“Really?” Ace said, leaning back in his chair, looking between Randidly and Rose. “What’s the issue, did he like, make a mess on the way in?”
“I did bring a giant bone wurm into the city.” Randidly allowed, feeling the warm glow of alcohol in his body. It was a strange thing, allowing himself to get drunk. His absolutely monstrous regeneration was practically begging him to allow it to remove the impurities from his system. But there was a certain joy in the lack of control.
Ace looked shock. Putting his hands on his hips, he glowered at Rose. “This is all about a pet? You- Well wait, is it just shitting everywhere?”
Randidly shook his head, setting the world spinning around him. Instantly, his system began to demand more directly that he allow it to intervene, but he pressed that down. At least things like this weren’t too much of an issue now, with his higher control. “I don’t think she shits at all.”
“I should get a pet,” Ace reflected, looking at his reflection in his drink. “Something impressive. How big is your pet?”
Randidly tried to think of a good way to describe Neveah. To the side, he noticed that the Rose woman was opening her mouth, closing it, and now frowning furiously and studying him. It made Randidly somewhat uncomfortable.
But luckily Randidly was around Ace right now. Like always, that strange energy that Ace produced was still in the air, opening up things that were usually closed. Randidly leaned forward, regarding Rose closely. “Why do you keep looking at me like that? It’s fine, I’m really not causing trouble. Oh, she’s sorta like a… a really long roller coaster car.”
Nodding sagely, Ace rubbed his chin. “I think I’d want a dragon. Or at least a dinosaur. One of the benefits of the System is how cool things can be sometime… maybe with flaming wings?”
“And it breaths darkness.” Randidly added helpfully, following his statement with the rest of his drink.
Clearing her throat, Rose gave Randidly a sharp look. “The problem is not your pet, but rather your ability to defeat Brute within seconds. With so many skills that I cannot parse them apart. This is about power, Mr. Ghosthound-”
There, Rose paused. Her face became drawn and brittle. “...Ghosthound? As in the Ghosthound of Donnyton?”
Randidly scratched his neck. Ace leapt to his feet.
“WHAT! Ghosthound….. As in Randidly Ghosthound….?!?!” He began to rub his chin vigorously. “.....I can’t believe I never realized that dumb nickname was actually your name this whole time…”
Randidly rolled his eyes. Rose liked she was going to be sick. “...your best friend’s name was Ghosthound, legitimately, and you never even mentioned this…?”
“Guess I just never put it together,” Ace said with a smile. Then he punched Randidly’s arm. “But also, you only know him now that he’s got all suped up by the System. This guy used to be twig skinny. Like unhealthy shit.”
Randidly gave Ace an annoyed look, but said nothing. Better to not interfere at the moment, because from Rose’s expression, Ace’s dismissive comments of Randidly’s strength didn’t even register with her. It was actually the first time that Randidly had been so openly disrespected in a while. The Engraving Guild representative in Shal’s world had been similarly overbearing, but on Earth…
It both bothered him to be disrespected, and also bothered him how quickly he was bothered by it. In his heart, Randidly sorta hoped that he had reached a level of maturity where he could let that flavor of comments slide off of him. Although he was arguably the most powerful person on Earth right now, he abhorred the idea of letting that power corrupt him. But his reaction seemed to indicate that a small amount of arrogance had seeped into him…
Well, arrogance and self-confidence might appear similar… and Ace was being pretty disrespectful…
But that was just how they always joked, wasn’t it…?
Rose interrupted Randidly’s quickly darkening thoughts. “We have had meetings about the possibility of encountering “the Ghosthound” and his people for months. And yet… you literally never thought to mention that person might be your best friend? At your directive, we are training an assassin, as we speak, to kill him.”
“Are we…?” Ace seemed rather uninterested, instead gesturing the bartender for another drink. “I really don’t listen at those meetings. Oh, Randidly, careful, we might try and kill you.”
Randidly shrugged. Threats at the level of a newly Classed individual didn’t really scare him. Although that might be a bad habit to get into. It only took one unexpected skill to strike somewhere weak, and then he would lose everything.
