Lyle stared at the needle on the table in front of him with downcast eyes. "... Just what am I doing with myself?"
He peeled his gaze away from the syringe and the small bag of unidentifiable substance before he looked up at the ceiling. He couldn't help but remember what had happened this morning between himself and Daz.
Lyle had arrived later than the designated time and he looked like a mess, but he had arrived nonetheless, so he was hoping that his lord could find it within himself to forgive him for his tardiness.
As soon as Daz turned around to look at the approaching Lyle, his eyes turned sharp and Lyle could feel a stinging pain in his chest. He was guilty. He knew better than anyone just how capable his lord was at seeing through people. Clearly, he could see why Lyle was in such a sorry state.
Daz marched forwards and grabbed the powerless Lyle by his collar and dragged him away from the portcullis and, consequently, away from the other members of today's dungeon exploring expedition.
"W-What's wrong, My Lord?" Lyle asked. He knew exactly what was wrong, but a small part of him hoped that Daz would ignore everything and let Lyle continue on.
"The drugs." Daz's voice was cold and emotionless. "Stop doing them, or stop being my advisor and never participate in another attack."
"M-My Lord!" Lyle's shout contained many emotions. Fear, anxiety, self-pity, hope, but most importantly, it showed his lack of self-worth.
"No excuses. I don't care if you want to shoot yourself up, but only so long as it doesn't affect me. So make a choice, continue your habit, or give it up and serve me faithfully as I become this world's ruler." Daz turned around and started to walk away.
As if he had remembered something, the young Reaper turned his head and added, "I'm sure the system has passive skills or racial upgrades that grant immunity to the negative side-effects of drug usage, so why don't you give it up momentarily and focus on gaining merit points and evolving, then, and only then, you can have the best of both worlds, no?" After saying that, Daz didn't stick around for a reply and left to get Dorian before setting off with the others to the mall's dungeon.
Lyle slumped against the fort's walls and held his face in his hands. "I'm so... I'm so pathetic..." No one could hear his silent cries.
"What's wrong, Jorden? You're not as energetic as you usually are," Sarah said in a playful tone.
The two were in the large cabin that the Richies', Jorden and a few other people shared, and ever since the first time that Sarah had 'fixed' Jorden's looks, she would often find him to dress him up in outfits that she'd bought from the local shop. They were all very high quality, but equally cheap since they had no special effects or skills.
Of course, Sarah made sure not to crossdress the young boy. No, definitely not. All of the outfits were certainly meant for boys. Yup, certainly.
The sulking Jorden replied, "Do you think Big Bro hates me?" while Sarah fiddled about with his hair.
"Huh? Why would that idiot hate you?" Sarah replied with confusion on her face.
Tears welled up in Jorden's eyes. "But... But... I did so well when we went to the military base and I showed him that I was useful even if I couldn't do very much during the attacks, but he still didn't bring me to the dungeon! He even brought his little sister who's weaker than me..."
With a stern and adult-like voice, Sarah said, "It's not good for a man to be jealous of others, Jorden. I'm sure Daz wanted to bring you, but I heard from dad that he was only allowed to go with four other people. That's how the dungeon works. And anyway, Rose is supposedly really good at detecting traps, so Daz needed to bring her. You wouldn't want your big brother to get hurt by a trap, now would you?"
"I'd hate that!" Jorden yelled after jumping up, surprising Sarah.
Sarah giggled lightly and sat Jorden back down. "That's great, then just be good and let your big sis fix your hair, then you can go back to training, okay?"
"Yeah," Jorden responded with a sweet smile.
'The most dangerous trap that Daz has to worry about might actually be the one sitting in front of me... Kuh... Such cuteness should be illegal!' And with that thought, Sarah finished adjusting Jorden's appearance and let him go back to the barracks where he was training with the soldiers on how to properly fight.
Ger was walking along the ramparts and he was busy thinking about the future of Fort Skip and the fate of his daughters when something caught his eye.
"Is that... a pond?" Ger climbed down the nearest set of stairs and made his way towards this 'pond'.
He knew that Daz had been busy buying upgrades for the base, but a pond didn't feel like the kind of thing that he would buy, hence why Ger was so curious.
Upon getting closer to the body of water, Ger recognised the person that was sitting on a bench which was placed right next to the pond. She was holding a fishing rod and a peaceful look was spread across her face as she watched the bobber float calmly on the pond's surface. "Heather?"
"Ger?" Heather replied after looked up at him. She motioned to the bench with her head, so, taking the hint, Ger sat down.
"Where'd this pond come from?" he asked.
"I asked the lord for it when he returned from the dungeon with all of those people. Rimmy punched open the earth and I filled it up with water bought from the system," Heather replied honestly.
"... Why?" Ger couldn't understand. Why would Heather waste merit points on something so trivial?
"Hey, Ger... I'm retiring from fighting," Heather announced in a low voice.
Ger's eyes shook and he fumbled over his next words. "B-But why? You're the only other person than me who can aptly handle a sniper rifle and your illusions are really useful."
