It all happened so fast.
In one moment, Valera was right in front of Aldrich, her shield readied, her newly regenerated fist eagerly clenched to bash in the foe known as Kinesis's head once more. Her previous blows had struck true to great effectiveness, after all, cracking open a hole in that annoying jar head.
But then everything changed. The entire room, full of golemic contraptions that she now knew as 'drones' and 'fridges' – yes, she had been studying avidly whenever she could about the real world on the marvelous invention known as the Net – just collapsed in on itself.
It was like the fabric of space was held up by just a few safety pins, and those pins had been loosened in one fell instant. Reality broke. The firmness of the ground, the greys of the metal tiles, the dry coolness of the air – all of it just swirled together into a mass of everything that became nothing.
As that happened, Valera felt all the magical power coursing through her instantly disappear, rendering her near powerless.
It was a common misconception that only mages used mana, but that was simply not the case. Every being of Elduin had mana within them – that was the fundamental fuel through which any power, both mystical and martial arts based, manifested.
Similar to the 'Ether' of this new realm that could be used for countless different effects ranging from fueling golems to granting humans wondrous powers.
It felt like she had stepped into a Void, a lifeless area where absolutely no mana could exist. There, it was impossible to use any martial arts, spells, or even the vast majority of racial abilities. One could only rely on their natural physical strength or, very rarely, some innate passive powers.
When reality collapsed, it tore aside like a trapdoor to reveal a yawning pit of darkness. That darkness pulled her in with inexorable, irresistible force, and there, she lost all track of Aldrich. She knew she was falling, but she did not realize how fast until little specks of grey came into her vision, far into the horizon, and then passed over in an instant before she could even tell what they were.
However, Valera was a warrior. A trained one, too. She remembered her captain from the Midnight Order. How he could catch arrows from even the most expertly trained of elves in his hands. Or even iron-balls from dwarven cannons.
When she asked him how he could see the projectiles coming at him, projectiles too fast for even trained eyes to catch, he had responded coolly: a warrior that deals with only that which he can see is no true warrior at all.
It had taken decades of training, but Valera had come to understood what he meant. Martial arts was, at its basic level, a game of predictions. Move before the enemy moves to secure victory. If you act on a prediction and not a reaction, then no enemy is ever too fast for you.
Valera saw a tiny speck of grey in the distance of the darkness again. She held out her arm at the precisely right moment. She felt herself stop abruptly as she held onto what looked like a floating cloud of nebulous grey. She had braced her body for impact, but there was none, as if her momentum had just magically been removed in an instant.
She cocked her head. The fact that she could hold onto this grey cloud in the first place was odd enough. She did not feel like there was any tangible mass to hold onto. But she did not risk anything. She kept a tight grip within the cloud.
As she did so, something odd happened.
The grey color from the cloud began to leech into her body which she now realized was completely black, just like the rest of the endless void around her. The grey gave color back to her body, and at first, she panicked as it crept through her arm.
It was the same grey that had gotten on her when she bashed Kinesis's head open. But unlike before, the grey did not break her apart. Instead, it gave her power. It was not mana. Nor was it ether. If it was either, she could use her abilities again.
(Author's Note: I don't know if this has been mentioned, but game world beings can use ether like mana. But converting mana into ether is so far impossible, preventing alters from using mana)
Valera could not use this odd power, but it gave her what she could best describe as weight. Before, when she was shrouded in darkness, she felt like part of the infinite void around her, just more darkness inevitably destined to be pulled down into whatever lay below.
But with the grey coloring her body, she felt more stable, more anchored. She tentatively let go of the cloud, and she realized she did not fall anymore. But when she got away from the cloud, the grey started to leech back out from her body.
Once all the grey faded, she would start to fall again.
She could move around freely in this dark space, and she gingerly reached out and touched the grey cloud again. It 'recharged' the color in her body, stopping her from falling into oblivion once more.
"What is this? Where am I?" Valera wondered out loud. Her lips moved, but no sound escaped from them. It seemed that in this realm, there was no such thing as sound.
Regardless, those were questions to shelve for later.
What she needed to do now was find Aldrich.
Valera stood atop the cloud, looking all around her. There were just vast stretches of darkness. In the distance, again, there were a few grey specks, probably clouds just like this one she could hop onto to recharge her existence.
She tried to focus, to link herself to Aldrich mentally, but it was impossible. Not only did she not have the mana to do that, the connection was completely severed to begin with.
Did that mean Aldrich was dead?
No. Valera shook her head. This realm did not seem innately harmful. Most likely, Aldrich had been sent hurtling down the darkness like her.
She bit her lip, anxious.
Aldrich did not have nearly the same physical stats as her. His reaction speed was not there. And though he was a trained fighter in this new life, more trained than he had been in Elduin, he was not at her level where he could master [Inception], the martial principle that let her get a hold of herself even whilst moving impossibly fast.
And what she had seen in that brief moment before the room collapsed worried her. It was Volantis. His red dot eye had turned off, probably from the mana disappearing.
Whenever a Living Armor was disabled, they became complete dead weight to whoever wore them. The wearer suffered blindness, immobilization, a debuff to their stats, and many more debilitations.
For so long, Volantis had been a tremendous asset to Aldrich. And now, he ended up being a prison.
Had Volantis not been there, Valera could believe that Aldrich could have caught a cloud like her.
But the fact that Volantis bore down on Aldrich meant that he would have been severely disoriented for a few seconds, and that was more than enough time for him to be sent hurtling vastly further than her in this pit of emptiness.
Valera grit her teeth.
But no matter what, Valera would find him. She would find him in this infinity even if it took a thousand years.
Just as she resolved herself to do this, hope flickered in her heart.
She felt a faint connection from Aldrich. It came from the special link they shared as chosen undead and master. One that was magical in nature. She did not know how it happened, how any trace of magic could appear in this empty realm, but the how did not matter so long as she could sense it.
She visualized it as a small thread of white that flowed in front of her, but it did not stretch out long before the darkness ate it up.
It was basically just a compass that gave her Aldrich's general direction. And, as she suspected, he was deeper down.
How far, she did not know. Most likely an unfathomable distance.
Distance, though, did not matter.
Even if there was an infinite separating them, somehow, eventually, she would cross it.
With that resolve in her heart, Valera pushed off the cloud, moving down towards the unfathomable darkness below to save her love.