After six hours of pouring through the ground with Infinite Fingers of Yggdrasil, Randidly had cleared out an area that was roughly the size of a city block and was divided into three sections. Lit by emerald fire, his base seemed the perfect lair for an evil demon to plot its terrible plan to destroy the world.
The first section was a wide-open training ground that was about half of the total area of the underground base. This would be the room that Randidly would spend most of his time, training his spear Skills and images. While building this area, Randidly sighed sorrowfully that he hadn’t thought to pick up the Skill that let the Squaders of Donnyton reinforce the ground. It would have been invaluable in strengthening the floor enough to resist the Grim Chimera.
The second section was a very rudimentary room for forging. It was so basic that most of the elites from Erickson Steel would likely feel stifled by the lack of equipment. But for Randidly, this seemed like the perfect amount to truly force himself to get his hands dirty in the forging process.
Some larger pieces of equipment, such as the vacuum chamber and the different sized ingot molds, were brought in Randidly’s interspatial ring. But ultimately, Randidly wanted to shift his style of forging away from the very finicky style that most of the people in Erickson Steel currently had. Hopefully, his time forging here would give him a better idea of the process he wanted.
Above all, most of the saved space came from the fact Randidly didn’t bring any sort of heating equipment. After all, he didn’t need a typical furnace; Ignition of the Emerald Essence would provide plenty of heat to his forging.
The final section, and the smallest, contained a small kitchen and hot springs that Randidly had created after he discovered a source of water rather close to the bottom of his base. Honestly, most of the time he had spent preparing his base had been Randidly struggling to not flood his newly formed abode after he stumbled onto an extremely frigid underground river.
After that, it was simply a matter of diverting an appropriate amount of fluid upwards, installing runes so that one pool would be extremely hot while the other was left extremely cold, and finally arrange for the water to filter back down and be gradually replaced by fresh water.
Feeling quite pleased with himself, Randidly treated himself to a brief soak in the scalding water of the manmade hot springs. Taking a deep breath, Randidly readily inhaled the thick steam that wafted upward from the heated water. For the first time in a while, Randidly felt himself slowly relaxing.
The whole experience was rather enjoyable until he noticed that floating corpse of some sort of mollusk right in front of him. For several seconds, Randidly just stared at it. More than anything else, he was shocked that it somehow managed to sneak into his base without him noticing. Randidly had kept a pretty constant buffer of Aether around the edge of the dome above-
With a sense of trepidation, Randidly got out of the scalding pool and looked over at the pool he left at the original frigid temperature. Sure enough, there were three mollusks within, cautiously exploring their new environment.
Randidly sighed. I guess it was foolish not to think about filtering any living creatures that were within the underground river… but at least they are only at Level 6. Won’t be a problem to clear them out later. Still, they might be an interesting food source. No harm in letting them develop in the cold pool…
After carefully installing a runic filter in the passage that led to the scalding pool, Randidly returned to his training hall and began to work. No need to walk toward his hot tub one day and find that it had become a salty mollusk stew.
The first thing Randidly did was sit down and inspected his Class for any lingering damage after it had been slowly nurtured by energy from his Soulskill over the past day.
During a fraction of time that seemed pitifully small, Randidly had briefly been on the receiving end of attention from a dangerous being peering out from the depths of a vast crystal. Like a bug unknowingly in the way of a car, Randidly’s Class was savaged while that being turned its attention to the connection that the Creature had maintained with Randidly.
Perhaps the most fearsome detail of this interaction was that Randidly had no idea whether it would recur. At any moment, the focus of that being might come back to him. Had that being found the Creature? Would it remember that it used Randidly as a stepping stone to find the Creature? Would that being feel compelled to return its focus to Randidly for any reason?
To silence him, perhaps?
And if that being couldn’t find the Creature in a short amount of time, would it return to Randidly to dig out every bit of value it could gain from him?
Randidly had been frantically throwing off Aether since the damage to his Class had occurred, slowly wiping away the lingering chunks of Aether that had remained afterward as Neveah had recommended. Whereas Randidly’s Aether shared quite a few traits with liquids, the extremely calcified Aether left by that being possessed the tenacity of a fossilized cockroach.
Even now, operating at a volume of Aether that left Randidly extremely worried he would fall into that mindless cycle of energy release, Randidly had removed only one-tenth of the remnants clinging to him. The only good news was that the rate of destruction was speeding up as more and more of the hardened Aether was washed away. Those exposed flaws could be used to accelerate the process.
