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A note from puddles4263

4/14

Wendy kept her expression carefully neutral as she nodded with authority. You will not let this man’s unpredictable behavior confuse you. Stay focused.

The metal whirled faster. More emerald flames appeared, sending the metal through another phase of melting. By flicking his fingers, Randidly began to pull out individual drops of the metal. The current plan that Wendy had created involved creating an elaborate scale mail arm that would stretch upward from the glove.

Wendy cleared her throat. “From my calculations, most of the strain on the legs of the city will be concentrated in the third joint. Based on the… the ambitious size you gave me, the number of legs you will individually need to make for the project to be a success is in the thousands. Can you manage that within our agreed upon timeline?”

This was Wendy’s secret weapon. Due to the constant pressure from Randidly and Lucretia’s work ethic, Wendy hadn’t dared let any of the deadlines slip past without a very good excuse for why she hadn’t succeeded. But Wendy quickly realized this sort of pace was unmanageable. So she had spent a few minutes each night pouring over the work assigned to the other two.

If Wendy didn’t want to look like a failure… didn’t one of them just need to miss a deadline first…?

After careful consideration, Wendy deduced that this was the area that would likely pose the biggest snag. It was a time-intensive process to create the third joint, and no one could create the metals required to withstand that amount of torque except for Randidly.

Randidly blinked at her in shock. Then he offered a rueful smile and shook his head. “Heh, I’m honestly impressed. I didn’t think anyone else would notice that difficulty.”

Wendy allowed her face to shift into a sympathetic smile to cover her triumphant one, but Randidly continued to talk.

“Thankfully, I’ve had some success with localized gravity reduction. Outside of the runic array, the total weight of all the things within won’t change, but within the array, the weight will be reduced. It’s a pretty big energy sink to put them on every leg, but since you’ve had so many breakthroughs regarding the power source, it seemed like it was an easy fix.”

Almost a hundred small drops of molten metal were floating around Randidly at this point. His right hand swam among them like a conductor’s baton, moving them all to an unseen rhythm. The metal began to gleam and flash as the individual scales were assembled.

“Ah… well… I’m glad I’m could help. No need to push yourself to take on all this work alone…” Wendy had to force a smile, but her eyes gleamed with determination.

No engineer would only create a single back-up plan…!

“While we are on the subject of energy… I’d like to talk about the cooling system for the power source I made. The runoff heat will likely be quite rampant…”

“Ah, that. Actually, I think the heat is a good thing. If we redesign the layout to put our refineries next to the engine, we can actually save some power by using all of that heat from the engine to fuel the furnaces.”

Wendy’s hands were clenched into tight fists. “Oh, that’s… well, honestly I should have thought about that. Did you take into account radiation? The purity of the energy my reactor will produce isn’t in doubt, but without testing for trace elements over a long period of time…”

“Honestly, the little bit of randomness is good for them. They are much too used to controlling for everything. They need to get used to relying on only their own image and their Willpower. It will be good training.”

Wendy tottered over and leaned on her desk for support. “Well… great. So great. But I’ve been wondering about the industrial density near the housing complexes… People can’t just live around machines…”

“Hehe, when it comes to plants, I’m extremely confident. Don’t worry, I have already started refining a plant that will become the heart and soul of the moving city. Besides, the mollusks seem very interested in shifting their habitat so they spend more time around the core engine, which will give us more space to work with for parks and recreation.”

“Ah… the Engravings in the arrival bays are a bit…”

“Right? I think so too. But actually, Anon- have you met him? The kid’s damn bright. Well, Anon developed an Engraving pattern that reduced the impact problem. Honestly, it’s genius.”

“Ah… urgh….” Wendy fake coughed into her hand several times when Randidly looked at her with concern. “Ahum, just allergies. So, I suppose there isn’t anything more to talk about… I think I’ll just…”

No, damnit, don’t you dare walk out without saying anything. Wendy’s inner demonic incarnation howled. KICK HIS ASS OUT.

“Actually, there was one more thing,” Wendy managed to spit out. No matter what excuse Randidly gave, she would not give him the slightest bit of wiggle room to avoid acknowledging that this was her office.

“Oh?” Randidly asked. All the while, more and more small drops of liquid metal flew out of the increasingly shrinking main ball and became flattened and purified by Randidly’s emerald fire. Just as quickly, those scales flew over to the glove. Before her very eyes, the arm was being assembled.

