As the Ghosthound nodded slowly to the name, Dozer folded his hands together. “Why examine her?”
The Ghosthound glanced at the other man, then back over towards Delilah. “My… Blessings formed a connection with the four people I gave them to. That gives them… certain benefits. And it seems...the connection split off, so there is a further connection, from me to Delilah, moving through Annie.”
Randidly tapped his jaw. “I was just thinking… I wonder how the Aether is filtered, whether it holds more of Annie’s meaning, when it flows through her… Also… it’s not as large as the connection to Annie, although I’m not sure whether that is due to age, or…”
Trailing off, the Ghosthound just stared at Delilah, his brow furrowed. Dozer stood, taking both of the dishes over to the sink. Then he asked, over his shoulder. “Will she be strong?”
“...Yes, without a doubt,” Randidly said, chuckling. Then he stood and went to the door. As he passed the threshold, he said. “But I think that’s more a reflection of her parents, than anything else. I’ll have to make a gift for her.”
“Oh! Don’t tell anyone the name.” Annie called after him into the darkness. “It’s only been a few weeks… the naming ceremony is going to be Saturday, once she looks presentable. Bring your gift then.”
Randidly couldn’t help but feel disappointed when he knocked on the door to Mrs. Hamilton’s house, in the dead of night, and she opened it almost instantly. There were two cups of tea on the table, so she had known he was coming. Taking a sip, he winced; it was still warm.
How the fuck did she know that…?
But then Glendel walked out of the sideroom, holding a case of notebooks, spirits swirling around him, and several things clicked into place. At least Randidly didn’t need to worry that he was losing his edge, but still… Mrs. Hamilton was just too competent at her job.
Randidly had been away from the town for a while, but he was sure that in the interim, she had only become more vital to the successful running of the town. Honestly, more so than him, taking out Mrs. Hamilton would cripple Donnyton, in a way that just left Randidly awed. His strength had grown by leaps and bounds, but there really were problems that individual strength couldn’t solve.
Still, with enough strength drawing others to handle those things became much easier…
Glendel looked much the same as he had in the past, although the aura of spiritual energy was much more dense. And his eyes were strangely flickering, shifting colors and directions, as though each second a new soul was using the body to look out, onto the world. It was… a strangely fascinating thing to watch.
“Let me guess…” Mrs. Hamilton said, sipping her tea. I am… the third stop you’ve made today? After Lyra and… somewhere to relieve stress, a fight. Alana or Donny?”
She was wrong, of course, but Randidly had a strange sensation that she had done that on purpose, knowing how impossible it would be to predict something like that, so he would be more at ease around her. It reminded him of the Creature in some ways, but he did his best to remind himself that this individual was on his side.
“....fourth, actually. Alana and Tykes, but then I went over to see Annie and Dozer…” Randidly trailed off, unsure of what to say, and careful of Annie’s warning not to reveal the name. It was a small thing, but the casual way that she had said it to him, although no one else knew it, but it weighed heavily on his heart.
“Ah… due to the child…? Did the effect of the Blessing persist?” Mrs. Hamilton asked, taking a small book from Glendel’s stack and flipping to a certain page. She immediately began making small notations. After a few seconds of this, she gave him a glance, prodding him forward.
Randidly nodded slowly. “...it’s changed, too. But I can’t yet tell how. Aether… behaves strangely.”
“I’ve some thoughts on that, after watching the four of us you Blessed for these 6 months,” Mrs. Hamilton said, closing her notebook and grabbing another. She offered it to Randidly. “It’s not much, but hopefully it can combine with the information that you already have to make the picture that much clearer. After all, Aether really appears to be… the source, the core of all of this, this System. It’s fascinating, in a way. Its an energy source, and its a building material. But on the other hand…”
Mrs Hamilton took another sip of her tea. “It’s beyond the reach of most of us.”
Silence descended on the table. Randidly knew his ability to sense and manipulate Aether was unusual, and Lyra certainly had cheated her way to getting there, but it was hard to hear the well disguised, but still obvious, yearning in Mrs. Hamilton’s voice. It was a sobering thing, and brought her back down firmly on the ground as human.
