“They speak of you,” Lyra had said. “You are known to them. It is… difficult to describe. There is curiosity. Interest. But it is largely idle. Most are content to wait until the status of Earth has been… decided. Then they will simply read the detailed report that the Cohort Overseer has made and pull your secrets directly from your recorded Aether.”
Randidly walked slowly back from visiting Lyra, wondering if he had learned anything useful there. About the society and its reaction to the announcement that someone had risen two Cohorts and caused a previously stalled planet to pass the Second Calamity. Perhaps he would, perhaps he wouldn’t. But it was somewhat reassuring that none was investigating him too actively.
Randidly and Lyra had then spoken about her goal in building an Aether construct that would allow herself to be hidden away from the world. The answer that Randidly received… was less than satisfying.
“I’m building an ark,” Lyra had announced. “Due to your… successes, I won’t say anything of your methods. But I do not wish Earth to have to rely solely upon you to survive what is to come. So, consider this backup, if we would need it the most.”
“And where would the people of Earth go on your ark?” Randidly had asked.
In typical Lyra fashion, she looked at him witheringly. “If the System truly controlled all of existence, where would new Cohorts come from? One thing I learned from Yystrix is that there is an edge to the System. We would simply need to head past that, wouldn’t we? It might be a far distance… but it is better to run than to die.”
An Ark. Just what they needed. To have an escape valve for potential if the pressure against Earth was growing too great…
But ultimately, Randidly said nothing. He could say nothing. For all that he wore a crown, he was one man. If Lyra truly chose to escape, that was her prerogative. But he intended to struggle as hard as he could to give people a future on Earth. This was their homeworld, after all. Even if it had been largely remade by the coming of the System.
And as for the third reason he wished to speak to Lyra… the status of the Creature…
Randidly had said nothing. Lyra didn’t bring it up, and Randidly hadn’t pressed. It was almost a relief to allow those wounds to remain dormant and speak relatively amicably with Lyra. Besides, who could tell whether Lyra wouldn’t just try and play more head games with him?
Shaking his head, Randidly focused his mind on moving forward. As he thought, he hadn’t found a trace of the Creature’s Aether in the area. He even had forcefully invaded the “Ark” folded in space within the tree to check. And unlike the strange runes on Ajax’s soul, Randidly was able to pierce through easily.
It was slightly different than what Randidly expected, but there was a completely empty city on a floating island hidden within the tree. All completely free from the touch of the Creature. Almost unwillingly, Randidly stopped searching and accepted Lyra’s explanation.
That, at least, was one less thing he needed to worry about now. At the moment, Randidly had other things on his mind.
After all, another one of his Riders that he had sent out had died. And perhaps most disturbingly, the one that had died was one of the original two that had wandered off.
But Randidly did his best to ignore his growing irritation. One more try. I’ll attempt it one more time…
So when Randidly returned to his hut, he activated Riders of the Baleful Wood and summoned more Riders. Due to increases in the Skill Level, Randidly was able to summon five Riders now that he was above Skill Level 50. Which, of course, meant that his Riders continued to be active somewhere, earning him experience. Honestly, it was a pretty good deal. The only frustrating part was that they continued to refuse to heed his orders and return.
“Don’t murder people,” Randidly opened with this time. Then he conjured his Crown of Cataclysm and Gloom to drive home his sincerity with the order. Again, he really didn’t mind his Riders wandering around; after all, he gained quite a few Skill Levels due to their actions. But there was a small chance they were up to some hijinks that would come back to bite him in the ass.
Some hijinks were par for the course, but he wanted to avoid anything that would serve as a significant distraction to his goal of preparing Earth for the Calamities. One way people might be distracted would be to find out that Randidly Ghosthound’s summons were committing murder sprees.
“Ah, and also go find your fellow Riders and bring them back here,” Randidly finished. “If you don’t, I will come find you in three days. So get to it.”
To Randidly’s surprise, even the rhino-camel-spider mounts nodded in understanding. Then the five of them galloped off, heading East. Shaking his head, Randidly returned to his hut and began to slowly create more metal to be used in his arm. Although the plant arm was serviceable, it would dissolve into ash whenever he stopped channeling it and focused on something else.
As a result, Randidly was very ready to create a functional arm he would have for a longer term.
In the meantime, Randidly distributed his PP into his Ashen Aura Path. Although he hadn’t finished it yet, he was coming very close. Hopefully, the reward for it would be worth the long time since he had obtained any stats from his Path.
Randidly Ghosthound sighed. “Wendy, we cannot keep doing this. I need this job done. The whole point of coming to you was to get a quality product. Spriggits are supposed to be the best. My Skill… well. I don't come here because these sort of visits are a nice vacation.”
Wendy Vuss put her hands on her hips and glared at Randidly. “What do you mean? The plans are vastly simplified! In terms of parts, they require about 1/10th as many as the prior plans. That was what you requested, and that was what you received.”
The man who had been the Progenitor and was now just a big bully sighed and shook his head. Then he brought out the plans and pointed to several critical joint areas. “Well then, what are these? These ‘Sucrium Cultures’? Every joint requires these to be present, and I can see why; with this design, the joints will grind themselves to dust. It’s some sort of lubricant? But I don’t know that those are!”
Wendy frowned. This was not the problem she expected to encounter. Mostly, people complained that her handwriting was too messy or the products she created were too expensive. If she was being honest with herself, this most recent bout of plans she had purposefully written sloppily, as a small ‘fuck you’ for the gleeful ease he had killed Level 15 monsters.
But to not know Sucrium Cultures…
“They were very widely used in the Seven Lands,” Wendy said. “Without them, the mechs would have been impossible to use at scale.”
“Well how is it made?” Randidly responded with exasperation.
Wendy considered that. It had been a trade secret that was carefully monopolized by the Bounty Corporation. Wendy supposed there might be a few survivors of said corporation remaining, but then there was the problem of actually creating the culture… Hum, an actual interesting problem… she would need to be present to watch their methods...
Which would require a high investment in order to establish the important mechanical equipment that would create the cultures… And they would need someone with the skill to successfully harvest and store them…
The more she thought, the more Wendy honestly had no idea how long such a thing would take. She was the idea machine, which was why she had taken the role of head engineer here. It would probably take a week? At least? Maybe a bit more than a week, assuming they could find someone with the requisite knowledge. “Hmm…”
Randidly released a heavy breath as if this answer was exactly what he had expected.
Feeling somewhat hurt that neither of her plans was satisfactory, Wendy said. “...maybe give me another day- no, I’ll only need six hours. This set of plans is on the house. I’ll use solely metal to construct them. And they will be the most original and innovative-”
Randidly just waved a hand and left her office.
For several seconds, Wendy just started after him. Then her mouth firmed into a line. Fine then, she would take this as a personal challenge. And she would make a mechanical arm so inspired that just looking at the plans would reduce that insufferably competent Randidly to a drooling-
Calm down, Wendy urged herself. The plans can’t just be inspired. They need to be elegant as well. And strictly mechanical. No strange materials. Plus, done within six hours…
Wendy put her head into her hands and groaned. Why the hell did I say six hours…? I already haven’t slept in twenty-four hours… urrrrggghhhh…..
But even as Wendy felt a smidgeon of doubt, she gritted her teeth and straightened her spine. No matter what, her word was worth its weight in plans made by her. And considering her genius, that was a significant amount of value.
She just needed a modular- well, maybe not modular- simple design for a fully articulated arm without using anything but simple metal parts.
How hard could it be?