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A note from puddles4263

12/14

Mrs. Hamilton’s gaze was locked on Randidly’s still form. With all this, would Randidly still seek to defend humanity...? Would he have the heart to resist throwing himself to his quest to resist the influence of the System...?

Mrs. Hamilton didn't think he wanted to rid the world of the System completely, but it was clear from his unwillingness to adopt a Class that it didn't sit well with him. It was more than just a youthful rejection of authority, too. There was... a knowledge there, Mrs. Hamilton could sense. There was a deep worry. What was it about the System that infuriated him so...?

The light began to build, and this time, it wasn't just light, but a scorching heat. Doing her best to suppress a gasp, Mrs. Hamilton stood and stumbled backwards, away from the source of the heat. Even so, her skin was red and dry, even as she felt her own improved Vitality move to cope with the damage. Her frown deepened as the light departed, leaving a rune that now appeared to burn visibly, not with actual flames, but with heat waves around the sigil. It inexorably floated upwards, sinking into Randidly’s skin, morphing it, making part of its aura a sense of dry devastation.

Displaying a surprising amount of insight, Lyra patted Mrs. Hamilton’s shoulder. With a complete dearth of tact, she then said, "I think it's one of those times where the more they go against us, the more they emphasize us. Don't give up on our path so easily."

Mrs. Hamilton wondered if she possessed the ability to kill this foolish girl. Her Soul Poison Skill that she obtained at level 30 might be worth a shot, regardless of the fact that she was almost completely composed of the System's laws. At least then, one of the last elements that were within her purview that completely ignored her control would be gone.

Well, perhaps that was part of the fun, Mrs. Hamilton reflected. Without Lyra... it was like everything she was doing was too predictable. Lyra and Randidly. They shared that habit of acting in a way that left her almost infuriated, but mostly amused.

Mrs. Hamilton patted her shoulder back. For all she wanted to murder the girl, she did have a certain annoying physical beauty. And people like pretty things.

"If that's everyone..." Octavius seemed still to be worried, and glanced around. No one else stepped forward out of the darkness, no more forces acted. "Then..."

He produced a hammer, and then a small table, and swung it down, as a judge would hit with a gavel.

Mrs. Hamilton blinked. Because right before the hammer hit the table, the hammer stopped.

"Not so fast."

Lyra spoke, but it wasn't Lyra's voice. It was something older, something darker, something much more dangerous. So this... was the Creature.

"A pleasure," Mrs. Hamilton found herself saying. "You are... the one they call the Creature? May I inquire after your name?"

"Yestyx. How quaint." When Mrs. Hamilton spoke, the Creature and was looking at her, smiling something like a cancerous organ would grin at you. "No one has asked me that in a very long time. For that, I'll give you a gift."

Lyra's hand reached out and touched Mrs. Hamilton, and as she struggled to back away from the younger woman, she found herself frozen. When those fingers touched her, Mrs. Hamilton thought she would freeze to death, as something colossal and lonely brushed its soul up against her.

Then she pulled her hand away, and Mrs. Hamilton fell back gasping. The feeling quickly departed, and she was left wondering if anything at all had happened.

"I'll also let you see this. Although you should know, telling that poor boy that I do this will only confuse him. Better leave me as the easy enemy. It will make... the next part simpler."

Lyra's body walked forward, filled with Yestyx, the Creature, until she could reach out and touch Randidly. Which she did, stroking his cheek.

"My hero..." Yestyx whispered, her smile wicked. "I'm trapped in this Dungeon. Come save me from the dragon~. I name you... Poison for the Fickle Aether."

Something in reality cracked, and Mrs. Hamilton felt herself sliced in half, and then die.

Then something corrected itself, and she was back whole. She vomited, spilling the stew she had eaten for dinner over the grey ivory ground, not caring at all how graceful she seemed. Yestyx laughed.

The rune was not a rune, but it was an absence of anything, shaped as a rune. It was several slashes in the fabric of the world, quivering and dark. And for this, light did not come, but simply a deep, blanketing darkness. As the darkness grew and grew, it muffled light, then noise, then thought.

Then it was gone, and Mrs. Hamilton was shaken by the fact she had no idea how long that had taken.