Randidly twisted his mouth wryly. After everyone treated him like this, he should know better than to be in awe of another. With enough hard work, anything was possible. Even running a town like Donnyton.
Randidly glanced to the side, looking at Glendel. The man simply sat, his eyes open, his gaze changing rapidly, shifting. Randidly turned back to Mrs. Hamilton, who cleared her throat.
“I… must admit I have a question, and I suspect the answer, but… I’d like to hear it from you.” Her gaze was heavy, and her voice was now low and sad. “Lyra… is not herself. I fear… We found her today, but she won’t speak...”
She didn’t continue. She didn’t have to.
“For now… I believe that Lyra should be back to herself. I suspect…” Randidly hesitated. How much truth…? But then he looked at the hard edge to Mrs. Hamilton’s gaze. Perhaps as much as possible so she is prepared. She was the one who knew best the state of the town, and could take certain measures, if the worst were to happen. “A renegade element, a Creature from outside the System, has for a long time endeavoured to manipulate me, using my… variance from the norm as a tool to its own ends. Apparently to hide from the purview of the System. That Creature has captured Lyra, and has been posing as her for these last several months.”
Mrs Hamilton closed her eyes and released a long breath. After a moment of hesitation, Randidly continued, “However, the Creature has currently taken the two Champion’s Regalia and run into the Raid Dungeon. To what end, I’m not sure. In the meantime, I came back and freed Lyra, and she used that to… tell me some information about things I haven’t quite figured out. I would appreciate your insight on these things.”
Humming, Mrs. Hamilton nodded her head. She stood, and walked to a cupboard, opening it, and removing, of all things, a gun. She twisted and pointed it at him. Randidly blinked.
“Hold out your hand,” She commanded. “I’m going to shoot you.”
Randidly almost laughed, but held it in at the last moment, noticing the seriousness in her gaze. Was she really going to just shoot him…? Was there a point…? Randidly held out his hand to the side.
The bang of the gunshot was surprisingly loud in the small house, causing him to wince. Then the world exploded.
Coughing, Randidly staggered back, feeling abruptly wan and drained, but otherwise unharmed. As the bullet had hit him, he had saw how a strange, pale white flame started at the impact point and rushed over his whole body, leaving him feeling… extremely strange…
Randidly staggered, falling to his knees. Then he grimaced, realizing the issue; most of the Aether in his extremities had gone, burned away. An annoyed roar came from his chest, as Neveah noticed the predicament, and Aether gushed out of the Crossroads and surrounded him once more. Then he drew it closer to his skin, keeping it so there wasn’t as much leaking out.
Being hit like that by an enemy… would be catastrophic. He would need to practice controlling his Aether to deal with it.
“We call it Talumurite. Well, the geologists who discovered it do. Most people just call it cocaine glass, or if they are talking about using it, they say they are going to get, randid. Cute, right?” Mrs. Hamilton said, returning to the cupboard and producing a small, white grey crystal.
“I don’t know if you’ve seen the notifications, but a rare mine spawned in our Zone, as a “reward” for reaching the Champion portion of the System. We found it near the Skeleton Knight’s headquarters, on our side, which is why we fought so hard for it. Alana has spent the last month securing it and the surrounding location. One of the things we found inside of it was Talumurite.
“With most people,” She continued. “Talumurite acts as a catalyst to vastly increase their Stats and the strength of their Skills. The cost is a bit of time bedridden afterwards. Based on what we have seen… it makes them burn their Aether hotter, as it were. But that is due to whatever impurities the System’s Aether provides, it controls the chain reaction, somehow. However… I first noticed it when Alana would injure herself when she tried it. Her Aether… it simply burned too fast. Left her weak. And I wondered, if it worked on her Aether, could it work on your Aether…. Or something higher up in the System…”
Mrs. Hamilton returned to the table, sitting down, and gesturing at Glendel. Without a word, he fetched another cup of tea for her, which she delicately sipped.
“That was my working theory,” Mrs. Hamilton said frankly. “That some sort of inspector from the System had come down and taken control of Lyra, using her body to view us, spy on us. It being a totally foreign entity that is doing it is… troublesome… but it clears up some other problems.”
She offered Randidly, who was shaking slightly, staring at the crystal in awe, a small smile. “If it worked on you… might it do the same on her?”