Randidly stretched, cracking his neck, as the moon rose over the city.
Unlike Donnyton, this monster horde had come quite soon after sundown. So around 6 hours later, when the monsters were too thinly spread to be considered anything more than the usual amount, the survivors collapsed, ready to rest for the ‘rest’ of their lives.
As he returned to the city, he couldn’t help but laugh at his own joke. But then he looked around at the piles of bodies, and he sobered up somewhat.
It had been bloody. More so than Randidly expected. But he supposed that the machine guns had been barely used. The ammo stores were running low before the horde. How could they be expected to handle 20k monsters…?
Even if they kept the number of classers low for tomorrow, the sheer number of people here meant the hordes would be large. Surviving would be tough. Briefly, Randidly considered remaining here, trying to assist for a while longer.
But then he shook his head. He could not help every village grow. He was here to create an advantage for Donnyton. And the advantages in recruiting they would gain would be more than enough.
In addition, Devan had told him about some of the dangerous seeming notifications that he had received a few days prior, as Donnyton apparently advanced to a Trainee Village. Hopefully this also meant that Nul would relent, and allow Randidly to learn more skills from his skill challenges. And just interact with him in general.
At any rate, it was time to head home. Or at least it would be, tomorrow.
Over the course of the night, Randidly had gained 3 levels in Spear Mastery, 2 in Phantom Thrust and Spear Phantom’s Footwork, 1 in Eyes of the Spear Phantom, 4 in Phantom Half-Step, 2 in Heavy Blow and Fighting Proficiency, 3 in Phantom Onslaught, Sweep, and Edge of Decay, 4 in Pollen of the Rafflesia, 1 in Agony, 6 in Circle of Flame, and finally 1 in Physical Fitness.
But for the moment, Randidly did not yet distribute his PP. Instead, he walked through the depressed city, heading towards the location of his cooking job. This would likely be the last time he would be here, so he wanted to join in the work. Especially when they were offering free food to the survivors in an attempt to keep up morale.
Randidly was not really interested in charity, but he supposed building up goodwill, and grinding his cooking skill just a little longer with the superior cooking equipment, wasn’t such a bad thing.
Luckily for Franksburg, the Senator had survived, even while the headquarters was largely ransacked by skeletons, by locking himself in the closet and crying himself to sleep. Most of the previously intimidating “military presence” had fled, leaving him alone to man the communications room.
The Freedom Fighters as a group searched for him, found him, and then satisfied, everyone wandered to find the nearest bed. Even Anthony, who had only commanded the battle, had red rims around his eyes and was starting to slur his speech.
Alana supposed it was only natural; this was their first beast horde. They had fought monsters before, but they didn’t know what it was like to be afraid for their lives. And to think they had nowhere to return to.
Internally, Alana admitted to herself that it was slightly cruel, what they were doing. Without their assistance, they wouldn’t have acquired a Newbie Town for a few more weeks. At that time, their average level of strength would have risen another level.
Admittedly, not to the point where they could have survived what came for them last night, but still…
Shaking her head, Alana turned around to talk to Devan and his squad, only to find another group of 3 had crept up on them.
“Still awake?” Alana said with false casualness, but inwardly, she was slightly afraid of the masked woman in front of her. She had felt the pull on her will too, as Raina had chanted fight, but had resisted it. Once the conscious choice was made, it was rather easy to push its influence aside, but she then had to watch as people had their arms cut off and stuffed their bloody stumped down the throat of a monster to kill it, their eyes gleeful.
It was a dangerous power when you allowed it to consume yourself.
“Yes.” Raina said simply. “And I know a place that is giving out free food to survivors. I… know a chef there. I’m sure you all are famished. Won’t you join me? I have something to discuss.
Raina explained slowly, cautiously, but she could still see Alana hesitate.
“Are you sure…” Alana asked carefully. “That you really want to abandon what you have here?”
“Yes,” Raina said simply, for the first time realizing what a boon the mask was. The other woman could not see the change in her expression. “Things are fine now, but I expect there to be… backlash for what I did to all those people.”
Alana remained silent, but her gaunt eyes meant that she had seen it too. Most of the lives lost at the end were not due to people being overwhelmed by monsters, but rather due to people fighting without any care for their lives, throwing themselves into danger in order to inflict wounds on the monsters.