What was left was a small, wizened rune, barely the size of a fingernail, but it burned with pure hatred. It squirmed and seemed to emit a keening wail, full of absolute disgust. It was an emotion that would not negotiate, would not show mercy, would not compromise.

It sunk into the Class without a trace.

The hammer banged on the table. Then Octavius spoke, still with his eyes on the ashy remains of the treant, not even noticing Lyra's abrupt appearance next to Randidly's side. "Then that ends this Transcendence. Perhaps the most effective one I've ever seen... but then I've only seen four. Now, since this is such an extreme situation... I suppose I will need to submit a report."

When Lyra opened her mouth, Mrs. Hamilton's hand, shaking though it was, clamped down on her shoulder. This was her turf, not this hasty girl's.

"Ah, Transcendence is against the System's rules?" Mrs. Hamilton asked innocently.

At the mention of rules, Octavius' ears visibly perked up. "Hmm hmm, a very interesting question. What was your name again? I would say that it isn't against the System's rules, because at its core, the System forbids nothing. Anyone may take the path of the Heretic, for example. Only, there are consequences for all actions that subvert the will of the System-"

"How intriguing and well designed. Individuals such as yourself undoubtedly are a necessary part, keeping the System running."

"Haha! Well..." The rhino man seemed to blush, and gave her a look that Mrs. Hamilton had received many times from human men. She almost wanted to roll her eyes. It was the look a man gave her when they moved her from an unknown entity, to something that wasn't attractive enough to be lusted after, but wasn't yet old enough to have her brain dissolve into mush. A capable assexual being. Easy to work with, uncomplicated, and she could feel him shift her.

The grey spider in her mind rubbed his forelegs together in glee.

"Perhaps so, administration of the System is not something that is simple... it's more of a monitoring. Seeking patterns. Finding problems and making sure the System recognizes them as an issue."

"Ah, so you've known this was coming for a long time?" Mrs. Hamilton asked quizzically. Lyra was silent in very strange way, her gaze focused on Mrs. Hamilton's face.

So she can imitate me later, practicing in the mirror, Mrs. Hamilton thought with a certain bitterness. And Mrs. Hamilton had no doubt that she would be great at it.

"Of course! Your... Earth, has been peculiar in a number of ways," Octavius said, coughing into his hand, then pounding his chest. "The exploits of your people have surpassed expectations by magnitudes. My regular reports detail the dangers of humans in an incredible amount of accuracy! I had just this sort of situation in mind-"

Gotcha, Mrs. Hamilton thought, her mouth staying perfectly still. "So... this Transcendence... it necessitates an... emergency report?"

"Well no," Octavius said with a sigh, shaking his head. "There is only one time that a true direct report is given: when the first world in the Cohort triggers the Calamity, I will give a debriefing on everything. Until then, the regular reports are how I record my research..."

He trailed off, seemingly struggling with something. Which made Mrs. Hamilton narrow her eyes. Was he truly...

But then he spoke, and she once more felt at ease. "I suppose... this doesn't constitute something that is outside the normal operations of the System... Still... I'm somewhat worried..."

There was a greedy gleam in Octavius’ eye. Mrs. Hamilton smiled. Making a deal with a fool was unpredictable. Making a deal with a monstrous intelligent rhinoceros that had weaseled himself into controlling a whole Cohort of the System...

"Tell me what you are worried about," Mrs. Hamilton cooed. Lyra watched, her eyes unblinking.

The ash treant did cartwheels, delighting in his body.

****

"You feel that?" Donny looked towards the horizon. Lucifer stood next to him, gazing in the same direction as him, towards the Northeast.

"Yea..." The other man didn't speak much, Donny had learned very quickly, but was most comfortable brooding, and meticulously inspecting his equipment. Donny was disappointed that all of that careful maintenance hadn't had anything to do with the cloak he allegedly received from slaying the first Tier III Raid Boss, but it was something that Donny could afford to wait on.

If the difficulty of the Raid Dungeon was to be believed, they would need every tool in their arsenal to handle it. At least based on the seriousness that the Ghosthound was treating it...

"He.... finally got a Class..." Lucifer said, squinting towards the swirling clouds, visible even miles away.

"Yea..." Donny said, not knowing what else to say. That was their leader. The hope of humanity.

The Ghosthound.

Donny wondered what sort of Class he ended up with. He wondered what sort of level up gains he would receive from it.

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