Randidly scratched the back of his head awkwardly.
Tatiana was glaring daggers at him across the scattered papers that she had been sifting through when he walked into her office. “I must have misheard you. Because I almost thought for a second that you just told me that this city, Kharon, has no controls. That it moves on its own volition. But that’s impossible. Because you’ve seen the reports; you understand the logistical nightmare I’m wading through. You wouldn’t do something like this to me.”
“It’s not so bad as you think; it will not simply start and stop without any warning. It will use the Moss Golems to communicate its direction prior to any movement. And you have a fair amount of the moss spirits clinging to you, so you should be one of the first ones to know,” Randidly explained patiently. Not that he had intended for the Levelable Engraving he created to control the movement of Kharon, but when it had happened it made a certain amount of sense. Although the energy stemmed from the engine core, every leg was covered with the Engraving.
Those were the heart and soul of the movement. And the focus of the Skill within the Engraving.
“Trust it, Kharon will know better than even you when to move on to the next area,” Randidly added when Tatiana seemed to be completely unconvinced. For whatever reason, that didn’t seem to help her grim scowl at all. He cast his mind back to the notification he received when he had finished the Engraving.
Congratulations! You have created a great wonder! Kharon, the Bridge to Impossibility, has become a locus for images!
Kharon, the Bridge to Impossibility (Locus): A moving city created by Randidly Ghosthound’s yearning to protect a world from inevitability and Wendy’s genius innovations. While in the city, all residents will experience a small increase in Health Regeneration and Skill Level growth. If the city is attacked, defenders will experience +1000 Health. Protection of the Moss Spirits IV. Instinct of the Verdant Artery (Levelable).
Protection of the Moss Spirits IV: Due to the heavy influence of the World Tree’s image on the city, Kharon has become home to numerous Moss Spirits that will obey the will of the city. Can condense multiple Moss Golems with Stats equal to four hundred. As Kharon proceeds further down the Verdant Artery, the golems may grow more powerful.
Instinct of the Verdant Artery (Ru)(Levelable) Lvl 1: A powerful Skill that connects the will of the city to an natural instinct regarding threats and opportunities. By observing the flow of energies in the surrounding area, Kharon is able to approximate the correct route forward. The instinct is especially sensitive toward forces of the natural world. Effect grows with Skill Level. Range grows with Skill Level. Bonuses applied to Protection of the Moss Spirits grow with Skill Level.
Warning! As Kharon, the Bridge to Impossibility, is a locus of meaning, the spirit held within the city may begin to change the effects of the Skill as the image develops.
Currently, Kharon had lowered itself onto its thousands of miniature legs and was rumbling West by Southwest across the grasslands toward some of the revealed areas North of the new Zone. With the larger legs folded beneath it into a small recess, their speed was slightly reduced but also they didn’t leave large gashes in the ground that anyone with a single eye could follow.
In addition, Randidly had covered the miniature legs with stabilizing and gravity reduction Engravings to make signs of their passage relatively nonexistent. Well, only nonexistent when there isn’t any brush taller than a bush for us to steamroll… but luckily the vegetation here is pretty short. We should be able to disappear to the West.
“And if we are halfway through harvesting a mineral deposit when it decides it is time to move? Or the Order Ducis is still out clearing monsters in the surrounding area?” Tatiana asked sharply. “Is there any way to delay the departure until we’ve made sufficient preparations?”
“If those things happened, it means that Kharon knows moving is more important than remaining in that spot. Trust it, Tatiana.” Randidly shrugged. Then, rather than speaking aloud, Randidly sent Tatiana a message. Remember that the spirit of the city is growing and shaping itself as we speak. Think of it as a child. I know it is frustrating now that you don’t have any control over it, but your image of it moving forward will shape how it acts. Please keep that in mind.
From Tatiana’s bitter expression, it wasn’t an easy thing for her. But she nodded shortly and said aloud. “So… we will receive notice before it happens?”
“I believe so, yes.” Randidly chuckled.
After finishing a few more small matters that he had to arrange, Randidly stroud out into the sunlit street in front of the Erickson Steel headquarters and grinned up at the sun. For all that Tatiana didn’t take the news well, Randidly felt a tingling sense of anticipation. He had done it, the moving city was moving. Just that accomplishment alone was worthy of celebration.
