'Now that I think about it, having a split personality that seems to be beneficial must have been a great stroke of luck for Rocky, huh? It kinda reminds me of Lyle, but as an extreme opposite,' Daz thought to himself.
Daz continued driving through the border of the city after Rocky had returned to the humvee and he was shocked by what he could see.
Almost the entire outskirt was full of nothing but empty and partially destroyed buildings that only had the jewelled lamps to illuminate them with. As far as he could tell, the roads had manually been cleared of debris and cars to make room for travel.
The thing that surprised Daz the most was that the centre of the city which they were now coming up on was very different from the rest of the surrounding landscape. 'Did an explosion go off here?'
The eye of the city was nothing else than a massive crater. This semi-sphere in the earth had many buildings built over the dirt and it was clear to Daz that this was Rocky's true base. Grass had already started to grow and there was an asphalt road lined with gems leading to the collections of buildings.
All of this told the young Reaper that whatever had caused this hole to appear in the middle of a city had happened at least a few days ago or maybe even earlier. 'Was it the power plant exploding?'
Almost as if on queue, Rocky began explaining. "It wasn't the factory. That's outside of the town." Rocky showed a wry smile and asked Daz a question. "Don't you think it's weird that all of the military and most of the people here are dead or missing? Why do I only have just over three-hundred citizens? Why is such a large city empty?"
"True... it is a bit strange," Daz replied 'Waterford didn't have nearly as many resources as Middletown did when this all began, but there are at least seven-hundred people at the military camp, so it doesn't make sense for a better-prepared city to be worse off than Waterford.'
"Was your fourth attack far more difficult than the others?" Rocky's lips raised into a depressing smirk. Apparently, he was recalling some painful memories.
"... It was," Daz answered with a hint of hesitation in his voice. 'The Tank Automaton did have the power to crush Fort Skip and level several skyscrapers, but that was only our final boss of day four because, as a collective, Fort Skip was too strong.'
"The system had decided that we were too powerful with our tanks, so it threw us a curveball. Our fourth attack's monster was a single Baetylus." Rocky scratched his head and looked up at the dark sky through the humvee's sunroof.
"A what?" Daz wasn't particularly studied on myths and legends, so he had no idea what a Baetylus was.
"Basically, a living meteor," Rocky said with a short laugh.
"... So because you had so much firepower, it gave you an enemy that could only be killed with those weapons?" Daz reasoned after taking a second to think.
"Pretty much," Rocky replied before he looked back at Daz. "There's a reason that I wouldn't mind you taking one or two of the tanks off of my hands, you know? There was no way that we could fight that thing until it had landed. Only the people that I have left made it out of the city centre before it crashed." There was a deep sadness in Rocky's usually cheerful and childish voice.
"What happened after that?" Daz was curious. Did the living meteorite have more ways to attack after it had fallen, or did the impact kill it?
"As soon as it had wiped out most of our base, it became a flaming humanoid and it took all of our efforts to kill it," Rocky said.
Daz thought for a moment before he continued speaking. "Do you still have its body?"
"We do, in fact. Why?" Rocky was curious as to the reason that Daz could possibly care about the meteorite's body. 'Does he have a way to process the natural minerals on it like The Raiders do? I hope not... we can barely fend off those crazy looters and I don't want Sek to become my enemy like Ed did...'
"I mentioned that I was a Reaper, right?" Daz said as he dodged a boulder in the vehicle's path. It would appear that the new road had been made hastily and not all of the debris was gone yet.
Rocky's eye's defocused a bit and he took a mental note to clear up the road properly tomorrow. "Yeah?"
"I can absorb souls to get stronger. Do you mind if I take that Baetylus' soul? I doubt you need it." Daz saw little immediate value in the body of an interstellar creature. Perhaps he might have asked for the entire thing were he more knowledgeable, but for now, a presumed greater soul would satisfy the power-hungry and somewhat ignorant young man.
"That's really interesting!" Rocky's usual immature nature had returned in full. He happily accepted Daz's request and he felt relieved that his new friend didn't have greedy designs on the body of the monster that had nearly wiped out him and his citizens single-handedly.
