Randidly only had around an hour before the sun fully dawned, but it was enough to level up Empower and Summon Pestilence. He stood slowly, considering Kal’s request. It’s not that he minded fulfilling it, but the real question…
His eyes sharpened as someone walked up to his cabin. Randidly exited, finding Sam.
Sam simply grunted. “Based on your face, Kal came and saw you right? And you were wondering whether to tell me?”
He spat off to the side. “As if I give a shit about that primadona. The real problem is he is insisting that the rest go with him, so they don’t get ‘so separated from the real world that they start to think this is what life is like.”
Randidly chuckled. “What does he think is out there? A place where monsters don’t exist? A place where the weak don’t die?”
They stood in silence for several seconds. Randidly rubbed his neck uncomfortably. “Well, I’m going to the town to get those potion containers. The 50 we got for last night were helpful, but a surprising amount were just dropped on the ground after use… If they want to come, I’ll take them there. But… there is something strange about that town.”
“You believe the rumors that the mayor has gone crazy?” Sam asked.
Randidly shrugged. “I guess I’ll find out today.”
The group that went with Randidly to the nearby town ended up being Kal, Ellaine, the 4th, still cloaked woman, and Decklan, who caught them as they were leaving. It seemed to be a sore subject that Lyra wasn’t coming, based on the grim line of Kal’s mouth, but Randidly made no effort to talk with the group anyway, and let it slide.
He was slightly more perturbed by Decklan, who followed him closely with his eyes the entire route. Any enemies they encountered Randidly dispatched quickly with a powerful mana bolt. Perhaps no one noticed but Decklan, but his intelligence and skill level were combining to make the mana bolts instantly deadly. One struck a lizard and smashed it into the tree behind it, cracking the tree. The group watched the tree slowly topple, and then continued on in silence.
Randidly knew that the town itself was back towards the location that he exited the dungeon, and didn’t have any better idea on where to approach to enter it, so he walked back towards the area with the machine gun nests. The rest followed. Honestly, it was something of an oversight that they hadn’t at least sent someone out to scout the nearby Newbie Village.
Nul’s attitude towards the other village seemed to indicate that there was some kind of competition between the the villages, but it was hard to tell anything with him. He still didn’t act the same around Randidly as he did for the rest.
Nul was also completely tight lipped about his own origins, although Randidly didn’t doubt that Daniel interrogated him on the subject at every chance he got. And if Daniel couldn’t drag the answer out of him...
They crossed through the forest with only one small incident. A group of imps had been lurking below a hill, hidden from Randidly’s sight. When they walked over the crest of the hill, the imps rushed outward with gleeful shrieks.
There were 7, and 2 were close enough that Randidly moved instantly to them, his spear flashing out before they could even attack. 4 more were instantly crushed by Mana Bolts.
Only 1 had enough time to get off an attack in this doomed ambush, a blast of fire that missed Randidly completely, rendering his peremptory Mana Shield useless. Instead, the fire rushed towards the still-cloaked figure.
At that moment, Decklan stepped forward and used his small buckler shield to take the brunt of the force, grunting and getting slightly burned, but surviving. Within a second, the offending imp was dead.
The issue arose when the surprise of having a ball of fire thrown at her caused the cloaked figure to shriek and fall backwards, her cloak unraveling around her head, revealing long blonde hair and a beautiful face.
Decklan turned with disdain towards the weakling he had been forced to save, and then froze as he saw her face.
“You… aren’t you Vivian Plath?!?”
Randidly scratched his head awkwardly, unsure of what was happening. It seemed like she was famous too, but he had never been one to pay too close attention to actors. And what with the system taking over their lives…
Kal stepped forward. “Yes, but now’s probably not the time for this. Let’s continue to safety.”
“Oh, yea- I’m just such a huge fan of your… work.” Decklan said lamely, still staring at Vivian. She kept her eyes on the ground as she stood, pulling her hood back up over her face. Decklan’s gaze followed her as they began to move again, heading deeper into the town.
Randidly had gained a level in Pathfinding by the time they reached the area he had spawned, and they wordlessly followed the weird, half-street in the woods to a cross street, letting them head deeper into the town.
Bodies of monsters just littered the streets, rotting, a testament to the town’s victory last night over the monster horde. The group was oddly silent, even Decklan’s fixation on Vivian swayed as they stepped over the rotting flesh.
