Thea’s hearing slowly faded out after Alana made her announcement, and began to split up the remaining people into groups for war games, giant team battles to simulate some of the actual challenges that the Squads of Donnyton would face.
Bear girl… that couldn’t be anyone but her, right…?
Tykes, who was apparently the man she had been facing, grunted and gave Thea a dirty look before walking away, the huge metal ball slung above his shoulder like it was nothing. He didn’t seem phased at all by the fact he had been smashed in the face with Thea’s hammer. It made her wonder who the hell was strong enough to leave him so bruised and battered.
Now that the heat of Chrysanthemum was out of her System, Thea felt a certain amount of confusion over the man’s actions. Based on the high level of his Stats, he must have some Skills, or special moves that he could use, aside from simply throwing the iron ball around. Yet he hadn’t used them.
Perhaps he was afraid of injuring her…?
Either way, it was a win for her, and it filled Thea with a small seed of happiness. Things like this weren’t easy, so it was best to savor them while she could.
It turned out Alice was the woman from Squad IX that had beaten her so brutally previously, and she came over and gave Thea several quiet tips about her form. Watch how far forward the step she made when she attacked was. Develop a natural way to flow into another attack if the first misses. Don’t let the opponent always control the distance between them.
Finally, after the war game was in full swing, Alana returned, looking at Thea with undisguised interest. The woman was of average height, and was beautiful, in a way that a desert was beautiful. Harsh and unrelenting, and truly itself. There was also that constant light, that made it quite difficult to look directly at her.
“I was afraid you would break, quite honestly.” Alana finally said, giving Thea a sharp smile. “You faced 20 of our best fighters today, aside from Tykes, that petulant child… I wanted to know your level of strength, without your mount. But I also wanted to see how strong your spirit is. Color me impressed. With you there, I doubt Star Crossing will have any need to worry about monsters.”
Blushing, Thea nodded and looked at the ground; Alana laughed.
“Well anyways, time for me to work off some steam from last night… you four against me. Take some time to talk about strategy if you must, but be ready for me to grind you into the ground. Also… I want you to be thinking about something while you are fighting: what is the most powerful Skill?”
Randidly didn’t even blink when one of Simon’s strange bird constructs settled on his shoulder, as he walked towards the edge of the Village. He had figured that Simon would use his power to visit them, and it was slightly reassuring to know he was here.
Not that Simon could really assist in any battles that would happen, or that he would be extremely effective in such battles, but the reassurance that everything was fine between them felt good. Although they had spent only a few months together, a lot of that time was when Randidly was at his weakest point, and needed someone to rely on. He wouldn’t forget that kindness.
Randidly walked up the hill towards the overlook of the town, feeling the sun on his back. It was a good feeling to be here, and be back. Especially after spending several hours pouring over those reports from Mrs. Hamilton…
A mental inquiry to Neveah indicated that she was off playing with some of the Squads of Donnyton, happily chasing down and devouring a Raid Boss. Shaking his head, Randidly sent the information he had gained from Mrs. Hamilton in their talk, regarding the Bone Wurm population. Once they were settled, they could begin to produce the Marrow Silk for Donnyton, which would put textiles back on the map as an industry. Plus, the materials should be invaluable for armor, it was just that Randidly really hadn’t paid much attention to what it could do…
After he reached the outlook, he took in a deep breath, and then paused. There was someone else on the outlook. Randidly turned and looked at the other figure, who was masked. And yet, just from the warm feeling he had at looking towards her figure, he instantly knew who it was.
“Raina.” Randidly said simply, remembering the strange and fearful power that this woman had with her singing, and with her gaze. Even now, cloaked and masked, he still couldn’t shake the strange positive disposition he had towards her.
Still, that wasn’t her fault, and based on her state of dress, the woman did her best in order to restrain the effect that she had on the people around her. What was fascinating about it was that as he said her name, he could literally see the change in her aura. The air around her warped and shifted with her emotions. Not in a way that would affect him, but that would make all of her reactions clear. There was a flash of joy, then hesitation and uncertainty, and finally settling on a strangled resignation.
Randidly did his best not to grimace. That was just another burden that she had to carry, an unfortunate side effect of her Skills. But it was something that Randidly understood, from his use of Anguish. He knew, implicitly, that as the Level of the Skill increased, some of it began to… shine through. If he let it become one of his primary Skills, it would create a constant aura around him.
In the same way, something like the Breath of the Spear Phantom, if it became his ultimate move, would create a sense of suffocation in everyone around him. Randidly also believed that this effect would be magnified by a high level in Battle Intent, which made it easier for him to warp the world around him.
For now, as most of his levels were in things like Spear Mastery and Spear Phantom’s Embrace, Randidly knew that there was a strangely distant and sharp feel to himself.
Now, facing this girl, and after writing those letters, the reasoning for why most people were treating him this way came into focus. There was an air about him now, something that he had never experienced, but… it would only continue to grow. Well, perhaps not. It seemed to be affected by the difference in average Level, so as long as the gap between their Skill Levels didn’t grow…
“...Randidly. I’d heard the rumors, but… welcome back.” Raina said softly, her voice sweet.
It was just another expression of that flood of powerful emotions. It made Randidly think that perhaps Raina wasn’t the siren that she was always assumed to be. She was just excellent at projecting her emotions, and humans were inherently weak to emotions. Thoughts for another time, however.
Simon’s small bird floated forward, towards Raina. For her part, she narrowed her eyes at the small, clearly fake bird, but said nothing as it floated over and settled next to her, regarding her curiously.
Randidly slowly followed. “Thank you. I have something of a weird question… but I wanted an opinion of someone who didn’t really… run things here. How is… Donnyton? Is everything alright?”
Honestly, Randidly wasn’t sure what he should talk about, so he settled back to the business he had spent all this morning researching. Besides, Mrs. Hamilton was efficient and thorough, but… Randidly trusted less sophisticated opinions as the true barometer of the health of a location. Or at least he had before the System came.
Settling next to Raina on the rock as she seemed to consider, Randidly looked at the paper in her hands, seeing an extremely detailed drawing of the valley below, showing Donnyton’s sprawling expansion below them.
The valley that Donnyton was situated in ran from the Northwest to the Southeast, with the hill range where they were sitting to the South, giving them a pretty decent view of the way the Village had developed. Although the Southern side of the valley was relatively impassible, the Northern side was just small, rolling hills.
Starting from the Southeastern corner, along the valley there was first the guardhouse and tower at the mouth of the valley, and then the ale houses and wineries. After that, the valley transitioned into mostly farmland, which extended to the Northl in a haphazard way, as different farmers struck out from the main track of farmland in the valley, taking over some of the Northern hills. Kiersty and her Arbor cult were a part of those little expansions.
Luckily, it seemed they had upgraded Donnyton’s area of safety that prevented monster spawns, or else those expansions would need to be more diligently guarded. After that, the valley transferred to the original location of their base, that small cabin and farm that Randidly lived in. Beyond that there were now huge training and muster areas, along with the beginnings of a relatively upper class housing expansion, with glittering walls and well painted fences in ridiculous styles.
The next big feature was the plateau where they had built up the encampment of Donnyton, and actually founded the Village. These walls had been torn down and expanded and upgraded, so now there was stone reinforced with wood and metal around the main part of the Village, with huge towers at every corner with ballistas.
Which was something of an overkill, because it had been a long, long time, based upon what Randidly had heard, since anything really had attacked the base. But it was a forward thinking strategy, and Randidly appreciated it. This was not the end of the wrenches that the System wanted to throw in the works