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A note from puddles4263

5/7

The group stopped as a huge, hulking man who must be 7 feet tall lumbered past them, giving them a sideways glare. Randidly tried his best not to yawn. A large body like that might be more of a liability than anything else, now that the System arrived, even if it was intimidating. After all, ability lay in skills and stats. Perhaps there was some small amount of bonus from size, in terms of reach, but…

Then again, Randidly’s own Soul Skill increased his size, so maybe it was for the best to not be too harsh on body size problems… Not that it was really noticeable. It was at about 3%, 4% right now? Randidly supposed he felt a little bit larger, but…

“Where are we going?” Ten’Malla asked with a bright expression. Randidly could only shrug and look at Thea and Simon. Simon seemed similarly unsure, and quite uncomfortable when Randidly gazed at him, so Randidly moved his look to Thea, who was glancing around.

The people around them all walked with a purpose, talking to each other casually, exchanging a few greetings, but generally walking in every direction, moving quickly. Basically, there were no hints from their movements about which direction was an area where people would gather.

Honestly, Randidly was just more enjoying the novel feeling of standing on concrete again. While most of the buildings around here were slightly worn or damaged by monsters, it still was an area of a pre-System neighborhood. There were small shops with apartment buildings over them, and even the remnants of stand alone fast food chains. This town had largely survived, although it looked like everything here had been repurposed into housing.

“It’s that way… I think…” Thea said, her voice light. Ten’Malla instantly began striding that way with a grin, looking around at the buildings curiously.

Ah, of course. The Wild Rider wasn’t from Earth, so this would be rather new for her. Shaking his head, Randidly followed, very aware that Simon waited a few seconds before following. Neveah rolled along happily, leaving a trail of rock and stone in her wake.

Inwardly, Randidly cursed himself; bringing his mount here might have been a slightly thoughtless action. She was just so large, even when she stayed on the ground. In fact, perhaps the real reason that no one was paying attention to them was that they were traveling around with a huge bone wurm, which took up half of the street.

Luckily, it seemed like Thea’s instincts were still on point, because the group walked up to what used to be a large baseball/softball sports complex, with overgrown fields and half destroyed scoreboards dotting the large area. But people here had repurposed it, turning the area into a large, open air market and arena.

There were loud cheers from the East side, where a crowd of people seemed to be watching something. Stalls were everywhere, and right up front was a huge bar. Nothing compared to the sort of setup Claptrap had by the end, as there were only 4 beers or so, but it was still pretty impressive that they managed to have any, after the arrival of the System. Randidly wondered how good it was. The beer in Shal’s world had been oddly bitter, and not to his taste, but perhaps this…

Speaking of, Randidly felt abruptly guilty for not trying to contact any of the people from Shal’s world. Belatedly, he brought up his friends screen, and searched for them. Helen would be furious, so not her… Shal would also be dismissive… perhaps Divvet…?

Abruptly, Randidly saw it again, Divvet falling to the ground, blood on his neck, Marco Polo standing there, his eyes focused unwaveringly on Randidly. How had he been there…? Why did… was Divvet dead…?

Instantly, the tenor of Randidly’s search changed, and he found Divvet’s name. It was grey, and nothing happened when he clicked on it. His interest becoming more desperate and pointed, Randidly decided to screw his earlier plan and moved to Shal’s name. But it too was unable to be clicked, although there was a small notification this time.

Warning, the recipient’s world is currently transitioning in the System. As such, communication will be unavailable until this event is resolved.

Randidly’s frown was sharp. Just a coincidence, or was this somehow related to everything…? But there simply wasn’t enough information available to him. Perhaps Lucretia would know, but again, sealing her seemed like the more intelligent course of action, especially for now. Always best to increase his own strength further…

“Something wrong? It seems like you are on another planet right now, Randidly.” Ten’Malla’s face was inches from his own, her dark eyes curious. Randidly jerked backwards, shocked. How had she…?

