Randidly considered taking personal action but ultimately decided against it. He was furious that the government had allowed so many people to die right under their noses. As soon as possible, he needed to strike at the Raid Bosses that were growing there in that cesspool of a lake. But he obviously didn’t want to Level up by doing it. He still intended to go to Shal’s world and participate in the postponed tournament.
The way that one gained credit for a kill was strange. In most situations, it was easy to determine whether you would receive experience for an attack. If you stabbed something and it died, you received credit. If you stabbed something, it ran away, then it bled out hours later, you also got credit.
If Randidly cast Earthquake on the lake and a monster fell into a resulting crevasse, he would get credit. If the monster fell, survived, and then was ground to death between rocks, Randidly would get credit.
But, if Randidly caused a monster to fall into a crevasse and it was able to climb back out, he wouldn’t get credit even if it bled out and died. If a monster was in a crevasse and a rock tumbled down and crushed it, Randidly would only get credit if something else didn’t cause that rock to fall.
Basically, there were ways of making sure he wouldn’t be responsible for the death, but they were flukey. He still had some leeway to Leveling, but killing even 10% of the monsters that were likely living in this rather large lake would be a dangerous prospect. The half decade experience spike was nowhere near what happened at the end of 10 Levels.
Which was why Randidly planned on gathering Tykes and Dinesh and heading down to the lake. His short turn strategy was to cast Incendiary Eruption on the lake bottom and see what surfaced. It would take a lot to heat the water enough to make a difference, but the vaporized water would likely scare a lot of things up. It would at least give them an idea of what was occurring in the lake’s depths.
Unfortunately, it didn’t seem things were going to be that easy. Randidly traveled through his tunnels to the underground fortification beneath Tatiana’s farming commune and found about two dozen people arguing upstairs. Dinesh appeared to be out patrolling for more locations, and Tykes was likely upstairs making puppy-dog eyes at that delicate blonde girl that had brought in last week.
Sighing, Randidly went to see what the fuss was about. To his surprise, the normally confident Tatiana was visibly torn. At her back was, as expected, Tykes and several other important women in the commune. Opposite her was Randidly’s grandfather, Kulwort Shaw. He was glaring imperiously at Tatiana, with 15 robbed men and women behind him. Then he turned his attention to two figures that appeared to be the source of the commotion.
The one figure Randidly recognized: it was the young woman with the fiery orange hair. She was holding the wrist of a teenage boy, who was low key struggling with her.
“Let me go,” The boy growled, glaring at the young woman.
Honestly, the young woman seemed more distraught than the boy. “Kenneth, why don’t you recognize me. I’m your sister. After the System hit, we’ve been struggling to survive together this whole time-”
“Bitch, I don’t know who you are, but I just was saved by the Unity Church from the Borderlands! If it wasn’t for them, I would have died!” The teenager shouted, pulling away. Then he walked over towards Kulwort.
Kulwort smiled frostily at Tatiana. “As you can see Miss Yosef, he called us of his own accord and wants to return to the Unity Church facilities. We mean no harm coming in such force, but… it appears one of your number has kidnapped him. It appears to be a mistake, but…”
Now Kulwort’s eyes narrowed, and his smile was vicious. “As we have had our disagreements in the past, we are no longer willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. My men will be performing a sweep of your… little farm. I hope there are no hard feelings.”
Randidly’s watch beeped. He looked down, swore quietly, and then looked up with a small grin at what was unfolding between these two.
