaps the worst and most likely option was the simplest: Not everyone had a happy ending waiting for him/her.
In a way, Randidly had never thought about how his journey would end. Ideally, he would beat the last bad guy and then retire. He would age. Start a family.
“Jesus, what am I doing…” Randidly muttered while furiously scratching at his head. His hair was growing out a little. It needed to be shorn off.
And with a few swipes of his finger, Randidly did just that. His image of Sharpness was more than enough to handle hairs. After finishing, Randidly looked at his finger and brooded.
I’ve become… so much more than just a person. Will I simply return to a life like my old one at the end? Will I give up fighting? Will I sit back and allow my friends and family to fight against a seemingly unending horde while taking no action…?
His anger at the Masters of Tellus aside, it was a real question he had never considered. What would they say of him, after his journey was finished?
Would it finish? With his increased Vitality, it didn’t seem like Randidly was aging at all. It was a little difficult to keep track of his actual age with all the time spent in his Soulskill and Dungeons and other worlds, but Randidly believed he was twenty-six. As far as he can tell, he hadn’t aged a day. The only change was in muscle mass. While Randidly still was slim, he recognized that he was quite a bit heavier than when he started. Part of it was muscle, but Randidly also suspected that it was the accumulation of Aether.
Not that Aether had physical weight, but there was an effect on the world when so much Aether was gathered in one place.
But all this was a distraction; how would the Legend of Randidly Ghosthound end?
“I would like… to settle down eventually.” Randidly said slowly. “I want Earth to be safe from the System. I want Donnyton… all the people I’ve met, to survive. I want them to be free from harm, if they choose it. I want…”
Randidly’s eyes hardened. All his wants required strength. Absolute strength. For now, knowing that was enough. Instead, he considered his next moves on Tellus.
“Find Shal. Ask about Calamities. Even… even if it wastes time, help Helen or Azriel win the tournament. They deserve it. And of course, find Acri and Sulfur.” Randidly said clearly. Then he nodded to himself and stood. “Ah, and also help the people of Tellus despite the strange game being played over the images of this world, all these people did not deserve to die. If it is possible… punish those that so apathetically let the common folk out to dry against the Wights.”
As Randidly stepped out of the tent he had been given, he stiffened slightly. There were four individuals surrounding his tent. They appeared relaxed, but it was easy to tell that they were waiting for him to leave.
Were they… some of the people he saved…?
...no. All of those people were some distance off. And one of the four was the individual had scared off last night so he could enter the area without a hitch. An ambush then?
Randidly’s mouth twisted into a grim smile. “Audacious.”
Admiring the clear sky above, Randidly stepped fully out of his tent. The four figures scrambled to their feet and rushed forward toward them.
Randidly raised a hand to stop them. “Do you truly require another demonstration? I don't’ have time to waste on you all. You are lucky I’m in a giving mood.”
Then his hand clenched into a fist and the air filled with Frigid Ash, Devouring Storm. For added effect, Randidly used the Skill itself, not just relying on the image. The difference was like heaven and Earth. With the skill itself helping him along, the tent behind him was frozen into a popsicle in seconds. The four approaching figures skidded to a stop, their faces aghast.
All but one. The one who had been the cause of trouble yesterday, Darrune, seemed to have a gleeful smile on his face as the three in front of him were struck dumb by the power of Randidly’s Skill. As seconds ticked past, the ground frosted over and small flecks of snow began to form as the wind that passed by Randidly condensed into snow and sleet. Around him, the wind began to howl.
Randidly’s eyebrow quirked upward. Oh? Not so simple as he first assumed. Even if this was an ambush, this Darrune intended to use Randidly to teach a lesson to these three. Darrune had obviously been aware of Randidly’s power and that the attack would fail. But all he had to do was convince those he didn’t like to strike first and Randidly would do the work for him.
Clever, but not clever enough.
Randidly let the Skill drop. Bits of ice clattered to the ground in a tinkling staccato. Stepping forward, Randidly arrived next to one of the three individuals who had joined Darrune. The one he chose was a woman.
After coughing awkwardly, he patted her on the shoulder. “That should be enough, right? No hard feelings.”
This his gaze focused on Darrune and it turned sinister. “And you… I’m going to grab some supplies and when I return you are going to lead me to Hastam. Are we clear?”
Randidly obviously didn’t need the man to take him to Hastam, but he figured setting a brutal pace would be a nice way to torture the poor man for what he had attempted. In addition, it would keep him away from the people who lived here, for whom it was very clear Darrune caused trouble.
Randidly took great satisfaction in Darrune’s wide-eyed expression as he walked past and headed toward the cooking fires.
At least in this instance, I’ll keep a handle on the consequences, Randidly thought with a wry smile. Then he sniffed and caught the smell of bacon. His pace quickened.
“You really are his student,” The tall man said.
The quiet one, who was their fourth member, shook his head wordlessly.
“You two are going to Hastam?!?” The woman hissed. “How can you get in? Why are you going? How high up in the command structure is he? He might be a Pontiff, but he’s so young!”
“Now, now,” Darrune said lazily, drooling from all the attention he was getting. “My master’s business is his own. Even I have only heard the broad details during our talks… let us not spend the time dwelling on casual acquaintances like you three.”
The three glared at Darrune, but they could say nothing. After all, he was actually telling the truth this time. Even if they hadn’t wanted to believe it, what other interpretation could they have of the events after the tall black haired man left his tent?
“Oh, did you make any gains while witnessing his profound moves?” Darrune asked teasingly.
The tall man rubbed his nose. “Uh… a few. It all happened so fast.”
The silent one nodded furiously.
After grinding her teeth for several seconds, the woman nodded.
“Ohoho,” Darrune forced himself to laugh in a creepy manner while waving a hand in front of his face. “Well, I must depart. In the meantime, please gather other like-minded people. My master has need of them. When I- ah, when I return it will be with his orders.”
“How many do you want?” The woman asked, her face scrunching up.
Darrune smiled. “An army.”