Derek stayed back on top of the hill, scowling down at them as the group proceeded to walk forward. He had to admit that they were disciplined, far above the level of even the regulars of the Freedom Fighters, as they settled into a crouch and moved in formation, but how much could a class really help in a huge melee like this? The numbers were stacked against them.
Like a ghost, a tall, orange haired figure appeared next to Derek. He spared him a glance. It was Lucifer, the only man in the Freedom Fighters that Derek had no confidence of being able to stand against. He was also the 2nd in command of the Freedom Fighters in all but name, leading the most powerful battalion.
“Is that them?” Lucifer grunted, wiping blood from his sabers.
Derek nodded. “Let’s see if classes are really worth all this trouble.”
Randidly’s hackles rose at the mention of Raina, but then he shrugged. She wouldn’t even be near him, she would just wait out for the food. But when they walked into the kitchen, there she was, sitting up on the counter, her legs dangling. Next to her a serious looking woman with pistols strapped to her waist stood, arms crossed.
“Oh, Raina! I’m such a huge fan. It is such an honor for you to taste my delectable cuisine.” Karlito said, bowing.
Raina rewarded him with a sunny smile. “Actually, I’m just peckish. Matilda here told me that her favorite dish was fish tacos, and when it came to fresh food, this was the place to come.”
Matilda, who Randidly assumed was the guard, just glowered, looking excited about nothing, fish tacos or otherwise.
Naturally, Raina’s gaze moved past Karlito to Randidly, who followed him through the door into the kitchen. Randidly looked towards the ground, feeling a small urge to smile and suppressing it. Mental Strength rose another level, and the urge dropped to almost nothing.
Randidly sighed his relief and began to move towards the supply freezer, to get the ingredients for fish tacos. He began running through the list in his head. He would need-
“Excuse me, were you at my concert last night? Back stage?”
Randidly paused, turning slowly. Raina had hopped down off the counter and was studying him, something strange in her eyes.
Nodding, Randidly said. “Yes, I was.”
The silence grew slowly, their gazes locked.
Then Karlito chuckled uneasily. “Honestly, who wasn’t at your concert, Ms. Raina? It was the event of the year! I wish I could get a recording, your music speaks to me-”
“Not everyone was back stage. And not everyone can just look at me with such mild eyes while I’m smiling at them, not since the system came to this world.” Raina said, her voice light. “...In fact, I don’t think I have met anyone that can. Not even that zombie Lucifer. What’s your name?”
To Randidly’s surprise, there was no power or skill in the question. No influence from the system pressed against him, urging him to answer. It was just filled with curiosity, and a yearning. And most of all, loneliness.
After an extremely long pause, Randidly answered. “...my name is.... Randidly Ghosthound.”
One of the great reliefs of Randidly’s life, in regards to the system, was that no longer would his name earn him strange looks. Raina nodded, as if this was the most natural thing in the world.
“Well, Mr. Ghosthound,” She said, the corners of her mouth quirking upward. “Would you like to have dinner with me?”
As Derek Quinn watched, standing next to the silent Lucifer, he watched as the squad picked up speed, moving through to the front lines of the battle. Then, the last of the Freedom Fighter’s stepped to the side, gladly willing to let someone else hold back the swarm for a while.
With a crash, they smashed into the ants-
He had been expecting a crash, but… they simply slid into the enemy lines, barely slowing at all. His increased perception let him barely glimpse as each one of the 10 shield holders stabbed forward smoothly with a short sword, each time accurately driving their sword into the skulls of the ants.
The bodies were shoved to the side and trampled on, the squad barely breaking stride.
As they penetrated deeper into the ant lines, more swarmed towards them, recognizing this new threat, but the spearwoman simply stabbed into the ants approaching from the back with ruthless efficiency, breaking the ants legs and leaving them useless.
But what was most shocking was the weaponless woman.
“Magic user…” Lucifer mumbled next to Derek, his tone wondering.
Although there were individuals who used the Mana Bolt skill, it was mostly just as a supplement. After all, no one had a large enough mana pool that it was feasible to train up the skill. But as this woman raised her hands, forked lightning shot out, smashing into two ants, and then each of those splitting into two more, and then two more.
32 ants collapsed dead from the move, and 64 were sent staggering, stunned by the electricity.
With a pleased expression on her face, the woman did it again, clearing another huge swath of ants, and then drank a blue potion from a flask.
Like a well oiled machine, the squad marched forward, barely seeming to break a sweat as they ripped through these enemies that had kept the Freedom Fighters stumped.
It was possible that a squad of their elites could have managed to do something similar, at least for a time. But they would quickly run out of Stamina, and be stranded in the middle of an endless number of ants, helpless. Even Lucifer himself could only fight for a half hour or so before he needed a break.
As Derek watched, he realized their advantage was two fold. First, it was clear that leveling gave powerful bonuses to Health, Mana, and Stamina. Otherwise there was no way they could do this.
But the other advantage was professionalism. Those small thrusts effectively killed the monsters, but he suspected that they cost next to no stamina. They were simply well equipped and efficient. The Freedom Fighters couldn’t compare.
Inwardly, Derek felt a small tremor in his heart. He had heard that this group came from the North. These were likely their elites. But even if they had several other squads like this…
Just how powerful was the place that they came from?!?
Karlito and the restaurant manager chatted excitedly at dinner, their eyes becoming increasingly glassy as time passed. Even Matilda began to smile, as Raina told wild story after story, her smile wide, but her eyes always scrutinizing Randidly.
Finally, almost gently, her smile disappeared like a mirage, and she said coldly. “Matilda, would you escort these two away? Mr. Ghosthound and I have something to talk about in private.”
Matilda, her face settling back into a stony expression, dragged the befuddled two men away, leaving only Randidly and Raina in the room.
She smiled at him, “So, we are finally alone.”