“Is it possible?” Dozer rumbled, considering the boy in front of him.
Nathan squirmed, but not from the observation. “Well yes, it is possible. You have purposefully kept yourself at Level 49, so the switch can still be made, but… it will require energy. More than I have. I’ll have to call Neveah- hey, can you ask her to stop that?”
Amused, Dozer said. “Delilah. Come to daddy.”
“Abuuu~” Came his daughter's cheerful reply. The almost two-year-old stopped manifesting the mage lights that she had somehow picked up and tottered slowly over toward Dozer. She could speak brief phrases, but when she was young she very quickly got into the habit of emoting most of her actions. Honestly, Dozer believed it somewhat admirable. His daughter’s constant announcements of her mood were a breath of fresh air after her mother.
He picked up the girl, who was still small enough to fit inside a single hand. Or perhaps, Dozer’s Soulskill had pushed him to grow beyond the limits of the human body. He now stood at almost three meters of height and weighed close to four hundred pounds. Every inch of it was muscle.
When Delilah raised her hands toward the sky, Dozer picked her up without even a hint of exertion. Casually, he bounced his daughter into emitting delighted coos.
“Did you need to bring her?” Nathan asked, a frown on his face. He was now a teenager, and the angular angst of that age was full in his face. Dozer smiled wanly and nodded.
“Bah, Isn’t she one of the only babies in Donnyton? Surely there is a woman somewhere that would love to watch her,” Nathan complained.
“That’s why she learned Mage Lights.” Dozer said slowly. “We left her too long in the arms of another.”
In this, Dozer and Annie were united in their fury. It was disgusting to both of them that their daughter’s first Skill be Mage Lights. But of course, Clarissa found the whole thing hilarious. After they discovered this, the two parents took raising their child much more seriously. Because Nathan was right, although a bit sexist; everyone wanted to fawn over Donnyton’s first baby.
There had been a few babies since, but Delilah would always be spoiled, Dozer expected. Which was not what he had in mind. In order to combat that, he had already brought her into the forest to pick up some stones for strength. He was also in the midst of teaching her to throw a punch.
Her first Skill might be Mage Lights, but Dozer would be damned if her second wasn’t Heavy Blow.
“I brought you something, as payment.” Dozer said, bringing Nathan’s eyes back away from Delilah to his own.
“Oh, you didn’t have to, I would have done it for free,” Nathan said, while his whole face brightened at the prospect of a gift. Chuckling, Dozer flexed his hand and produce a package. He carefully handed it over to Nathan.
The boy ripped it open immediately, revealing a long black tunic that hissed slightly as it shifted around in his hands.
“Made of blackscale. Some of the best new stuff out of Donnyton,” Dozer said shortly. “Even I can’t cut through that stuff, the metal rings are too tight. Plus, it was blessed to increase Perception and Reaction.”
Not that Dozer would need to cut through anything to do damage. But it was a fitting gift. Doubly so, because the boy immediately took off his shirt and put it on. Dozer had made some guesses on the size, and it seemed he had aired on the side of too large. That was good. Nathan would still grow some this year. Hopefully, it would be wearable for more than a few months.
“How long will it take?” Dozer asked gently. He was a man of few words, but he knew that this meeting with Nathan wouldn’t proceed if he didn't’ push forward.
Nathan blinked, and then seemed to consider it. “If all goes well… maybe eight hours. If it’s more complicated than I expect… as many as three days. If we want to do it, we should contact Nevaeh immediately.”
“I will do so.”
For the next five minutes, Dozer simply played with Delilah while Nathan disappeared into the back of his shack. They were currently in Azaela, the town erected in the remnants of an old dump by the people trapped in monster bodies. It was the Sunset festival, and Dozer hoped to get a little bit of vacation while he was out here.
There was a light knock on the door and then it immediately swung open. Annie strolled in, eating a funnel cake and holding an extremely large handmade teddy bear.
“Mama!” Delilah screeched, even as Dozer gave Annie a disapproving look.
“Oh boohoo. So what if they made the games so easy I could accomplish them in my sleep? That’s their own fault.” Annie said, sticking her tongue out at Dozer. “I’ll have you know that aside from me, not a single person has won that toss game. I drummed up business by proving it could be done. They would probably thank me if they could.”
“As you say,” Dozer said with a barely suppressed smile. Annie stood on her tiptoes and Dozer pressed his lips to her forehead. Then she kneeled next to Delilah as the little girl excited crawled all over the teddy bear that was probably double her size.
“Want to take her around?” Annie asked, not looking at Dozer.
Dozer shook his head. Annie's mouth twitched.
“I can only stay for another few hours, I need to get back to Donnyton,” Annie said in a low voice. “We can't get a grasp what that fucking floating city Ifrenne is thinking, but something big is going down in that Danger Zone of theirs. Everyone with a danger sense can point toward it like a compass toward due North. From what we can tell, Drake should be there, but Sydney won’t-”
“No work talk.” Dozer rumbled drily. “A few more hours of vacation.”
Annie gave him a scathing look. “You’ve certainly become domestic, haven’t you? In the old days, you would have charged toward a problem and slammed your head against it.”
“Now I just need to pick you up and toss you at a problem. Your head is harder than mine,” Dozer said with a shake of his head. As if to demonstrate his point, his left hand snaked around her waist and lifted her off the ground.
Annie huffed and opened her mouth, but before she could speak, Nathan came back into the room and frowned at both of them. “Did you just come in and leave my door open? Why- Oh.”
A figure loomed in the doorway, wrapped up in a trenchcoat. There was not a speck of flesh visible. What wasn’t covered by the tan trenchcoat or the hat was wrapped in bandages. For several seconds, Nathan just goggled at the figure.
Grinning, Annie tipped her head backward. “Well if you are busy here and I have to leave, how do you feel about leaving Lila with Uncle T?”
Dozer pressed his mouth into a line. If Neveah hadn’t informed him she would be over immediately, he would have taken his daughter out himself. As it was… well, the girl deserved to experience the city.
But parental fear was hard to shake. He took a deep breath. “...fine. You hear that? On your best behavior. And if anything threatens her… don’t worry about collateral damage. Take no chances.”
The figure saluted, then beckoned to Delilah. The two of them had spent some time together already, so Delilah’s eyes immediately brightened and she fast stepped toward her uncle. Just that reaction told Dozer all he needed to know about how much supervision Delilah had with the figure. But what could he do?
Dozer needed to get back to Donnyton soon as well, and if the process of upgrading his Class might take three days...He had already resolved himself to this possibility. There could be no incidents with condensing his Fate. He needed the assistance of the energy that Randidly had access to.
“Oh, Uncle T. If something does happen…” Annie stood up and sauntered over to the figure in the trenchcoat. She winked at him. “...be sure to leave the perpetrator alive. That individual and I will have much to discuss.”
“Delilah, say bye to Mommy and Daddy,” Dozer said patiently.
“Bye-byeeee” Delilah said, not even turning her head. She was speed walking out the door and was making a beeline for the loud noises and bright colors of the Sunset Festival. After nodding hurriedly to Annie, Uncle T chased after the little girl.
“Could be that a walking Skill? That girl spent way too much time with Raina. And she hikes all the fuck over, looking for new places to paint.” Annie said, standing by Dozer’s side. Her tone was playful, but Dozer could see the sadness in her eyes.
Lightly as he could manage, he squeezed her shoulder. “If we didn’t pass her off to other people, when would we put the work in to make her a little brother?”
Annie elbowed him with a wicked smile.
In the back of the room, Nathan looked at them both miserably. “You know, I’m still right here.”