But he supposed it shouldn’t be too surprising, that she had some skills hidden away. He hadn’t seen the Champions in action, but they were definitely not someone to underestimate, with the full force of the System sitting behind them.

“...I’m fine,” Randidly said, pointing to a stall as he calmed down. “They probably have what I need there, let’s go.”

There were two reasons that Randidly wanted to finish this quickly. One was to return to training, and the other was to get Neveah out of here. It was adorable, in a way, but only for him, to watch her curiously looking around with a smile on her face at the surrounding people.

Of course, they only saw a huge wurm of bone and twisted muscle, fully one and a half meters thick, looking at them with its mouth open, revealing row upon row of teeth. They were swiftly turning into something of an attraction, and not in a good way.

Still, Randidly reflected, better here than other places. The Refuge definitely was a place where the most revered trait was strength, because rather than withdraw, people were drawing closer. Still giving the wurm a few meters of birth, but they clustered outside that zone, their eyes on Randidly and their group, glittering with calculations.

When they arrived at the stand, it seemed that everyone in the area was aware of them, and the stand owner was sweating as they spoke with him. The merchant, a teenage boy, really, who seemed to have an even worse time with his fears than Simon, quickly made excuses and closed down right in their faces.

Randidly sighed, eyeing the surrounding area. There were other places, but the raw materials here were definitely the best…

Then a short woman stepped forward, with a rather large belly for someone who lived in the System. “Y’all are pledged to the Rider, right? So that’s your mount…..?”

After a few seconds of silence, Randidly nodded slowly. The woman seemed very excited by this, and said, “Wonderful, wonderful!”

She ran up and began to knock on Neveah’s body, poking and prodding. Neveah giggled, excited at the attention, her tail lashing back and forth in excitement, sending people stumbling backwards, fearful of the huge gashes left in its wake. The ground was torn up like tissue paper.

Finally, the woman turned to the group again. “We’ve been wanting to run an impossible creatures event in the arena, where challengers try and complete tasks while a monster stops them, but none of the Riders we see have this much…. star power.”

Randidly would have face palmed if he thought this would help the situation.

“Star… power….?” Ten’Malla and Neveah said, almost at the same time.

The woman was nodding rapidly, “Yes, yes! Just look at the creature. It could-”

“She,” Randidly said reflexively.

“-She could rule the arena! All would fear her strength!” Now the woman was on a roll, her eyes were glowing. “I’d like to play around with different tasks, see how she-”

“Play?!” Neveah said excitedly, rocking slightly back and forth.

“Play!” Ten’Malla said, her grin impish. Randidly sighed. So this was just a glorified vacation for the Wild Rider…? Maybe she was just a kid….

Well, Randidly would do anything to end this sort of very public interaction, so he nodded. “If you want to go play with the woman, feel free. I’m just going to purchase some armor. But no killing, alright?”

Neveah nodded seriously, looking at Randidly. “No kill. Play.”

“Excellent.” The woman said, her smile wide, genuinely looking excited at the prospect of playing with this giant bone wurm which could crush her body to paste. The woman, Neveah, and Ten’Malla filed away, drawing the attention with them, which allowed Randidly to relax.

After a second, Thea followed them, saying. “...I can’t just let them go unsupervised…”

That left Randidly and Simon. Randidly glanced over at the boy, opening his mouth. If he didn’t say something now-

But Simon just walked forward, past Randidly, following the rest of the group. He didn’t even look up at him. Randidly’s mouth slowly closed.

If there was one thing that Randidly had learned from his father, it was that trying to force a problem out of people was counterproductive. Best to just wait, and let it come out on its own. Although it was a little strange, it really seemed like the fact he had lied about his name was a huge issue for Simon.

Whatever they had before, now, to Simon, it felt… invalidated. But that was a problem for another day. Randidly turned and began to walk through the crowd, heading for another stall.

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puddles4263

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