Tatiana shivered, abruptly cold. She slowly opened her eyes, and then guiltily looked around. It was almost dusk. Shit, she must have fallen asleep in the sun and just sat here the entire time, when there was so much-
Viking. Baloo Erickson.
The name sprung to her mind, tied with multiple warring armies of emotions. Each demanded the other capitulate, but both were valid emotions that Tatiana couldn’t do anything about. She had to survive with both running around, forcing her to raise her guard. Always, keep the guard up.
She thought that around this individual, she could let go for a while. But the more she learned…
Tatiana tried to stand, but only straightened for a second before she swayed and collapsed. Tatiana blinked.
That was when she noticed the notification.
Warning, changes occurring within your Soul. This is highly dangerous. A mistake could lead to death or loss of self. Please-
Skills have been applied to your soul. This is highly dangerous. A mistake-
Warning, your Class is being adjusted.
Warning, there are abnormalities in your connection to your Village. Warning-
You have lost the Class Cutpurse. All Stats gained through Leveling in the Cutpurse Class have been lost. Warning, losing so many Stats at once may adversely affect your body. Please proceed directly to your Village Spirit in order to rectify the situation.
Warning, your Soul is currently being exposed to-
Congratulations! You have received the Class Crooked Dagger. You have gained the Skill Unpredictable Steps (Un) Lvl 1. You have received the Skill Unassuming Strike Lvl 1. You have received the Skill Rapid Slash Lvl 1. You have received the Skill Deft Hands Lvl 1. You have received the Skill Deft Hands ® Lvl 1. You have received the Skill Produce Dagger ® Lvl 1. You may learn 9 additional Skills to these and those you already possess. Skills may be forgotten to learn new Skills. +9 Health per Level, +11 Mana Per Level, +15 Stamina per Level. +1 Perception per Level, +4 Agility, Reaction, Resistance, Control per Level (these points may be distributed between 4).
Congratulations! For becoming a Level 10 Crooked Dagger, you have gained the Skills Numbing Touch Lvl 1 and Predict Dodge (Un) Lvl 1.
Congratulations! For becoming a Level 15 Crooked Dagger, you have gained the Skill Feign Death Lvl 1.
Congratulations! For becoming a Level 20 Crooked Dagger, you have gained the Skill Poison Brewing Lvl 1.
Congratulations! For becoming a Level 25 Crooked Dagger, your Skill Dagger Mastery has evolved to Dual Dagger Dance. Skill Levels will be transferred.
Congratulations! For becoming a Level 30 Crooked Dagger, you have gained the Skill Watchful Eyes, Vicious Execution (A) Lvl 1.
“Before you get up,” A voice said, close enough that Tatiana tried to leap away. But her body simply wiggled a bit and fell sideways. Nathan was sitting there next to her. His face was still furious, so much so that she was strangely amused. “You should distribute your Stats. You lost a lot… everything you got from Leveling up you lost. But if you finished any of the main Paths, you just got all those Level up bonuses.
“Oh… and…” Now Nathan seemed to hesitate. “It looks like… a few of your Skills from your previous Class were damaged when we switched over. I tried to clean it up as best I could, but… they probably won’t work anymore. So some of your Skills you worked on will take a hit. I’m sorry about that.”
Tatiana didn’t know what to say to this serious child, so she simply smiled at him. What could she say? That this Class gave so much more to Health, Mana, Stamina, and Stats? That with this, she probably could grow strong enough to actually fight and help the borderlands?
So she smiled. And then she shivered. It really was starting to get cold outside.
Senator Firefly sighed as he looked at another pile of reports. Every day, it was reports, reports, reports. It was reports yesterday, and more tomorrow. Some days, Senator Firefly wished he had Randidly’s blithe disregard for the administrative side of the work. It couldn’t be denied that without Randidly, the speed of the Orchard’s expansion would be extremely hampered. If he hadn’t worked for the construction companies, there would have been days when not enough buildings were constructed to handle the influx of refugees.
And if people had been forced to live on the streets their first couple nights, they wouldn’t be very quick to label this place as home. And there was no way that the city would have bloomed the way it had without so many people firmly deciding that this place was their home. They didn’t even need to worry about the Unity Church stealing people anymore; people left the Unity Church refugee camps and came to the Orchard.
Contrary to his colleague's fears, the population of Senator Firefly’s Distract was almost double what it had been previously, and he still felt no threats to his seat in Congress. The election wasn’t for another month, but it was good to keep an eye on things. He was doing swimmingly, on Randidly’s back.
Which is why he allowed the other man to work with his hands while Senator Firefly read reports. It was a good relationship.
Senator Firefly stifled a yawn and read a report. Very quickly, he snorted and tossed it into a growing pile of papers. Another missing persons report.
The first dozen or so could be explained by this being a refugee town. But now there were almost 40 people missing in the last 2 months. Either there was a very dangerous criminal element already established in the Orchard, or something was deliberately trying to target people in the city.
When the first possibility of this being a concerted effort emerged, Senator Firefly had thoroughly investigated those people who had been taken. The initial theory was that people were after a certain type of Skill. But even with Ghost’s predictive analytics, they could not identify any commonalities.
There was a possibility that Ghost had hidden something from Senator Firefly, but…
If the AI had, they had a much bigger problem than simply people going missing.
That gave Senator Firefly some pause, but only to shake his head slightly. He tapped his wristlet and initiated the call. “Morgan? Yes, can you let me know where Mr. Ghosthound is?”
This was the Senator’s real fear. That Randidly would be the one who encountered the kidnappers, both for good and for ill. He still remembered the furious movements in the darkness last week when the assassins had come for him in the night. Only chunks of meat had been left by the time the morning sun rose.
Perhaps the worst part was how immaculate Randidly was. There wasn’t a drop of blood on his clothes. There were only the crimson footprints he had left as he walked away from the shocked and rattled Senator. If the Ghosthound found the people who had done this… There would be nothing left. Truly, it made sense in a lawless sort of way, but for all the System arrived, this was still the United States of America. The rule of law still… mattered, albeit less so in the face of men who were more dangerous than armies.
“Uh… he appears to be making ice cream to give out to people.” Morgan sounded harried. The man had the Messenger Class, but even he was run ragged trying to keep up with Randidly. But it was the best they could do.
Did Senator Firefly… fear Randidly? Senator Firefly dismissed the question immediately. It was foolish to ask. They were friends.
And Randidly Ghosthound terrified him.
Still, it was impossible to tell if the assassination attempt had anything to do with the kidnappings. To really get an idea, they would have needed to let one of the assailants get close enough to see whether they tried to capture or kill Senator Firefly.
Or one could have been left alive.
Senator Firefly shivered and hung up the call. Ice cream was fine. So he shifted his focus back to the reports. This time, as Senator Firefly read, his frown slowly became more pronounced.
It was a report of a giant bipedal jackal Raid Boss. Except it didn’t attack anyone. It just… snuck into the city’s cemetery. That was where it was found, standing tall and monstrous before a small stone grave. It hadn’t even struggled when it was killed. Some of the response team even said… there were tears streaming down its cheeks as they killed it.