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A note from puddles4263

6/7

Congratulations! Your world- (error, unable to determine origin) has overcome the Second Calamity! As such, a portal has opened on Tellus to allow the dominant image to proceed to the pinnacle of the Nexus, where a trial awaits! Warning, if your chosen one should fail, there will be consequences. However, incredible benefits await those who are successfully acknowledged by the Nexus!

The portal will remain open for a year. Only one individual may pass through the portal. If your chosen one has not completed the trial by the end of the time limit or chosen not to attempt it, your world shall become the Domain of a Patron. Warning, energy allotment will decrease as a Domain of a Patron.

If, before the one-year deadline, your chosen one has completed the trial, regardless of success or failure, the Third Calamity will prepare to descend.

Good luck and congratulations; due to passing the Second Calamity, your world will enter into a one year period of prosperity and growth! This period will continue if your chosen one passes the trial!

Randidly read the long System notification and released a breath. So, a one-year time limit and only one person was able to attempt it, huh… and it wasn’t related to the Calamities? In fact, it seemed to be a “bonus round”. For whatever reason, Randidly didn’t like that.

The System was sinister enough with its Calamities. Now he would need to worry about extra thrown in as well?

What then was the motivation for this travel deeper into the Nexus, if not to test the world or the image…? Because the Second Calamity had already made sure the image was well honed. From what Randidly recalled from the memories taken from the Creature, the third Calamity would weed through the chosen images for something truly special. And the notification even said that the Third Calamity could proceed regardless.

If it’s not the main System business… Randidly thought slowly. His eyes narrowed. Perhaps… an addition y the overlay on the System…?

Shaking his head, Randidly turned his focus back to the matter at hand. The small chamber that Auto Rach had used for seven hundred years was a mess of cracks and broken wood. Shal, still bleeding profusely, stared down at the kneeling and headless figure of Auto. His eyes were cloudy as if his mind was somewhere else entirely.

After glancing and making sure that Azriel continued to breathe, Randidly stepped up next to Shal. “Shal… are you alright?”

Slowly, Shal came back to himself. He smiled sadly and shook himself. Some of the glow from the Ascension still clung to him, making him the brightest source of light in the room. He watched in wonder as he raised his hand and looked at his luminescent fingers. “...Perhaps. This… it was more than I was expecting, I suppose. To feel… chosen, but all of Tellus. How… strange…”

Once more, Shal trailed off. But this time, his focus returned very quickly. He turned toward Randidly and offered up Acri. “Many thanks, for this. I was fighting alone, before. But your simple gift reminded me that I fought for the world. I could not have won otherwise. As a disciple… you have made me very proud.”

Taking Acri with his remaining arm, Randidly immediately grew slightly embarrassed. During all the time they had been together, Shal had rarely praised Randidly, which Randidly appreciated. To be complimented now… it felt very final. “Don’t mention it. I mean, you needed a spear. So…”

Shal smiled lightly and didn’t say anything more on the subject. Instead, his eyes traveled to the stump of Randidly’s left arm. “So, Aegiant made it back, eh? That was my responsibility to check, and I failed.”

Randidly shrugged, remembering the creation of his Domain. “It worked out.”

“All victories have a cost,” Shal said. Grimacing, he raised his hand and touched his broken collarbone. There were a series of sharp cracks, and the wound healed, before Randidly’s eyes, until the flesh knit itself cleanly together.

For several seconds, Randidly was shocked. More than Randidly being shocked, Shal seemed flabbergasted. He blinked rapidly, look at the blood on his hand and then down toward his collar. It seemed that he struggled to understand what had happened.

But then Randidly looked with his Aether Perception, and was floored; the room was flooded with System Aether, stemming from Shal. As he broadened his vision, he realized that all of Tellus was being slowly swamped with the Aether Shal was releasing. It seems like an era of prosperity and growth was right…

Then, as one, the two men turned to face the glowing portal.

“I suppose it is best I begin immediately,” Shal grunted, considering the portal. Almost idly, he looked down at the drying blood on his hand. “We do not know how long the trial through the portal will take; being relegated cannot be risked.”