Tatiana stepped forward with clenched fists. “I don’t think that’s appropriate. As he wants to return with you, we can do nothing, but searching our compound-”
“Kenneth!” The young woman sobbed, falling to her knees. At her neck was the modified cross of the Unity Church, and she still wore the robe of an initiate. “I’ve looked for you so long, why…”
“Miss Yusef! Don’t make this more difficult than it is.” Kulwort said, shaking his head. But his snide grin seemed to beg Tatiana to resist more. Inwardly, Randidly shivered. When he was a child he wasn’t able to sense it as much but to see his grandfather now, he could understand how his mother turned out so temperamental and vicious. “As you are an unaffiliated business over, I’m afraid your Tier 1 citizenship isn’t enough to offer you protection. I am well within my rights to examine your base, especially with the backing of such damning evidence-”
All eyes turned to Randidly, even those of the robed individuals. It was a small warning that; Randidly had spoken to Tykes primarily, who looked like he was about to crush Kulwort’s face. Randidly had no doubt the man was capable of it, but it would do more harm than good at this point. Besides, even if he was an ass, Randidly still felt hesitant to strike family.
Even a sadistic asshole like Kulwort.
No, what was shocking was that everyone had heard his whisper meant for Tykes. That meant their Perception was at least 100, likely closer to 150. Still, if they were all looking his way, he might as well play this new card…
“Tier 1 Citizenship is insufficient, you say…” Randidly said slowly. He pressed a button on his watch, and the notification he had just received was displayed for everyone else. It seemed that Henrik had looked at the modifications to the Porpoise, and was impressed. “But what if I, a Tier 2 Citizen, vouch for them?”
There was a tense silence. But what Randidly enjoyed the most was the slack-jawed astonishment from Tatiana. The woman was absolutely floored that he had citizenship. It was honestly quite pleasant to see her left speechless. While Kulwort scrunched up his brows and considered it, Randidly gazed deeply at the man called Kenneth. Then he looked back at the young woman.
...no matter how he looked at it, Randidly would be shocked to find out that the two weren’t related. Why was he acting like he didn’t recognize her? Was it really just a case of mistaken identity-
But while Randidly was looking at Kenneth, he caught a whiff of it. His eyes narrowed.
The silence was broken again by the young woman. “Why…. why….”
Kenneth glared furiously at this young woman. “I don’t have any fam-”
But then he paused. His eyes went blank for a second, and there was an internal struggle without him. He opened his mouth, then closed it. He fucking stunk of the Creature’s Aether. Still nothing pure, but it was about 20 times as condensed as Randidly had seen it in other places so far. Like a delirious man given sight of water, he locked onto it.
It seemed that Kulwort realized something too when Kenneth became confused. “Well, since you vouched for them-”
But Randidly already acted. Lightning quick, he caused a root to shoot upwards, smash the back of Kenneth’s head, and then drop back into the ground. Because he was standing sideways, most of the movement was covered by his body; the robed figures would likely only see a blur. And even if their Perception was 200, they wouldn’t be able to clearly tell what was going on. By the time they saw the movement, Kenneth was collapsing.
Mildly, Randidly said. “It seems the stress of the situation was a bit much for that man. Tykes, why don’t you go fetch him and take him to the first aid hut.”
Then he turned to Kulwort. “I beg your pardon, but it appears this man isn’t in a state to travel. Perhaps he has recently experienced a traumatic event. That might explain his… possible amnesia.”
Luckily, Tykes understood the only way this would work, and he moved fast. With deceptive quickness, he was beside Kenneth and picked the thin teen up. A few of the robed individuals took steps forward, but Kenneth was already in Tykes’ arms, and the black man probably had six inches and 40 pounds on even the biggest of them.
“Don’t you dare-” Kulwort began furiously, but Randidly just smiled at him.
“You’ll understand if we are hesitant to release him into your care,” Randidly said. “After all, he spent only a few seconds under your... protection, and he appears to have suffered for it.”
Kulwort Shaw opened his mouth and tried to speak, but he could find no retort that made sense. Instead, he snorted, and said, “You… I’ll look into you, and this matter. Don’t think that your connections will protect you. If you dare harm a hair on the boy’s head… you will pay.”
Then he retreated with his minions. Randidly chuckled. One thing that he had been able to internalize from his time pretending to be himself is how effective it was sometimes to just do what you want. For Randidly, it was something of a nice change of pace.