The grim faced riders provided Randidly with a very basic map, which would enable him to leave their location and find the Refuge. They seemed profoundly displeased when he thanked them, and said he would need to delay his actual departure by a few days though. When asked why, Randidly gestured towards Neveah, who was trying to touch her nose to her tail, forming a perfect circle.
“Hmph,” A black haired man snorted. “Well, don’t blame us when we move on, and you become monster feed.”
“Don’t worry about that. Your name is really Ghosthound though, wow, that’s such a fun name!” The Wild Rider chattered, sounding extremely strange in the weird echo that came from her Regalia.
Randidly shook his head. You are the first person to ever say that…
For his part, the rider’s face twisted, but he couldn’t say anything to directly contradict the Wild Rider. Strangely, Randidly felt some sympathy for the man. It must not be easy, acting as a glorified babysitter to this young girl, without even knowing it…
“Body fun.” Neveah said, rolling over towards the talking people eager to be a part of the strange interaction, now that she had a body. Randidly smiled, but the surrounding people scuttled back, annoyed at her antics. At least the riders.
The mounts seemed profoundly skittish around her, and for good reason. Not only was she double as big as most of them, she probably weighed about 5 times as much as the heaviest of them. She was just in another class of beast. She was, or used to be, a Raid Boss.
After some more stares, and the riders pleading with the Wild Rider to take care of some other things, the group wandered off, leaving Randidly alone with Neveah. Feeling relieved, he walked over to her and patted her bone exoskeleton awkwardly. Could she even feel this…?
Whether or not she could actually feel it with any sort of fineness didn’t really matter to a creature who had not had a body before an hour ago, so it was enough that she rolled around, brushing up against him and causing him to stagger slightly. After chuckling, Randidly hopped on top of her body and began to walk along it.
When she spoke next, it was through their connection. Confusing.
“What’s confusing?” Randidly asked, walking along her spine, trying to balance as she began to roll onto her side, to peer up at what he was doing.
You. Name. They wrong. But you make so.
“...It’s… called lying.” Randidly said, wondering really how developed the intelligence of Neveah was. It was something worth investigating. Especially because they would be bound from now on, working together as a team. Even now, it made him slightly uncomfortable, but that was the way it was.
So even though he didn’t like it, Randidly continued speaking. “I told them my name was David… to avoid a monster who was seeking me…”
But as he trailed off, Randidly felt something strange through their bond. A displeasure. Neveah sensed through their connection that this wasn’t the whole truth. Randidly laughed out loud, feeling strangely relieved, and also strangely insulted.
He was never very good at communicating, and the people around him knew it. So when he was awkward and slow to say something, they just assumed it was because it was difficult for him to speak. Which was part of the truth, but it wasn’t all of it. Which Neveah could sense, and her… perhaps naive nose pressed deeper, intent on finding the whole truth.
Randidly was forced now, by this bone wurm, to reveal that whole truth, the bit that he always kept back. And strangely… he didn’t mind it.
“I… also didn’t use my name because…” Randidly hesitated for a second before continuing. “Because my name means something here, in this area. I have a reputation…. And it’s so weird. People look at me for guidance. They rely on me to protect them. Both of which are fine, I can handle it but… they don’t understand me. So they push and push…”
After trailing off for a second, Randidly found his voice again, hopping down off of Neveah, and turning to her. “It’s the same with the Wild Rider. Did you see the way they treated her? Did you understand what was going on…? Well it might be hard, but the people around her think they know what is best for her, and want to control her. Or protect her, whatever it is that they tell themselves. I don’t want that. I don’t want…”
The question was surprisingly frank, and Randidly started. He looked at her with sad eyes, a small smile on his face. Sad because she had to ask, but smiling because the question was surprisingly easy.
“Yes. Us. That’s how it’s been for a while, yea? Now you just have a body. Nothing really changed, right?”
Neveah seemed finished with conversation, and she began to wiggle back and forth, moving towards the far side of the enclosure. Randidly scratched his head and then followed her. Well she could figure out this body for now. In the meantime, it was time for him to return to the study of Engraving. Because recently, he had a hunch about the reason some of the complexities of Engraving currently eluded him.
“What!” Thea said, jumping to her feet. Simon didn’t really react to the news, his eyes slightly unfocused as he looked at the ground.
Jemma, nervous at the strength of Thea’s reaction, began to lean side to side, switching her weight back and forth at a rapid pace. Wincing that she had made the young girl freak out so much, Thea spared a glance for the metallic dog that was now always by Jemma’s side. It lay on the ground, its head on its paws, its breathing even.
As long as the dog was calm…
Thea turned back towards Jemma, sitting back and relaxing slightly, putting on a face that didn’t match the turmoil inside of her body. Hearing that David was really Randidly Ghosthound… THE Ghosthound…
It was unbelievable. And at the same time, it made so much sense. So many things clicked. She had built up the Ghosthound into a superhuman in her head, able to accomplish so many things so much faster than everyone else. He founded Donnyton, which was like a mythic city in her mind, filled with characters who stepped right out of fantasy.
They already had blacksmiths, leatherworkers, and potion makers, and the market wasn’t even present yet. They had seen a few of the examples of the things they could produce, and it left everyone at Star Crossing absolutely flabbergasted. The equipment they made was higher than their most powerful person. It was impossible.
Then she had met David, a man with no weakness. A man who faced down a Tier III Raid Boss, apparently while he had a crippling injury, and knocked the Raid Boss on it’s ass. And now, after he was healed, he gave off a completely implacable feeling. It felt like she was looking at the calm surface of the ocean, but her instincts screamed that more was going on beneath the surface.
As these characters overlapped… everything snapped back together.
Now, at the head of these bustling metropolis, pushing forward past the boundaries of what was possible, very quickly in the wake of the System’s arrival, Thea saw David. She could see him, with his quiet, intense eyes, immediately adjusting to the System change and methodically working himself into a position to do something about it. To help people around him.
He still must have had some martial arts training before, or at least he was in top physical condition. He likely gracefully transitioned into the System, and very rapidly dominated the area where he started, overwhelming the location monster type with sheer implacable determination.
Based on what they understand once you become connected with a Newbie Village, while you could leave, it wasn’t wise. If that person were to die, they would drop the “Village Key” which could be used in multiple ways against the Village. It was much safer to stay at the Village, if you were connected to it.
David- no, Randidly- no, the Ghosthound, clearly didn’t make that decision. Somehow, as if it was happening right in front of her, Thea could picture the Ghosthound standing there, his eyes clouded by worry, surrounded by the scrappy group of survivors that he had gathered and led to a place of brief respite from the terrors of the System.
Did he know the benefits of founding the Village, of the Soul Skill he could gain…? His was the first village, so probably not. He easily passed off the coin to another, to found the village while he continued to explore, heading South to save the unstable and populous Franksburg, right before they starved to death.
Did he find out the truth, and regret it…?
That, too, was clear. Of course he found out, but he didn’t regret it. He just once more thoughtfully handed the coin over to the people of Franksburg, leaving to go on another adventure, always moving, always seeking out the next threat to humanity, always moving forward.
Although someone from Franksburg named Lucifer had killed the first Tier III Raid Boss, and the rumors were that the Ghosthound disappeared immediately prior to its arrival, Thea had no doubt in her mind that the whole time, the Ghosthound was moving in the shadows, paving the way for others to shine.
Thea smiled bitterly. Just like he had done with her.