As the group headed South, Randidly checked in with Tatiana. To his surprise, the woman he had felt so close to recently spoke distantly, and only when prodded. She did inform him that the doctor was with Kenneth, and as of yet, there was no sign of the Unity Church coming back to make trouble. It had only been a few hours, but the lack of anything was a little disconcerting.
Meanwhile, Nathan assured Randidly that he would soon be able to get in and see Kenneth before anything happened. He was just less mobile than Randidly and would need to walk back from the shantytown.
The actual process of cleaning out the lake worked surprisingly well. Randidly used his Incendiary Eruptions and a huge amount of monsters charged to the surface, enraged by this disturbance to their normal activities. Although they were all mid-30s, they came out confused and most were destroyed by Tykes and Dinesh before anything could happen.
The two of them worked in perfect sync, which Randidly made a note of. It seemed the two of them had been practicing in the borderlands without him.
The real trouble was keeping their actions out of the scanning radiuses of the military bases that had been set up around the lake. This was made more complicated by the fact that the recent attack had really pushed the tension present on the bases to a new high. There were patrols almost every hour.
Randidly was very tired of throwing dead Raid Boss bodies back into the lake in order to avoid later detection. It would be hard to avoid them noticing something, but that wasn’t really an issue. Once they were gone, there was no way that they could figure out who had killed them all, even if they had figured out that much.
In fact, things were so boring that Randidly very quickly lost interest in the actual killing and turned his attention inward. More and more he spent time contemplating the way the weight and mass would be concentrated at the tip of his spear. Specifically, he focused on that destructive power, and what it would feel like.
Through his previous thoughts, he had slowly refined the image of the collapse of the weight. But what Randidly was missing now was actually a sense for what that weight meant. Randidly was almost bitter; why was this so simple the previous time?
He supposed that a lot of what he had accomplished previously was due to stealing the image from his opponent in the fight. That had added the necessary density to what he was trying to accomplish. Now, he had to build it all on his own. It was a different sort of labor.
As he was looking at the lake, however, Randidly wondered if they would soon connect to something like the ocean. Although it was probably dangerous, heading to deep waters might give him some insight into the pressure that that sort of density would possess. At the bottom of the sea, Randidly believed you would truly feel like the world was on you-
Randidly’s eyes sharpened. The flicked his wrist, and several Spearing Roots shot upwards to block the plasma bolts that were aimed for Dinesh and Tykes. Both of them reacted and leaped backward out of the water, but Randidly handled it much more efficiently.
Most of the Raid Bosses had been mopped up, but there was a lone figure standing in the shallows. It had blended in with the press of bodies and acted now to strike for something that would likely pass for a deadly blow against lesser men.
With another flick, more plants surged into motion. As he did so, Randidly scanned the horizon; no drones. Since he was using the Plant Dominance, safest to kill whoever this was. Besides…
As Randidly turned to regard the figure his eyes hardened. The body was metallic and steaming as it stood there. This was not a member of the military. It was either an independent or someone who actively wanted to protect the Raid Bosses that were breeding here. An agent of the Raid Bosses themselves? It wasn’t likely, based upon just seeing the metallic exterior.
That was man-made.
The figure reacted more quickly than Randidly expected. As soon as its attack failed, it turned and fled, diving into the water.
“Fuck no you aren’t getting away now,” Randidly growled, and he reached out towards the figure. “Grasp of Lava.”
The molten rock spurted upward and engulfed the body of the figure. The figure spasmed several times and then was still. Cursing quietly to himself, Randidly approached the mound of rock that was sitting in the shallows of the lake. With pure strength, he began to rip away the layers of cooling rock around the body.
Although he believed that the crushing attack of the spell likely killed whatever this was, he didn’t lower his guard.
“Dinesh, what’s the time looking like?” Randidly asked as he continued to free up the body.
Dinesh checked his watch. “We have three more minutes of safety. Four if you really want to cut it close.”
Randidly grunted and gave up on doing it delicately. He smashed his fist down into the rock, cracking it. Then he dug his fingers into the crack and pried the thing apart. The body of the assailant fell into the water and there was a moment of panic as Randidly expected it to escape.
But it just bobbed up and down in the hip-deep water. Randidly lifted the body and was surprised by how light it was. There was a pang of regret in his chest as he examined the body more closely; it was wearing an exosuit. It was a human.
It never felt good, to kill another, even though Randidly had grown used to taking the lives of Raid Bosses and other intelligent monsters. It was a tough world they were living in. And now it seemed that forces within humanity were threatening the race as a whole in such ways that Randidly might need to kill less discriminately…
Randidly shook his head, pushing those thoughts away. He pulled the mask back and revealed the assailants face. It was a woman, brown hair, late 30s. Randidly frowned down at her, his initial regret giving way to puzzlement.
This woman… Randidly recognized her. But from where?
Neveah hummed to herself as she walked from her room towards the rooms where Tia was staying. As she had agreed with Randidly, Neveah had told Tia that she was not truly the man Randidly Ghosthound, but another who was a very close friend of Randidly. She left out the part that she was female, and also her true form, but told her fiance most of the rest.
Tia had taken it very well, listening seriously to Neveah’s entire explanation. Then she had asked Neveah if it was alright if she took some time to think about it. Neveah had agreed.
At the last minute, Neveah stopped herself, turned on her heel, and walked away shaking her head. It had only been a few hours. She couldn’t just… just walk over there now and ask what she was thinking…
Neveah walked back to the door to her own room, which she barely used. But now that she was waiting for Tia to come to talk to her, she had to spend time here, correct? Otherwise, she might miss the other woman-
Well, she might as well take a bit of a walk to see the night. Maybe over towards Tia’s portion of the mansion…
But two steps back in that direction, Neveah froze. Her face turned grim. When she stepped, the wood of the floor splintered with the force of it. Hurtling down the hallway, Neveah felt her illusion waiver but didn’t take the time to reinforce it. This was more important.
One thing she had learned from watching Randidly was that when it was time for action, there wasn’t a point in being subtle. It was better to be decisive.
So Neveah smashed the door down, knocking it off its hinges.
“Uh…! What?!?” Senator Firefly said, sitting bolt upright in his bed. Although he had improved his stats, he confided in Neveah that he still felt somewhat uncomfortable without sleeping on a daily basis. So he habitually still lay down for the night, even if he didn’t necessarily fall asleep.
It wasn’t much, but Neveah had a half-step on the other party. So when she settled into a battle stance after breaking down the door, the windows were smashed in and four figures clothed in black rolled onto the floor. Two immediately stopped up short, looking at her, while two streaked towards Senator Firefly, pulling pistols out from small holsters.
Those two that approached the Senator met Neveah’s Jaws of Earth when crushed their lower bodies and twisted them away from a place where they could attack the Senator. For good measure, Neveah pulled up a Wall of Earth.
Finally, the two others recognized Neveah as a threat. Several more strangely dressed figures rushed in through the dark windows. The nearest one to Nevaeh threw a packet at Neveah. Curious, Neveah caught the thing.
Enough electricity to fry a horse pumped out from the stun grenade. Most people, even System empowered, would be stunned by such a rushed of electricity. Neveah didn’t even flinch. But it did knock away the rest of her illusion.
In the darkness, Neveah’s toothy maw twisted into a smile. Today was not a good day to get on her bad side. Her wings of bone slowly spread, hanging above the assailants like a pale scythes.
When they died, the assailants didn’t have time to scream.