When Randidly arrived finally at his cabin, there were three "people" waiting for him. The first was Neveah, who was snoring quietly in the corner. The other two were his two new Soul Seed Investments after the previous two turned out so well.
The first was Acri, which was his spear. In its normal form, it was like a stick bug, with long wooden limbs. When Randidly arrived, it crawled happily towards him. When Randidly called, Acri would straighten his body completely out, connect its two antennae, and then spray a strange sticky substance between the antenna. This substance hardened quickly and transformed into an almost impossibly sharp spearhead. Acri was formed with Spear Mastery, Phantom's Embrace, Sharpness, Combat Proficiency, and Cruel Indignation of Yggdrasil.
Meanwhile, Sulfur oozed towards Randidly, coo-ing happily. While Acri was a stick bug, Sulfur was more... confusing. The living part of sulfur was in its middle, a red flesh that burned with an unnatural heat. However, one of the great benefits of Sulfur was that its body constantly produced carbon discharge, that Sulfur could focus and manipulate somewhat, forming plates of carbon. Once the ooze part of Sulfur was wrapped around Randidly, he would produce carbon plates to form a light armor. Although it couldn't be done instantly, the formation of the plates was relatively quick, allowing for on the fly armor changes and recovery.
Sulfur had been created with Iron Skin, Pain Resistance, Child of Flame, Fire Resistance, and Yyrwood Flesh of Yggdrasil.
They also had the benefit of solving another of Randidly's problems, at least Acri did. The sharp little stick bug fed on experience. Although some minor bit flowed through to Randidly when he killed a monster, most of it was gobbled up by this glutton, effectively slowing his level growth to a standstill. That, combined with the increasing costs for Randidly to Level, meant that he had no worries about reaching Level 25 in the near future.
Sulfur, meanwhile, absorbed kinetic force. When those carbon placed were smashed inwards by an attack, it squeezed Sulfur’s true body in an extremely strange way. Very slowly, his body would expand, somehow eating the pressure that had compressed it earlier. In this way, Sulfur would much prefer that Randidly engaged in a head to head boxing match than his usual Phantom’s Embrace, so it could grow more quickly.
There was a powerful rivalry between the two Soul Seeds. They both had to admit inferiority in front of Thorn, but towards the other, there wasn’t an ounce of respect.
It was a close thing, this decision to remain at Level 24 for the foreseeable future. Close because aside from the normal gains he would receive from Leveling, he would also have access to powerful Skills that would likely aid him in his conflict with the Creature. More power would give him an edge, and Randidly suspected he needed it. The Tellumurite had been used once against it to great effect, burning through the Aether that constituted its avatar in a split second. But that strategy wouldn't be usable against the main body, and also the other Avatars would be ready for it. He would be forced to find other ways to fight against it in order to win.
In that regards, Lucretia reassured him that with the assistance of Neveah, their ability to utilize Aether was increasing to the level that even if they weren't the Creature's equal, they could hold their own for long enough for him to act.
Well, in theory, anyway. The plus side of that was that due to their SoulBond, Neveah wouldn't need to be near him in order to assist. Which allowed them to act independently...
Randidly's eyes flashed, and an amusing idea entered into his mind. With bright eyes, he looked at Neveah.
Randidly had been worried about how to approach the issue of heading into Zone 1. He wasn't sure how much information the robot was able to record, but didn't want to take the risk that the Creature saw him coming. His option then was to hide, but that would put him in the difficult position of having to choose between his stealth and the information that he was so desperately seeking.
Ghost waited as the report from Ezekiel loaded up, and as he expected, he was disappointed by the content.
Ezekiel stoically reported that for some reason, Katie had malfunctioned, and in the aftermath, it became clear to Hank that she was planted by Ghost. A pity, that, but not something that would truly endanger the effort. Hank had a powerful distaste for Ghost and his games, but if he knew Hank well, and he certainly did based on the amount he watched the man, he would be more annoyed that he hadn’t noticed.
Such was the prerogative of prideful men, Ghost supposed.
Meanwhile, Ghost wanted to know about his enemies and use data to formulate a reaction. Which is why Ghost’s attention was fixed on the younger Ghosthound. It was blurry, but the final image that the cyborg sent to him was of the young man. It was about to initiate a scan on him when it went offline. A coincidence? Or…
The father had an extremely unique Class, the only named Class that Ghost had seen. Its ability to steal a high-Level Skill had a lot of interesting applications, and it had led to any criminals that were troublesome enough to necessitate execution be slain by Ezekiel. He hid his strength well, but Ghost was confident that the diversity and power of the Skills he possessed made him a threat to anyone in the borderlands. Plus, he was loyal to Ghost.
Would his son change that?
From Ghost’s investigations, Ezekiel was a divorced father and one that did not spend much time in his son’s life. But there was something about family that made human’s extremely queer, and it was worth watching out for.
Even though Ghost had no observable proof yet that the Ghosthound boy was a threat, there was the matter of his Elixirs. With the information given by Ezekiel, Ghost had run some very vague simulations in regards to the Elixirs. He was not able to determine how they were created of course but based on his information he could guess at the recipe. In addition to the heart of a powerful monster, there needed to be a powerful reagent included, as well as human blood to aid the transition. To create such a powerful potion in such a small form was a testament to the young Ghosthound’s Skill.
Perhaps some people would be disgusted by the thought of human blood in potions, but it was a fascinating idea to Ghost. He made a note to perform some experiments in the future. The only problem…
Ghost grimaced, looking at the projection of his hands. It was the same problem he always encountered, he needed an agent to perform them, to learn the Skills related to the experiments... Ghost could do the same remotely with robots, but he would earn no Skill Levels for doing it remotely. And due to the nature of his true body…
He looked down at the six inert bodies lying beneath the room, frowning. It was a great accomplishment that Dr. Karman had made, but he hadn’t truly understood the System; none of them had. Sure, it recognized him as a being that could gain Levels and Classes, but…
That was only in a 10-meter radius around his body.
Which was the whole reason that the drone initiative was necessary. Ghost could create and design drones, but as his designing was largely theoretical, the Skill growth was slow. His physical body couldn’t move, so he couldn’t actually work with the materials. Very soon, his ability plateaued. His plans for a drone army owned and made solely by him were put to rest.
Perhaps this was best, Ghost reflected. It was very common in American history that certain powers be divided, out of fear of a dictator. Although it was likely inadvertent, this kept Ghost from gaining enough power to make the human government superfluous.
Ghost composed his reply instantly and sent his orders. Watch the younger Ghosthound. Don’t let him out of your sight. Have the rest of the group proceed to the political center of Zone 32. They must locate their leaders and determine how much of a threat they post to Zone 1. Only take action if you are 100% you can kill without any knowing.
To Ghost’s surprise, a reply came back immediately.
“He already left. He’s heading towards Zone 1.”
Ghost instantly activated his observation craft, scanning the borderlands near Zone 1, and then when he found nothing, he sent them farther afield.
But then a ping came from a completely unexpected place: Aldersburg, which was the Northeast most border town. There, as bold as brass, the younger Ghosthound was walking into town with a long stride. There was a wide, almost creepy grin on his face. Shocked by how quickly the Ghosthound was able to move, Ghost sent his observation drones closer.
Definitely, this one needed to be watched…!
The younger Ghosthound was speaking to himself.
“Is fun…. Is so fun…. Teehee… Let’s make friend.”