Knock, knock, knock.
Sam blearily opened his eyes. With a grunt, he sat up and rubbed his forehead. After almost three days of constant experimentation regarding the limits of his workbench, Sam was extremely satisfied.
And exhausted. No matter how much the System empowered the body, there was a limit to how long a human could remain totally focused. That time had increased with the System, but even Sam still needed breaks. It gave him a headache to think about Randidly’s ridiculously fiddly Engraving sessions.
Alas, that was not Sam’s Path. Not today.
“I’m coming,” Sam grumbled. Regina had already left, so he couldn’t even send her to try and shoo away whoever the fuck was bothering him, at almost the exact second he had finally fallen asleep. But then again, since they hadn’t barged into his house, it wasn’t Donny, Ed, or Alana. And those three were the most difficult for Sam to deal with, although for extremely diverse reasons.
Hopefully, this could be kept short, then.
In addition, it meant that perhaps this individual could be bribed to say that they hadn’t found Sam at his house. Sam had some spare items that he wouldn’t mind parting with, and as long as this individual wasn’t too high on Donnyton’s totem pole-
Sam opened the door. Mrs. Hamilton smiled sweetly at him.
Groaning inwardly, Sam nodded gravely. “Ah, Mrs. Hamilton. What a pleasure so early in the morning.”
“Early in the morning? You must be joking. The Dawn Smith, sleeping in? It must already be 7 A.M.. Do you take days off?” Mrs. Hamilton asked playfully. Sam’s tired attempt at respect crumbled and he simply scowled at her.
Chuckling, Mrs. Hamilton continued with a more serious expression. “We can’t delay them any longer; the representative of Zone Seven will be getting their teleporter. Which means that our political dance needs to happen now. Were you able to use the materials sent down by the East End?”
For the first time in almost twenty years, Sam felt like an absolute fool. He blinked. When was the last time he got so excited about something that he had completely forgotten about his responsibilities? The foolish night that was the last nail in his relationship with his ex-wife? The summer before training camp where he did nothing to ready his ass to earn his keep on a rugby scholarship?
Mrs. Hamilton’s expression immediately turned sharp.
Sam cleared his throat. “It wasn’t…”
“What did you do?” She asked, her voice frigid.
That caused Sam’s hackles to go up. Although he had perhaps been… hasty in his use of the materials, he surely wasn’t empty-handed. And he wasn’t some child for her to chide. He glared at Mrs. Hamilton. “The Level won’t be what I wanted… but I guarantee it will send a certain message.”
Mrs. Hamilton nodded slowly. “Hopefully, it will be enough.”
Nodding shortly, Sam followed after Mrs. Hamilton while covertly rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Hopefully, Zone Seven wouldn’t mind receiving furniture as a counter-gift for their extremely valuable weapons.
Randidly considered the sight in front of him. It was obviously a deep lagoon, but from their vantage on top of a nearby mountain, it was clear that Frogpeople were coming and going freely into the water. Many were carrying waterproof sacks that appeared to function exactly as briefcases. People were clearly commuting to work within the lagoon. The area surrounding the water was lined with those sturdy and squat longhouses in which most of the population seemed to live.
They were overlooking the suburbs, with the city center hidden from view.
“This is a city?” Randidly asked skeptically.
Shual bobbed his head as he sat on a rock and checked himself, stretching his limbs after being confined to the small basket for so long. “A Deep City. Only those Frog Lords allied with Frog Lord Tisha understand the trick to making them; others have tried for generations and only achieved failure. But in this area, they are pretty common. Having the city underwater means that transportation within the city is easy. And the buildings are quite beautiful, I hear-”
Transportation is only important if you don’t have access to interspatial rings, Randidly thought idly. Truly, the Aether that he sensed on this world sparse. Already the connection to Earth was reviving the world in some ways, but they clearly didn’t have access to the advantages that the System offered. Plus, the Frogpeople’s skin likely made movement underwater quite simple. And let them breathe oxygen easily.
Not that the breathing was anything but a mental problem, with the advent of the System.
Plus, anything is better than feeling the constant drumming on rain on your head, Randidly thought darkly. It had been a long two and a half days of running South. But based on Randidly’s communication with Neveah, someone who had been sent from this city had just arrived at the portal to investigate.