Then he checked his Absolute Timing Skill. Four hours until the Judgment comes, huh…
Even with Randidly’s crazy drive toward training and pushing his limits, Randidly understood that it would be difficult to accomplish anything meaningful in four hours. So rather than training, Randidly simply produced a cloak a pulled up a hood to cover his face. Randidly considered wearing boots to hide his other distinguishing feature, but his toes flexed in aggravation at even the thought of being hemmed in.
So a cloaked Randidly shrugged and began to wander through Kharon. He had considered a party as a celebration, but he much preferred a return to anonymity. With wide-open eyes, he slipped into people’s lives and observed.
He saw two men haggling over the price of raw chicken as one pointed out that “now that they were mobile, who knew when the next batch of meat would come in”.
He saw children clamoring to climb up to the edge of the wall around Erickson Steel and look over the edge of Kharon to see the grasslands flowing by below them in endless waves of grass.
He saw a woman ineffectively using her hands to keep moss spirits away from bullying her frightened pit bull who whined as the curious spirits circled.
He saw a young woman dancing alone behind a warehouse, every inch of her limb drenched in cheerful moss spirits. She was laughing and laughing as the spirits tried to mimic her movements, so it looked like a forest green copy of her followed her every movement a half-second too late like an afterimage.
He saw an old woman wipe sweat from her brow as she labored in one of the refineries closest to Wendy’s reactor. Again and again, she hammered bits of metal into a rough approximation of the shape of Randidly’s self-made Levelable Engraving for Kharon. Time after time she inspected the result and her shoulders slumped in failure, but every time she didn’t cease in her labor. Instead, she wiped the sweat from her brow and began again.
Randidly’s Grim Intuition swirled outward.
He saw two male guards whispering to each other as they peered out over the Erickson Steel walls to the Order Ducis area, where Helen was ruthlessly putting the applicants through their paces.
He saw Naffur meditating alone in his tent, a heavy frown making the kid look ten years older than he actually was.
He saw Tatiana urging two men to “be careful” as they carried the couch that had been in her office down the stairs to the ground floor.
He saw birds circling overhead, bemused but willing to follow the strange moving city on its pilgrimage across the land.
And for every single thing Randidly saw, he felt five more.
Images, hopes, dreams, fears, desires… it all swirled together into a dense mixture that left Randidly’s head buzzing. More and more and more, his Grim Intuition connected him to all of the emotions that flowed through the people of Kharon as they struggled to find their footing on this strange, mobile city.
Randidly’s Crown of Upheaval and Gloom hummed painfully, making it even more difficult to handle the flow of information that crashed against his psyche. The last thing he needed right now was another distraction. But Randidly didn’t turn away or close his eyes. He kept his breathing even and just immersed himself in the wild flow. The pain slowly spiraled upward but he felt ever priceless moment of it.
Without even being consciously aware of what he was doing, Randidly had climbed up on top of the Erickson Steel headquarters. Grinning, he swung like a monkey up the radio tower to reach the very tip of Kharon. Randidly opened his mouth and let his tongue hang out, tasting the sweet scent of the air that swirled above this turbulent city.
It was hard to get to this point… But I’m so glad I did it. Randidly reflected. Even if the people are unsure… even if I’ve gotten this far by killing… they trust me.
They really trust me.
A long-held tension that Randidly hadn’t even noticed finally eased in his chest. Randidly released a long breath, dispelling that tightness completely. Then, as though that breath had been the only thing keeping the Skill together, the Crown of Upheaval and Gloom split in half without a sound. Then, with all of the subtleness of a bull, the remnants of that Skill and all of the feelings and sights Randidly encountered today smashed together into a smoldering ball of energy.
Congratulations! Your Skill “Crown of Upheaval and Gloom (L)” has evolved into the “Reign of the Eidolon Crucible (L)”. All Skill Levels will be maintained.
Reign of the Eidolon Crucible (L): The bonds of fealty between you and those who follow you have created a connection based on the mutual exchange of images. Phantasms and fantasy dog your steps, swirling around you in a maelstrom of possibility. That connection between you and your followers cannot be broken. When the Skill is active, the user’s strength will increase in proportion to the quality and quantity of people subordinate to your image. Effect increases with Skill Level. In addition, both the user and the subordinates will experience periodic mental trials that will test them based on the other’s images. Speed of refining image during that trial will be vastly increased.
Randidly released another breath. The Crown was gone. Much of the extra Perception that came with it was gone, too. But Randidly felt something else. A dense weight of images that now spun slowly around his shoulders like the thin threads of a cloak being steadily woven together. At the moment, it wasn’t anything impressive. But in the future.
Randidly barred his teeth at the sky.