“Your mother is a cunt.” The flame skull spat out at them, rolling on the ground.
“Cunt! Cunt!” Neveah said happily, rolling around Randidly, who stood over the skull, which very quickly caused the skull to stop its rolling. One accidental roll and it would be crushed beneath the huge bone wurm.
Sure, he was a skull right now, but he was animated by an unholy fire that could reform his body, should he have access to enough unclaimed bones. If that fire was extinguished, however…
Sighing, Randidly gestured for Neveah to back off. Although Neveah’s accidental jostling wouldn’t hurt him, he didn’t want the skull to be accidentally smashed. Well, perhaps it would be better to just purposefully smash the thing, because it refused to give him any useful information regarding the Skeleton Knight, Jemma’s location, or whose forces the other group belonged to.
Because aside from the flaming head, Randidly had also subdued a squad of 10 humans, and a captain, as well as the strange, transforming kid, and a weird skeleton that, based on his use of Aether manipulation, was not a monster, but a human with a Class. Of those, the squad seemed scared witless, watching Neveah roll around with wide eyes, the captain appeared surly, and the monster kid was still knocked out.
That had been Neveah’s doing, and it had not been gentle. Honestly, she had just been excited to play. Since finding herself in a new body, she hadn’t really been able to rough house with a creature her size. She simply bulldozed everything out of the way. So she had been very enthusiastic about the prospect of this strange monster that grew to her level of size, even if it had been dwarfed by her in terms of power.
And the callous dominance she had displayed had etched itself in the squad’s hearts for sure. They couldn’t stop trembling. Even Simon and Thea kept their distance, standing with their mounts and Ten’Malla.
So, driven by a need for information and curiosity, Randidly went to the Skeleton Man. Immediately, the man pushed up his glasses, which Randidly wasn’t even sure if they did anything. Plus, the gesture was extra awkward, as his wrists were tied. Of them all, Randidly was most wary of this skeleton, because he remembered being affected, even through his high Resistance and Vitality, by the other’s curses.
“My apologies for not recognizing you in our earlier meeting, Mr. Ghosthound. It’s a pleasure.”
Randidly was also quite surprised by how normal the skeleton’s voice sounded, although he supposed it was possible that the System translating software covered infernal bone speak, as well. “A pleasure?”
“Of course.” The skeleton said, sounding very much like a socially unaware nerd. It was almost like listening to himself speak from a few years ago. “Although in this current theatre of war we stand opposed, however… you have done more for humans in our Zone than any other individual, bar none. For that alone, it would be strange not to thank you.”
Randidly blinked, then laughed. It had been a long time since he had been taken by surprise by someone. And this was certainly a surprising reaction to him, one that made him loosen up his guard, almost in spite of himself.
But if this skeleton man was speaking the truth, Randidly supposed it made sense. He extended a hand towards the man and with a deft movement of his fingers, cut the cords binding the skeleton’s hands. True, he was the most dangerous of the captives, but that didn’t mean that danger was all that real or present.
“Call me Randidly,“ He said, extending his hand. The skeleton shook the hand.
“Coppernicus.” He said, with very precise inflection. “I appreciate you untying me, but really, this body feels no pain. It was not a bother. And if it makes your men feel more comfortable.”
Randidly waved a hand, but his smile slowly faded, and he examined Coppernicus more closely, his senses scanning along the Aether constructions through him. Something… was definitely off about this guy, but Randidly didn’t have a delicate enough touch to tell exactly what was occuring. People and their Classes were still a little bit outside of his pay grade.
To make conversation, and also to tease the other somewhat, Randidly asked. “...are we not opposed at this point? I plan on killing the Skeleton Knight, at this point. You pledged to him. Won’t that mean…?”
Randidly didn’t know how to finish the question, but Coppernicus shook his head.