Annoyed, Randidly waved his hand and used Root Manipulation to lift bodies out of the center of the road, clearing a path. They walked down the road for about 300 meters before they came to a bus parked sideways, effectively blocking the road. The area around the bus had boards nailed up. It likely wouldn’t withstand an actual assault by monsters, but an intimidating mounted machine gun sat on top of bus, a hefty warning to any who wanted to approach.
When they were about 20 meters away, the guard who had been sitting at the gun straightened, his eyes widening as the bodies in the road shifted, pressed to the side by Randidly’s roots.
“Stop right there!”
Decklan was bored. The guard had hailed them to stop, then sent for someone higher up on the food chain to deal with them. As it was, they were simply standing in the street, stinking of rot.
Decklan glanced at Vivian again, his heart thundering in his ears. Never in his wildest dreams would he have imagined that the weirdos that hung out with Sam were famous actresses and actors. And of all people, Vivian Plath…
Movement on top of the bus brought Decklan’s attention back around. The tall black police officer looked over their group.
“You shouldn’t have come,” He said simply, a small hint of….something in his voice. It wasn’t fear, it was more like… dread.
And it seemed like the Ghosthound had heard it too, because when he spoke, his voice was sharp. “Some of our camp preferred yours. And also… we had a deal.”
“That is true, but…” The police officer hesitated. He opened his mouth to speak, but another voice overrode him.
“Hahaha, we have guests? Well, well, well.”
An average looking man stepped forward. His face was unoffensive, but also not very attractive. There were only two distinct features of his countenance.
The first was his sneer. The second was the huge, tacky crown he wore.
Almost unwilling, the police officer stepped to the side, and the crowned man stepped forward.”We get a lot of refugees coming to my town, what makes you different? Why should you be allowed entry?”
Decklan wrinkled his nose at the arrogance, and it seemed like it didn’t sit well with Kal either. The Ghosthound seemed rather bored, his eyes scanning the nearby rooftops. But Vivian wasn’t dissuaded, stepping forward and removing her hood.
“Please, there’s no civilization out there. We just need a place to stay, that’s all we ask.” And afterwards Vivian smiled. Decklan didn’t know how she did it in the post makeup and showers world, but she looked stunning.
The crowned man seemed similarly taken with her. “Oh wow, you’re beautiful. Hey, aren’t you that actress?”
A satisfied smile spread across Vivian’s face. “Haha, those were different times. It’s honestly embarrassing, I’m not sure what to do when the world is like this…”
“Oh, no worries.” The crowned man’s smile was huge now. “You and your friends are more than welcome. Come in, all of you.”
Eager, Kal, and Ellaine walked forward, following Vivian. Even Decklan felt a strange regret, a weird compulsion to follow. He shook his head ruefully. Vivian had apparently really done a number on his head.
“Ellaine.” The Ghosthound spoke shortly as the tall, honey skinned woman passed him. She stopped, almost unwilling, a hint of disgust turning the corners of her mouth down.
“I have two friends, Sydney Harp and Ace Ridge. While you are inside…. Ask around to see if anyone knows anything about them. Please.”
Ellaine blinked, and then laughed, her eyes crinkling up at the corners. “You…. honestly, every time I assume something about you, you end up proving me wrong. I’ll look for your friends, but you protect Lyra, alright? I can’t tell if she’s spoiled or playing the fool, but she really has no self-preservation instincts, with the world like this.”
“I will” The Ghosthound responded, and Ellaine turned to follow Kal and Vivian. The Ghosthound turned and gestured to Decklan, who followed behind him as they began the long walk back through the streets filled with rotting flesh.
“Oy, where are you two going.” The voice was cold enough to make the hairs on the back of Decklan’s neck prickle. Glancing over his shoulder dismissively Decklan saw the crowned man was still leering at them. The Ghosthound didn’t even bother to respond.
“HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I give you a personal invitation and you blow me off? Interesting! Interesting! How about you kneel and beg for my clemency..”
Decklan stopped abruptly and dropped to his knees, as if his legs had lost all of their strength.
He blinked slowly, looking down at his legs, which refused to move.
What… what was going on…?
Decklan looked up to find the Ghosthound still standing, turning and measuring the crowned man with his eyes. “I assume you would be the mayor? I’ve heard rumors about you.”
The man bared his teeth. “Call me Constance. And I am the King. So KNEEL before royalty, peasant.”