As Randidly departed from the Danger Zone, he realized two things. First, that being Randidly Ghosthound was truly a hassle. He could see it now, in the small ways that people had treated him, and that they had treated him when he was playacting as Neveah’s version of him. People expected things of him, and while he wore that identity he was constantly watched. More than anything else, Randidly hated being watched.
If there was something that he could only accomplish as himself he would deal with it, but right now there was no reason to deal with the hassle of that attention.
The second thing Randidly realized was that he truly enjoyed working with metal and creating machines. It was a stab in the dark towards the beginning when he had chosen to go through the metalworking factory to get a probationary citizenship. Or perhaps it was more than that. Some part of him might have sensed that this was something that he was drawn towards.
Now, with the Creature basically a no-show as an enemy, Randidly would focus on his crafting to address the two very real threats that he faced: raid bosses and the influence of the Unity Church.
So it was with a much more focused heart that Randidly left the Danger Zone. But right near the entrance, some instinct of his pulled him up short. It was a strange sensation, and it took a while for Randidly to realized that it reminded him of the ties of Karma that he could sense through Lucretia’s Skills. But these threads were even more difficult to pin down. He found himself reaching for them and they would completely disperse. It was like you could only spot certain things out of the corner of your eye in the dark, but when you looked at them there was nothing there.
Still, Randidly believed that this was his new reward Skill because as he let his instincts guide him forward he gained a new Level in Weaver with the Threads of Fate. Which was a pretty definitive clue in and of itself.
As he followed these frustrating hints, Randidly soon heard the sound of fighting in the distance and pulled up sharply. He frowned. Someone else was pushing into the Danger Zone? The respawn rates for monsters were so fast here that they probably didn’t benefit from Randidly’s earlier actions at all, so they must have some strength to get at least this far. But they clearly weren’t familiar with the area, because they had already wandered away from the main path.
But when he located the source of the commotion, Randidly froze. These were… Raid Boss minions?
All of them were centaurs, moving in formation to repel the attacks of the ogres that charged forward. At the back, a larger being amongst them clearly commanded the rest with grand gestures and grunts. They were actually fairing very well against the ogres. There appeared a few injuries among their number, but it wasn’t enough to stop their momentum.
Randidly snorted; let it never be said that he let a Raid Boss wander past him.
Incendiary Eruptions ripped up into the middle of their grouping and made the backline go down screaming. Randidly winced as he saw a few die; he had some leeway with leveling, but he still didn’t want to kill too many.
Luckily, the ogres did the rest of the work for him. They crushed the front centaurs when they were no longer being harried by the supporting line and smashed their way to the boss. It happened so quickly that the Raid Boss itself was just turning to search for the source of the interference and his head was crushed by a club.
It was strange that the Raid Bosses gathered up to push into the Danger Zone, but Randidly supposed he had seen monsters fighting before. He checked the bodies, but they only had that thread of the Creature’s Aether again. Although they may be connected to it, it was a tenuous connection.
Shrugging, Randidly supposed that Raid Bosses were getting more active everywhere. The fact that they were pressing into a Danger Zone was a good way to keep their numbers low. Unless they actually cleared the Danger Zone, which was a disturbing prospect. No one knew what the effect of it would be. To have Raid Bosses be the first…
Lowering his head, Randidly began sprinting the rest of the distance back through the borderlands to his small steelworking town. Although he had to admit, it wasn’t so small anymore. As more refugees showed up, there was an even larger population and a similarly rising demand for steel. So people came to the town.
After having his Baloo illusion reapplied in secret, Randidly began working in earnest on updating the runic language he used. His production of purchasable drones was such that there was a steady stream of income he was able to use to buy more blueprints. With those, he was able to make more comparisons between the different models and research more variations on what Randidly had begun to think of as the Ghost sponsored runes.
But his breakthrough happened for a completely different reason.
About 18 hours after his isolation started, Randidly swore bitterly and stood up as another drone overheated. His runes that he was creating were undoubtedly effective, but that was part of the problem. Too much energy was running through the metal; it melted about half the time. If he had it run at levels where it wouldn’t melt, the output was such that it didn’t matter that he was using a whole new group of runes. He might as well have stuck with the old runes.
If only there was a fucking way to get rid of all the heat-
Randidly paused, frowning.
Lucretia, Randidly asked after a pause. Whatever happened to that spear?
Hank refrained from pulling the trigger, but only just.
“What the fuck have you done?” He growled. The barrel of his pistol was locked on Ezekiel’s heart. The man was glowering furiously at Hank, as he stood above the girl’s body.
“How many times do I have to fucking say it,” Ezekiel hissed. “I just FOUND her, Hank. Why would I make a scene if I killed her myself?”
“You weren’t very vocal about your findings until I started walking over this way,” Hank spat back. He had been so caught up in the training with the people of Donnyton. He was improving at a visible clip. But if it cost the life of this girl… if she had died because Hank was too focused on himself to care about what was going on around him…
And she was just a girl too, a slip of a thing that was probably not even 20. Pretty, if only due to her young age. Her whole life was ahead of her. Even though the System was incredibly dangerous, with proper protection she would have grown to a ripe old age…
“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t kill you right now?” Hank said, his eyes blazing as he looked at Ezekiel. But the longer he looked, the more he understood. Ezekiel had felt he needed to do this. His stats would slowly decrease over time if he didn’t kill. Those stats were something that he worked for. To have them slipping away, due to a Class…
But then Hank crushed all his empathy out of himself. He had warned the man, and he had still insisted on behaving like this.
“A moment, Mr. Howard.”
Without taking his eyes from the man in front of him, Hank sensed the man who had moved to stand next to him. He was tall and gaunt, and very slow a name floated up to the surface of Hank’s mind: Glendel.
Glendel’s smile was sharp as he looked at Ezekiel. “There is no need to accuse the man without evidence. Very soon we will know the details of the girl’s death. And if it should turn out that he did indeed kill her… there will be no need to raise your own hand, Mr. Howard. The vengeful ghost will take her own pound of flesh.”
Even standing near Glendel, Hank could feel a chill rising off of the man. THere was an air around him that was slightly unnatural. Hank had never heard what exactly he did around the Donnyton, but he was high ranking.
To Hank’s surprise, Glendel just kneeled next to the girl. His hands gently reached forward and closed her eyes. Then he knelt next to her as if praying, for fully five minutes. During that time, Hank took a step backward from Ezekiel and lowered his repeater. The other man still glowered at Hank, but a lot of the aggression drained away as he waited for Glendel to make his move.
Abruptly, Glendel’s eyes shot open. And as it happened, the air shimmered above the girl. Then, like a flower blooming, a ghost rose, pale and translucent. Her eyes opened too, and there was nothing there. Her irises and pupils had become one until her eyes looked like a pale cueball.
“Did this man kill you?” Glendel asked gravely.
Slowly, the specter turned and faced Ezekiel. Hank’s hand tightened on his pistol. Just as slowly, however, she shook her head no.
Even Glendel seemed surprised. “Then who?”
The ghost only pointed, West and North.