Remembering his own thoughts about the possibility of becoming a Patron, Randidly asked, “Would it truly be so bad to become the Domain of a Patron?”

“Yes,” Shal said harshly, then gave Randidly a sharp glance. Shaking his head, Shal continued, “Perhaps… your Patron was unusual. The Patron of Ash, yes? One who it is counseled to stay away from. But most of the popular Patrons… they act like gods. The people who remain on those worlds are naught but slaves to the Patron. It is the way of power. To possess it… is to be shaped by it. Responsibility is a narrow track to walk, and easy to fall out of.”

After speaking, Shal looked at his hands again; it was clear that he was shaken somewhat by the abrupt healing.

Randidly nodded slowly. It made sense. If you were a godlike being that was approached for assistance by those from a lower Cohort, it made sense that some of that went to your head.

Feeling at the location where his wound had been, Shal said. “Perhaps… that is why I wish to depart so quickly. I am… connected to Tellus now. I feel the influence I can wield… I do not like it. So I shall go.”

Randidly blinked. Connected to the world…? In what way? Is it more than being an Aether font?

But Shal was already walking toward the portal. “Shal! Wait, what about the aftermath? If you stay a few days, set up a government-”

“Bah, we both know I am helpless at such things,” Shal said, not even slowing.

“But the people-”

“Will get along without me. They did before.” Shal said. He stopped at the edge of the portal and turned around. “Also, you will return to your own world, yes? Then this is goodbye.”

“What about Rumera?”

Shal paused, halfway turned toward the portal. He wavered, this brow furrowed into a maze of ruts and wrinkles. When he spoke, his voice was soft. “Rumera…”

Randidly pressed forward, sensing an angle. As long as Shal stayed for some time, Randidly would get more information on what exact notification Shal received. Because it seemed like Shal’s was very different. If there was more information on the connection to the world, Randidly wanted it. “Yes. It won’t take but a few hours to greet her-”

“Here.” Shal tossed a small object toward Randidly, who was so surprised that he didn’t even try and catch it. Acri flexed and cupped it with its flat spearhead, offering it to Randidly. Shal looked at the ground, then up at Randidly with a warm smile. “She lives. I can sense it. You… thank you. Again. But I…”

Shal grimaced. What struck Randidly at that moment was how pale and uncertain Shal looked. Something was bothering him, deeply. “I do not like this power I have. On this world now… I feel… Well, give that to her. I need… to ground myself. I can hear their whispers, their dreams. Of an entire world. For now… I need to isolate myself.”

Then Shal stepped through the portal.

“Fucking hell,” Randidly muttered. Then he looked at the object, a small ring. “...jesus fuck…”

Ring of Promise Lvl 100: A ring made of two snakes chasing each other, but only finding the opposite’s tail. Left by the Ascended for his beloved. It bears the weight of longing and duty. Focus and Willpower +200.

Did Shal just… create this completely overpowered ring on the spot....?

No wonder he was a bit overwhelmed by it all and wanted to get some space. If he had enough power to create something quite ridiculous like this… there had to be a cost, right? Or that it needed to be related to a strong image? Or that there was a limit to such things? Otherwise… how would the Third Calamity be difficult?

Unless the Third Calamity was another sort of test entirely-

A new notification pulled Randidly would of his circling thoughts.

A chosen one has traveled through the portal toward the Nexus! As such, all those within Tellus have received a benefit! The benefit will increase in power if the chosen one succeeds in the trial.

Randidly was slightly amused to see that he received the benefit too.

Guidance of the Wraith Adder: The spirit of Shal, the Wraith Adder, remains at your side at all times. In your heart dwells the seed of a hero. With sufficient preparation, that seed will bloom into something that can change the world. +2 Bonus stats per Level. +4 Agility per Level. Speed at which Spear related Skills grow is slightly increased.

Randidly laughed out loud. A free 6 stats per Level was nothing to sneeze at. And to have increased Leveling speed for Spear Skills-

Randidly paused. Then he frowned. He had received a message. One from a name he recognized, and on that did not fly toward him on the wings of good news.

Mr. Ghosthound,

Considering your recent… activities, I believe we need to talk. At your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

Octavius Shrike, Overseer of the 7th Cohort

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puddles4263

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