It was someone Level 52, but after hearing about the varying qualities relating to Feed from Randidly, they both agreed that she should be much more thorough in scanning those who arrived at the portal. However Aether was transferred, there were clearly varying qualities. And when Neveah knew what to look for, she quickly found those who emitted an unimpressive amount of Aether but seemed to be using it much more efficiently.
Whatever the setup on this world was, it was a little different from what they encountered before. Which meant they needed to be careful. Because it seemed clear that their opponent would use Levels as a screen to trick them.
So Randidly’s mission here was two-fold: to get information from the Toad Lord here as to who informed it of the presence of the portal and weakness of Earth and also to understand this “feed”. Shual knew a little, but not any of the valuable information. Nothing that would tell Randidly what exactly it was.
So it was time to get some answer. Randidly preferred the peaceful method, but he had also just run two days under the barrage of constant rain. It shouldn’t have gotten to him, but he was profoundly annoyed by the whole experience.
“Let’s go,” He said shortly. Shual nodded meekly and hopped in the basket.
Some part of Randidly wondered if Shual would make a break for it when he was busy with other activities, but it wasn’t like Randidly was willing to put more permanent restraints on the Frogperson. He was just a kid, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Probably a lot of those people that Neveah was forced to kill were just like this, Randidly thought bitterly. That’s why we can’t just sit still and let the System rule our lives. It will push us to fight until it has wrung every ounce of value it can from us, and then devour the remains.
But even if he chose the peaceful approach, Randidly wasn’t going to be subtle. He didn’t have time to waste infiltrating the city. So Randidly jumped high enough into the air to cause Shual to squeak and let nature take its course.
They arched upward and forward to hang over the edge of the lagoon. As gravity gripped onto them, their passage upward ceased. Then they accelerated faster and faster down toward the ground, the air whistling past.
With his high Perception, Randidly heard Shual gulp.
Randidly laughed. Honestly, he quite enjoyed the feelings of vertigo he experienced, especially after the past few days. Because all he was doing was running for long stretches of time, Randidly was experimenting with methods to make himself go faster, to push farther with each step. One method was lowering gravity’s effect by using Influence of the Molten Core, another was making small steps that threw him forward with footholds of vines.
It took quite a bit of practice, but that was all Randidly had. The effect was some novel ways to make Randidly go very, very fast. And the reason that he could dedicate himself to fully to the task for these days was that he found in himself quite a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Chasing that speed kept him motivated.
Randidly landed in the shallows of the lagoon, sending up a powerful spray of water that knocked an innocent family backward with the concussive force. Although they didn’t notice it in the chaos, a lone vine thrust upward out of the ground and slashed to slip the wave and lessen the force.
Even with his interference, his arrival was forceful enough to clear a space. The surrounding people were knocked away, leaving Randidly standing alone on this bustling shore of the lagoon. Randidly slowly spun, grinning around at them all to search the eyes of those near for any hint of recognition. Had they seen humans before? Would he be able to confirm the location of Roy here?
All he saw was a blank shock. But he supposed these dozens of average citizens of this world weren’t likely to know much. So Randidly opened his mouth and spoke. “I’d like to speak to the Toad Lord that rules this city. Now.”
The Crown of Upheaval and Gloom was still active above Randidly’s head. He had kept it there for the past three days, simply allowing it to grow steadily from feeding off his focused pursuit of its goal. Yet that wasn’t all it absorbed; some part of this world’s Aether became woven into the fabric of the Crown.
A tool is only what you use it for. Randidly thought lightly. And I was here in this strange world, destroying every monster that I came across, regardless of the consequences. If that didn’t have an effect… I would be surprised.
The only question is how that effect would manifest itself. Only time would tell.
After a few beats of silence where the adults covered up the mouths of children and kept them from screaming at this strange monster that demanded immediate entrance to the city, there were bubbles from below. Two nervous looking Frogpeople wearing armor surfaced, looking warily at Randidly.
“The Demon Prince, arriving at our city of Athan. What an honor,” One guard said woodenly, as though not seriously believing he was saying the words he had been given.
Instantly the surrounding Frogpeople who were muttering in confusion to each other went dead silent.
It seems everyone has heard word of Neveah’s exploits, Randidly thought grimly. At the very least… it means the people will be against antagonizing Earth. In that respect, she certainly succeeded.
“Please follow us,” The other guard said with a bow. She gestured to the lagoon behind her. “Our Lord is expecting you.”