The rest of the walk continued in silence, and Raina admired the professionalism of the people who came down from this village to the North. The head of the squad, who Raina had heard was a knight, marched with his squad members following behind in formation, even now prepared. Their equipment looked well cared for and practical. She wondered idly what they had gone through to get to this level of skill.
Raina saw Randidly as she walked up, working the front of a stand, one hand blurring as he cut food, then moving it to the pan, all the while speaking with a customer. His movements were liquid and smooth, even as everyone around him hurried back and forth, struggling to keep up with the mass of people willing to stay awake for food.
Of course 10 feet away from the stand piles of people were laying, snoring next to their half eaten plates.
“It’s here,” Raina said, stepping into line. To her surprise, all of the people from Donnyton had extremely strange expressions on their faces as they gazed up at the food.
Raina ignored that and tried not to worry overmuch over how Randidly reacted to her face. Would he even recognize her with the mask…? Of course he would, he had made it for her, but…
After what felt like an eternity, their group reached the front of the line. Randidly’s stoic eyes slid up to them, appraising them. Raina froze, unsure of what to say.
But what she didn’t expect was for Randidly to largely ignore her, turning to the others. “Fatigue level?”
“Moderate, but no injuries,” Devan said smartly, saluting towards Randidly. Rubbing his hands on his apron, Randidly nodded.
“Good, this level of enemy shouldn’t give you pause. Also, this is convenient. All of you come back here. Devan, you take orders. I’d rather just cook. And you, how are you at cutting vegetables…?”
Raina’s jaw, hidden by her mask, remained dropped as these stalwart warriors, who even the toughest of the Freedom Fighters treated with awe and respect, dutifully trotted behind the counter of the stand and began to help Randidly cook and clean.
“Alana? Tell me about the Soul Skill you received.” Randidly said, rapidly stirring a sauce in a pot, smelling it, and then adding a pinch of something.
“Ah…” It was a slight comfort to Raina that Alana seemed to think this whole situation was strange. “There are 4 things that rotate, I get 1 every 5 pp spent. 5 Health and Stamina, and then 1 Endurance, followed by 1 Strength, and finally 1 Willpower.”
Randidly grunted, and turned to Raina finally. “Alright, Miss, Devan will take your order.”
“What will it be?” Devan said, his face serious as he stepped forward. Randidly began to turn away, but Raina ripped off her max, trembling.
Randidly stopped, slowly turning to look at her. He gazed at her for several second without comment, a curious sadness in his gaze.
“H-how do I look now?” Raina asked, desperate to end this strange silence, smiling as well as she could with her stiff facial skin.
To her surprise, Randidly chuckled. “Still plain. But… more genuine than before, for sure. Are you feeling better?”
Raina frowned, feeling oddly jubilant in her heart. Why had everyone else acted like her face was ruined earlier if Randidly was just going to ignore it…? Now she felt slightly hysterical for inciting a mob over the incident.“The only reason I was feeling down before was because you called me plain.”
Randidly just smiled awkward and shrugged. “... I really didn’t like your skill. It seems whatever happened has let you control its activation. Its… nice.”
“I have a question.” Alana interrupted, finally unwilling to remain silent any longer. “When the fuck did you have time to learn to cook like this? This is fucking delicious.”
Shaking his head, Randidly turned away and walked out towards where the shopkeeper was keeping supplies.
“How do you know him…?” Raina asked, turning to Alana.
Alana blushed. “He… he’s my…. Our town’s….”
“Something like a guardian angel.” One of the squad members supplied, tying an apron around his waist and moving to skin potatoes.
“He is the Ghosthound,” Devan said, his face completely still and disinterested. “I would love to chat, but there are more people to take orders from. If you don’t mind, please step aside until you make your decision so we can service other customers.
Alana still was thinking. “It’s not like he’s in charge… but he’s definitely got the support for anything he wants to do… and he’s the most powerful…”
“Some people…” One of the other squad members hesitated, and then said. “Some people really revere him. Worship him, almost.”
Raina blinked, but it was the absolute surety in Devan’s tone that left her speechless.
“That is true. He is, after all, the Ghosthound.”