“I feel like… I haven’t had much… ahem… space in my office.” Wendy’s voice dipped rapidly down in volume the more she talked. “Wouldn’t you… ah… prefer a larger office…?”

“Oh, that’s a good idea,” Randidly said very seriously. He rubbed his chin idly with his right arm while bits of metal continued to whizz around him. “Plus, the connection process to my shoulder might be a bit dangerous… I’ll just head outside for the rest of the procedure.”

Wendy blinked. It was… that easy…?

Randidly walked toward the door, his emerald flames and floating metal hovering about him like a swarm of eye-catching bees. But at the door, he paused and turned back to Wendy. “Oh, I just want to let you know that I won’t be able to help with anything tonight. There are some tasks I need to accomplish. Good luck.”

Then he was gone. The heavy door clicked shut behind him.

For a second, there was silence. Then Wendy’s eyes turned red.

“WHO THE HELL NEEDS YOUR HELP!” Wendy bellowed. Growling in pent up fury, Wendy slumped into her chair. Then she placed her head against the cool wood and did her best to breathe.

Breathe out, breathe in-

Once more transformed into hawk mode, Wendy scoured the room for the ‘prey’ she had just detected. Quick as a flash, Wendy crossed her office to the rows of tables that Randidly had installed in his plundered corner.

There, steaming on the table, was an untouched bowl of fettucini alfredo with chicken and broccoli.

For whatever reason, Randidly had taken to creating a rather sumptuous meal every few hours. The process was rather confusing, but Wendy couldn’t deny that the food he made was better than the standard fare served in the cafeteria.

“Hehehe… that’s right Mister Ghosthound… all you are to me is a glorified chef…” Wendy whispered. She fantasized about torturing him as a strong and sadistic boss while she slurped the pasta quickly into her mouth.

At the end of the meal, Wendy froze; Randidly hadn’t prepared any napkins. Her face went red as Wendy considered walking all the way down to the restroom in order to clean the sauce off her chin.

“Randidly… you will pay for this…” Wendy mumbled.

******

Alana used her spear as a walking stick and grimly trudged upward through the knee-deep snow. The mountain path was constantly bombarded with wave after wave of heavy precipitation and the four figures forcing their way upward could have seen their tracks disappearing before their very eyes if they turned around.

To their left was a towering mountain of stone, ice, and snow. To their right was a sheer cliff about twenty meters above ridges from a smaller nearby mountain that stood in Mount Olympus’ shadow.

Alana didn’t find the grandiose naming sense of Zone Eleven amusing.

"Is this really necessary?" Annie shouted. The wind around the group was so wild that it was all too easy for the words to be lost, dragged away into oblivion by the surrounding elements. But it seemed that some element of Annie’s Class let even her voice cut through the chaos and reach the other three.

Alana wondered why Annie didn’t simply rely on their group message through the System, but Alana suspected it was just because Annie enjoyed taking the difficult route.

Warlord reached out and tapped both of their shoulders. Then he jerked his thumb at the group’s hunter and guide. Annie heaved a sigh of relief, but Alana just set to the unpleasant task of scraping away at the soft snow on their left. Although they had followed the ascending path around Mount Olympus for several hours, they hadn't found any sort of shelter. So they could only carefully attempt to make their own.

After a small alcove had been cleared, all four pressed their bodies against the mountain and huddled into the space. The wind still howled gleefully around only half a meter away, but at least there was now a small break in the noise for the group to converse without resorting to shouts or system messages.

“I saw it,” Ivan was a bearded man with heavy-lidded eyes. And Alana could also smell the familiar scent of tobacco on every inch of his leather-covered body. “The beast had descended to the bottom of the mountain to hunt. If we allow it to establish itself here-”

Annie pursed her lips but said nothing. Still, that was enough for Ivan to bristle with indignation. Before the two could argue, Warlord leaned forward.

"Ivan wouldn't have lied; he definitely saw a dragon while hiking this mountain. A young one, but a dragon is still a dragon. With all our other difficulties, can we let this be? Mount Olympus should have been our base of operations. That’s impossible if this threat hangs over our heads. We need to find its home as soon as possible and verify its Level. This might be the first dragon we've seen, but I hope I don't need to point out how powerful they likely are."

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puddles4263

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