“As I’ve been led to understand, there aren’t necessarily any downsides to pledging. While that Champion is alive, you can gain increased Skill proficiency and experience. Should they win, those gains increase, and become more permanent. If you lose, you lose access to the possibility of that bonus. Of course, you also might be hunted down and slaughtered as an insurrectionist, but that is left to the discretion of the Champion…”
Randidly snorted. “Then honestly, the Skeleton Knight sounds like the more attractive option to pledge to; the Wild Rider doesn’t have the dedicated attention to hunt down and punish everyone who pledged to the other side. Your Skeleton Knight, on the other hand… he certainly seems like the type to hold a grudge.”
Bobbing his head, Coppernicus said, “Yes, he really would. I believe that went into Sydney’s decision for our East End Village to side with him in this fight. It has certainly made… human relations difficult but- is something wrong?”
Randidly just looked at the skeleton man, trying his best to keep his breathing even. “...Sydney. Your village… is led by… Sydney…. Does she… have any connection to Ace, from-”
The skeleton seemed to wince. “Well… yes, you could say there was a relationship there at some point. I believe they were involved before the arrival of the System. But now their relationships has… soured somewhat…”
Randidly’s mouth firmed into a line. So it was Sydney then. Although he wasn’t sure what had transpired between Ace and Sydney, whatever it was probably explained Ace’s… extreme behaviors. So then, that was another thing that Randidly would need to do, visit Sydney. But one fire at a time… first he needed to pursue Jemma.
Turning to the Skeleton Man, Randidly opened his mouth, then paused, somewhat puzzled. What did it say about Randidly that he had spent a few months with Simon and Thea, barely talking, and now he had encountered this strange, reanimated man, and he basically had no compunctions with speaking? In fact, this might be one of the more relaxed and easy conversations he had had. Aside from Ace, it was probably the easiest, and Ace had the benefit of a rapport.
Was it the lack of humanity in the others eyes? Was it the sorta detached pragmatism? Either way, something to think about… Well, another problem for the pile. Although he had somewhat settled into his reserved and anti-social persona, it was slowly shifting. That was enough for now.
“Do you know where the Skeleton Knight is?” Randidly asked slowly, knowing that this might destroy any trust that the two of them had. Still, he owed a debt to that girl, and he would protect her.
However, Coppernicus didn’t seem bothered by the question at all. He thought for a moment, and then said. “All I know is that the Skeleton Knight will only ride towards the capture of the Wild Rider, once she is located. Normally he remains in his castle, but now-”
“He’s heading directly in this direction, to intercept…” Randidly muttered, his eyes flashing. “Thank you. After we depart, you and your men are free to go. Ah, we will be taking the skull with us.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Randidly continued. “You have no… worries that your condition is related to the Skeleton Knight, and if he falls-”
“Oh no, I was like this since the System came.” Coppernicus said dismissively. “I’m not exactly sure, but I believe that I was on the threshold of life and death at the exact moment the System arrived. Just like it cured most illnesses, it appears to have… cured me of death. It is… perhaps a lonely existence, and a strange one. But as more people grow used to the System… I don’t get quite as much of the strange looks as before.”
They shook hands one last time, and then Randidly left, getting Simon to scout ahead with Astral form, while Thea and Chrysanthemum clung awkwardly to Neveah’s back.
That settled it, she definitely had gotten a little bigger, because the bear on her back was still quite oversized, but it no longer looked as ridiculous. The flaming skeleton head that continued to berate them went to the Wild Rider, who volunteered for that pleasure with her usual cheer. That was slightly suspicious, but upon entering her hands, the skeleton creature immediately went quiet, so Randidly was willing to overlook it.
Still, he kept an eye on her. After all, she appeared to be taking the loss of her Regalia in stride. It seemed the Lucretia had been honest about that at least. She had another game here, only Randidly was having a hard time seeing what it was right now.
And honestly, it was hard to care. If she stood against him, he would crush her, like he would everything else.
Simon arrived back in his body, sitting up abruptly. “David- err Randidly. Trouble! There is an army ahead.”
Randidly showed his teeth. “Neveah, looks like we will give you another good meal. I hope you are hungry-”
“No, no, no,” Simon said, shaking his head, his eyes wide. “It’s a human army. I think… I think it’s the Squads of Donnyton.”