Randidly wished he was a puddle, so light and heat would evaporate into nothing and he could escape this place.
"Well, he may be an ass, but at least the foreigner sticks to his guns," Tatiana said dryly, looking at the large projector screen that was set up right next to the steelworkers’ town. Most everyone who lived and worked there had awoken that morning, surprised to find a screen had been erected. Apparently, it had been done by the Unity Church.
And after a sufficient number of people had gathered, a brown-robed priest of the Unity Church announced that it was about to broadcast a recording of the first interview with an individual from Zone 32, from Rawlands.
Imagine Randidly's surprise when he discovered that his own face was calmly sitting there, being interviewed by Congress.
"Mr. Ghosthound," One the senators said with a frown, "Are you saying you are the most powerful person from your Zone?”
Randidly, or Neveah wearing Randidly's face, leaned back in the shiny wooden chair she had been given. "Well, first and foremost I am a low-key and friendly guy. But yes. I am definitely the strongest."
"Ah, the pride of youth," A rather round man in a red suit said, stepping forward. "Let's not dwell on strength, shouldn't we learn something more? My friend Randidly, please tell Congress what you told me about forging in Rawlands."
"Oh, yes. All of the forging is done by hands. Everyone has forging related Skills. Well, not everyone. I don't have those Skills. I don't forge." Then Neveah paused, and finished with, "But I don't really understand why not, it seems fun."
'Because you aren't you!' Randidly wanted to scream. What didn't she understand about remaining low key with his face? He supposed it wouldn't have mattered in the long run, as the government of Zone 1 would learn of his accomplishments from Zone 32 eventually, and then try to find him. Perhaps it was better this way, so they didn't wonder why someone who was supposedly so powerful had been just hanging around in Zone 1 for so long.
But why did she have to act like such a weirdo while doing it?
"What do you think, Viking?" Tatiana said, not looking away from the screen. There was a strange intensity to her gaze that made Randidly nervous. And how could he blame Neveah when he transformed himself into a weirdo all on his own...?
"...uh, well he seems..." Randidly tried to search around for an accurate, and inoffensive way of describing himself. "...unusually intense."
Tatianna nodded, chuckling. Then she flashed Randidly a smile. "I agree, but probably not just in the way you are thinking. There certainly is something... compelling about his gaze. I don't think I've seen eyes that green before. But I recognize the sort of man that he is."
Tatiana cracked her neck. She was wearing gold earrings, which swayed from side to side at the casual gesture. "You just learn to have a knack for these things. All powerful men are the same. And that guy? He's got a real niche sexual desire. I bet he likes getting peed on or something. Definitely wants to be the submissive in some sort of roleplay."
Randidly opened his mouth, then he closed it. He tried to imagine someone peeing on him, and how he would react to it, and suddenly that person was Tatiana. Hurriedly, he coughed into his hand to hide his acute embarrassment.
Tatiana slipped her arm through his and pulled Randidly away from the screen, as Neveah excitedly explained the different things that Randidly did in a 'normal' day. "So, you'll get enough money today, right? Everyone's talking about it. They expect the price to go up as soon as you purchase the first probationary citizenship. Oh, no one's mad though. They are happy that SOMEONE finally got out of the steel factory."
"Yea... how did you know?" Randidly asked, letting himself be led away towards the steel factory. Tatiana's hand was very warm.
"Well, for one thing, Foreman Davey has been hyping you up as a success story to most of the new arrivals. It's all about making people think it’s possible to move up in the world, even though it's only the peculiar people like you that ever manage it."
Randidly smiled ruefully. "Other people could, given time. I'm just doing it a bit faster."
When Tatiana shook her head, her curls bounded back and forth, wafting a perfume in the surrounding air. "Perhaps in theory. But you have kept your expenses low, have you not? I don't mean to be rude, but you must spend basically nothing on your living situation. And I hear you hunt your own meat, which has become something of a trend among the steelworkers’ spouses. Hunting and growing your own food means that much less to pay for. But most people don't do that. Most people stay at a nice apartment, eat out, take the time to attend the expensive lectures offered to become better at steel working... Have you ever thought about offering a lecture or two? I bet Foreman Davey would let you, especially after you become a probationary citizen. It would be great publicity for this whole operation."
Chuckling, Randidly said, "...it's true, my Stats give me a few advantages in terms of efficiency.”
Tatiana gave him a look.
"Maybe... more than a few," Randidly admitted. Almost unwillingly, Randidly pulled his arm away and flexed his fingers. They were exceedingly clean, from a scrubbing this morning. But when he looked at his hands, he could only see the callouses from squeezing a spear. These were not the hands of a simple metal worker.
“Think about it, Viking,” Tatiana said with a shrug. “There’s no such thing as too much money and influence right?”
Decklan leaned forward, laying his cards down on the impromptu table they had made to play the game. “Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like it’s tea time.”
Everyone around him stilled. There were 5 others at the table inside the hut, but outside of it, there would be others tending to the garden and patrolling in the area around the mine. Tera was undoubtedly lying on the roof, looking up at the stars. It was what she loved to do here, on crystal clear nights. Guarding the mine wasn’t an exciting job really, aside from those brief times when they needed to wipe out a Raid Boss. But it was an important one, for Donnyton.
Tonight was a clear night, and when she heard the prearranged phrase Tera undoubtedly sent an alert to every member of the Squad. One of the nearby members of Decklan’s Squad, who was relatively new, stood abruptly.
“How much time do we have?” He asked, his eyes widening.
Older members of Decklan’s Squad rolled their eyes at the young man’s foolishness. They all stacked their chips and cards in neat stacks before standing, and then it was more of a stretch than anything else. These were men that had fought with Decklan in those early days, defending the walls of Donnyton from the waves of beasts that came to crush new Villages.
Although they were casual, their movements were extremely quick. Within a few seconds, they had stowed away the cards and grabbed their gear, strapping it on with a practiced ease. They were quite used to ambushing others, so being on the receiving end of it didn’t throw any of them. Sometimes it was easy to forget, but they were in the business of killing.
The only way this ended was with someone better coming to kill them.
Decklan smiled at the new Squad member. “Three seconds.”
When the wave hit, it was harder than even Decklan anticipated. It was led by a bull type monster, clearly a Raid Boss spawn. Behind them were waves of insect armored humanoids who were surprisingly well armored, if unimpressive otherwise. Still, these armored humanoids were an excellent counter for Decklan’s Squad.
This move was pre-planned, then.
Chortling, Decklan strolled out among the monsters. They might give his boys some trouble, but his knife was a found item in the System, from a Level 59 monster. These Creatures weren’t even Level 40. They were rotten wood and chaff, quickly cut away.
But there were a lot of them, and they weren’t trying to engage Decklan’s group, just keep them busy. Decklan looked up from killing a dozen to scan the rush in front of him. There were only a thousand, but it was still an almost impossible task for his Squad to survive long amongst these numbers. Or stop them from making it into the mines.
Then a figure moved forward, out of the crowd, a hulking monstrosity encased in obsidian armor.
Decklan whistled. “It is has been a long, long time since I’ve had a duel. I hope I haven’t lost my touch.”