When Randidly entered into the Dungeon, he had seriously considered slowing down the rate at which he was producing Aether. But for two reasons, Randidly ultimately decided to keep on his current pace. First, he didn’t know if the Aether remnants he was trying to wash away would recover if he let up the pressure. And Randidly had no intention of finding out.
In addition, the ambient Aether in the air would benefit the metals that he created. And as creating the vast quantity of metal that would propel Erickson Steel to a mobile fortress was one of the reasons for Randidly’s extended time here, it was a valuable bonus.
Randidly did worry that the overly abundant Aether would lead to a mutation amongst some of the nearby monsters, but that might also be a positive outcome for him. If the monsters grew significantly stronger, Randidly could test more dangerous Skills against them and receive more meaningful training experience.
Shaking his head, Randidly refocused. His mind was wandering; right now he needed to carefully consider the state of his Class.
After about an hour of examination, Randidly’s worst fears had been slowly confirmed. The strain that being’s attention had on Randidly’s Class was just as dangerous as he had believed. On a very surface focused examination, the damage to Randidly’s Class had been completely repaired. The ambient energy of his Soulskill had nurtured the damaged areas, allowing new substance to grow over the wounds. The threads of his Class that he had so painstakingly chosen and woven together were once more glimmering and bright.
A deeper analysis revealed this miraculous recovery to be a pretty lie.
Ultimately, Randidly was deeply glad that he had allowed himself to gain a few Levels after having his Class wounded. He suspected that without the new growth of those Levels, he wouldn’t have been able to definitively say that he was still injured. In fact, he might have decided that the injuries were light enough to continue toward condensing his Fate.
Because those new Levels were the only clear evidence of the persistent problem. Because those two Levels were flawed.
They mimicked earlier Levels very well, seeming to be the woven of the same basic ideas and Stats as the previous Levels were. But it was like comparing a flower to a painting of a flower. No matter how talented the painter was artistical, it wasn’t a flower. It would never be a flower.
It was a subtle thing. However, Randidly had made this Class by hand. He hadn’t been as skilled with images then as he was now, but the feeling was one he knew intimately. Although he didn’t fully understand what form his Class would shift into as it grew, he did understand the different elements that propelled his Class forward.
So after Randidly really scrutinized the two newest Levels he had received, it quickly became clear that they were stitched together copies of earlier Levels. There wasn’t the faintest hint of an extension or growth of his Class within the Levels. Those elements of his Class were regurgitated, but all of the forward momentum had been lost.
Randidly grimaced. Although the energy could heal the surface, it seemed the driving image and focus of his Class had been eradicated by the brief moment of attention. It was an extremely bitter truth to handle, that he was so comparatively fragile to that strange being.
Although it had been a while since he went through the process of upgrading his Class, Randidly was still pretty confident that his Class had been extremely strong. So strong that no one on Earth possessed its equal.
It had been crushed by a glance.
No use being upset about it. If that’s the case… I’ll just need to strengthen it even more this next time. Randidly thought as he examined the five supporting pillars of his Class. Now, when he focused his attention on them, he could sense that they had become hollow. A slight breeze could blow them over. But now I have images. After my year-long process of mental refinement here… I refuse to believe that the Lord of the Baleful Wood won’t have an image so concrete it cannot even withstand a glance, no matter how powerful the viewer.
Honestly, Randidly was surprised he had gained even a single Skill at Level 45 due to the extensive internal damage to his Class. Some part of Randidly felt a deep bitterness about it. If not for sustaining that damage… would not his Skill be even more powerful?
But that sort of mindset wasn’t helpful at all. Randidly had learned something valuable from this loss. It was no use trying to have the best of both worlds.
Randidly looked up and bared his teeth to the dirt roof of his training ground. But that didn’t mean he would let the other party off easily for dealing him such a significant blow without even the hint of an apology.
“Next…” Randidly muttered as he stood. Carefully, he individually cracked each of his knuckles. “After inspecting my Class, I’m feeling pretty pissed. I suppose it’s time I work off some of this tension?”
Without Randidly even consciously thinking about it, that vicious ferocity that he unleashed toward the surrounding monsters was transmitted by the sea of Aether with which he had flooded the Dungeon. That amplified killing intent spread like the plague. Across the entirety of the Dungeon, the monsters shivered with an inexplicable fear.
A predator was coming.