Heather showed him a self-deprecative smile. "I think the lord is right, you know, about how we'd do our best staying true to our original weapon types. You know what my weapon is, right?"
"... A fishing rod," Ger replied.
"Right. Y'know, I actually have a really good skill, but I could never use it before. 'Fisherman's Bounty'. Any water I fish in will produce fish, and depending on the level, the fish will change and eventually reach a point that eating them will give stats. The more I upgrade and level up that skill, the more stats the fish will give to whoever eats them." Heather's beautiful face showed Ger another smile.
"Don't you think it'd be better if I focused on boosting my fishing ability to help everyone else instead of wasting my points on stuff unrelated to my class?" Heather added. "The Lord said that if we focus on our class, we'd be stronger. I realised that strength doesn't only mean fighting ability."
A silence followed before Heather finished with, "Hey, Ger, don't you think that we were both pretty useless in the last attack?"
Ger looked down and clenched his knees with his hands. "But my weapon is a gun. Shouldn't I focus on that and help in the attacks?"
"I suppose you should. I haven't seen you do so thus far though. Haven't you only bought upgrades for your gun and improved your stats? Look at Crusher and The Lord. Both of them only buy skills that help their specific classes or ones that anyone should buy, like the levelling system. They don't buy too many items. My class is a support one through and through and I've decided to dedicate myself to that role." Heather seemed to be at peace with this decision.
"You're strong, Heather," Ger wrinkled his brow and smirked, "Far stronger than an old man like me."
"I'm only a few years younger than you, Ger, so does that make me an old woman?" Heather giggled.
Ger blushed and struggled to find the right words to fix what he had said. Ever since his divorce with the twins' mother, he had lost all confidence around women. Heather simply laughed it off and kept smiling.
"That's dinner time, everyone!" Sandy shouted to the hard-working volunteers that were busy rebuilding the destroyed cabin.
Bobby, the ex-chef and Sandy's smoking buddy, wiped the sweat from his brow and grinned. "It's coming along nicely, huh?"
"Sure is," Sandy showed a toothy smile before he sat down at the temporary campsite that was being used until the cabin was repaired. "Tho we're gonna hav' to build another one once this one's done. That kiddo had to bring back a bunch of new people, now didn't he?" Sandy mumbled under his breath.
He sat his dinner, a tin of beans, on top of the grill he'd prepared which was placed over an open fire. Sandy leaned back in his chair and cracked his neck while he happily waited for his beans to finish heating up.
Bobby sat next to him after buying some high-class food from the base's shop. "I don't get why you eat that slop when the good shit is basically free from over there," Bobby said as he gestured to the small building that was surrounded by the other workers, "A single merit point and you can have food prepared by a 4-star chef from another world."
"Bah, I'd be eating food made by a chef I know already, but ya see, he suddenly stopped cookin' for me, so I hav' to do it maself, don't I?" Sandy snapped in response before he took out his personal dutchman's pipe and lit it up.
"That's a shame. If only that chef had a kitchen to cook from, huh? I heard that his construction worker friend was doing something about that, but he's as slow as a damned snail!" Bobby laughed.
"Ya could always use one of the others cabins, couldn't ya?" Sandy smirked as he took a draw from his pipe and closed his eyes, fully savouring the experience.
Bobby shook his head, "But if I did that, I wouldn't get to watch you make a fool out of yourself by overcooking something as simple as baked beans, now would I?"
"WHAT?!" Sandy roared before he sprung up from his seat and scrambled towards his precious beans. He grabbed the can briskly, not minding the heat and swiftly opened the can. "Ya bastard. They're barely warm, let alone overcooked!"
"AHAHAHAHAHA!" Bobby nearly fell out of his seat with how hard he was laughing. The other people at the campfire or nearby smiled warmly at this exchange between the two older gentlemen.
"It's like you two are a constant live-action comedy act," Carl, the young dark-skinned man who had thanked Daz yesterday morning, claimed as he shovelled a spoonful of rice into his mouth.
"Bah," Sandy grunted as he tried to hide his embarrassment.
"Ah, that's right. Yer name's Carl, right?" Sandy asked.
Carl looked at him and replied, "Yup, what's up?"
"Good job today. Ya've barely gained any merit points since this whole thing started, right? Ya've got some strong bones, son. It's like if Bobby 'ere was multiplied by, oh, I dunno, as many times as he is years old?" Sandy joked amidst his genuine compliment.
"Oi, I'm younger than you are," Bobby quipped with a grumpy tone.
Carl wiped the sauce off his face and smiled. "Thanks! I'm not really interested in fighting, but if it's basic manual labour, even I can do that."
Everyone else who had volunteered felt the same. Sandy crossed his arms and nodded. "'At's right. Daz, that kiddo, he's done a lot for us, no matter how much of a prick he is," Sandy chuckled, "It's the least we can do to help him with the simple stuff, ain't 'at right?" he added with an inspiring voice.
No one present could think any differently. It was an indisputable fact that Daz had given them back a life that could almost be called normal to some extent, and after his self-sacrifice during day four's attack, almost everyone respected and trusted their lord, Daz, far more than they did when they first became his citizens.
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