Again, Randidly found himself oddly morose, looking at the table, feeling the influence of the alcohol on his System. He grimaced. It was… hard to reconcile the two lives that he had lead, sitting here at the table with Ace, listening to a woman berate Ace. In one, he was like a shadow, floating through life. Kind, and popular in a way, based on his listening, and friendship with Ace, but…
In this other life, he was the Ghosthound. He trained for 2 years against some of the worst criminals Shal’s world had to offer. And he was truly geared to be a mage, rather than a close combat user, with a Control stat that was approaching 300. He was one of the top young fighters in that world, and he returned to Earth, which was just developing.
And no one here could stay in dungeons long enough to catch up to him, due to Aether Sickness, although they would have to discover that piecemeal. There was no one here who could hold a candle to his raw stats. Which was why, Randidly thought, that the battle against Brute ended so quickly. Maybe if they were on the same level, the man could bring his skills to bear, whatever they were. But right now, they were in different worlds.
Shaking her head, Rose turned to Randidly. “Ah well, we will obviously call off the program. Anyways, it is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Ghosthound. I am Rose Calloway, and I handle most of the administrative matters here at the Refuge. I also spend the most time talking with Kirki, our Village Spirit, because Dauntless-”
Ace gave her a pained look. “-because having a flowery hippo is exactly opposite the sort of vibe we are going for here at the Refuge. We are talking darkness breathing dragons! Not flower hippos, it’s disgusting. And he refuses to change his form!”
Randidly coughed up part of his drink. “He?”
Spinning around, Ace pointed his finger at Randidly, mock aghast. “That’s not a very progressive thing to be shocked about, Randidly. You have magical fucking powers. And yet the flower hippos gender is what gives you pause?”
Randidly opened his mouth, then closed it. Best to not argue with Ace, while he was like this.
And like that he was, already beginning his next rant. “We have made great strides here in the Refuge, making everyone have a mean and imposing demeanor! Soon all of the north is going to fear those trained here, due to the disturbing rumors! And yet…. HOW CAN WE EXPECT TO BE TOUGH WITH A FLOWER HIPPO?!?”
“Are disturbing rumors really that important…?” Rose asked, joining them now at the table, but she had a small smile on her face. As Ace continued to rant, saying more and more ridiculous things, Randidly smiled too.
But the alcohol was gone from his System, wiped out with a thought. He could feel Rose’s attention on him constantly, even while she teased and prodded Ace onward with small comments, feeding into his momentum. She was sharp.
Randidly’s eyes narrowed. But of course, the people behind him were even more so. Even with a strange skill that she seemed to have to identify skills, she was far from being the opponent of someone like Mrs. Hamilton when it came to planning and awareness.
Well, Randidly didn’t know that for sure. But he did know that no matter what plans were laid in front of him, he would wipe it out of the way with pure power.
Randidly continued to listen to the talk, but didn’t say much. The headiness of seeing Ace was slowly ebbing, as more pressing concerns came back to the fore of his mind. The first was how to deal with the Champions making trouble in the North. Although perhaps Randidly was just a little bitter at Ten’Malla hoisting herself on him during this trip, and the answer was rather simple…
To move against the Skeleton Knight. Even Randidly felt some excitement at the thought of facing that foe. It might be at the level to be a real battle. After Drak, Randidly had basically been an invalid for several weeks, and then a rather crippled person for several weeks more, only able to rely on his physical stats. Which was a good way to blow off steam, but it wasn’t satisfying.
But the mood was too light right now, with Ace ranting, to bring that up. Instead, on the tip of Randidly’s tongue, sat another question: ‘What happened to Sydney?’
Yet Randidly couldn’t bring himself to ask it, at least not now. His instincts told him that if he did… something would change. Some of the light heartedness would fall away. Because Ace knew how close… or rather how connected Randidly and Sydney were. Yet he hadn’t spoken of it.
And Ace wasn’t afraid of talking about anything. Or he used to not be.
So for now, Randidly just watched, a small smile on his face. A time to relax like this was good, every once in awhile.