Now stood in front of a very large and luxurious looking house, Adam rubbed his dreary eyes before saying a few words to Daz and Crusher. "This is the only 'Mediocre' living space that isn't completely occupied. Please pass the evening here and we'll come to get you in the morning."
"It's funny how this is only mediocre, huh?" Crusher commented.
Daz nodded his head and added, "The system's standards are very different from ours."
"I guess so," Crusher replied as she shook her limbs. Being a Titan meant that, while still requiring sleep, only three to five hours per days were more than enough since the land itself lent its strength to her.
Adam pulled out a cigarette and started smoking it. "Well, get comfortable and don't do anything stupid. You two are more powerful than us, but step out of line... and you'll have seven tanks pointing their barrels in your faces."
Rocky frowned. "Adam, don't talk to Sek and Crusher like that, they're good people."
"Ed was a good person too," Adam responded with a lecturing tone which forced Rocky to flinch. He looked right into Daz's eyes and took a long drag of his smoke. "I like you two as much as this naive kid does, I really do, but we've already been betrayed once and I'll be damned if it happens again."
"Caution is a good attitude to have. Don't worry, I want nothing but a peaceful relationship with you guys," Daz waved it off with a dismissive tone.
He felt more comfortable being told things honestly considering how paranoid he usually was. This frank and to the point attitude of Adam was one of the few features of the seemingly ordinary man that Daz had genuinely admired, even before the apocalypse.
'I wonder who Ed is though, and how exactly did he betray Rocky and his people? Adam seems really resentful... This is getting interesting... Raiders... Ed... the Baetylus's body... maybe this is all connected to the reason for the quest's difficulty being B-rank when there's no apparent danger?' Daz's intuition was screaming at him that this was the case.
"I sure as hell hope so. We could all use a helping hand when the world's gone to shit like this. Barely a week's gone by and it's like half the people have lost their damned minds," Adam grumbled as he threw his cigarette to the ground and stomped on it.
"Well," he said, "See you two later. I still need to sleep some more," Adam added with a friendly smile on his tired face.
He then practically dragged Rocky away and began telling him how he had to harden up and stop having so much faith in everybody's morals.
"Fun guys, huh?" Crusher chuckled as she rested her sledgehammer on her shoulders.
"Definitely easier to get along with than Greg," Daz shrugged and opened the door to the building.
Crusher laughed loudly and replied, "That's like comparing pigs to sheep."
"Oh?" An unfamiliar voice entered Daz and Crusher's ears. "New residents? This late at night? That's a surprise."
A young man with wavy blonde hair got up from the chair he was in and he placed his magazine on the coffee table before walking up to the suspicious looking Reaper and Titan.
"I'm Sean, nice to meet you both. Did you get rescued by the patrols? That must have been scary, though mind you, you both look pretty tough... Hmm... You're not Raiders, are you?" While this twenty-something-year-old man seemed a bit worried, he was awfully relaxed considering what Daz had heard about the Raiders thus far, so he tilted his head and looked at Sean strangely.
"No, but shouldn't you be more, I don't know, wary?" Daz asked.
"Huh? You're not?" Sean bent his head as well and held his chin. "Well, I mean, I don't have a combat-based class, so I just figured you'd kill me if you were Raiders. Not much point making a fuss if you've made it to the residential area already, right?"
"... Is this guy an idiot?" Crusher mumbled under her breath. This entire adventure had been really fun for her so far, however, her body was starting to itch. She wanted a fight. 'I really really really hope the B-rank on the quest means I can get to kill something soon...'
"Repeat what you just said," A burly man in a military outfit asked the woman stood in front of him as he clipped the end of his cigar.
"Yes, Edward. Benjamin returned to Middletown with Adam and two unidentified people. One of these two was a very tall and muscular woman whose weapon seems to be a sledgehammer while the other was a disfigured man wearing a mask and his weapon couldn't be seen," the petite glasses-wearing woman answered.
Edward stood up from his chair and looked out of the window to the farmlands where he and his men were currently living. His eyes rested on the three tanks that he had taken with him after he had fled from the Baetylus three days ago.
"Did you use Lesser Identification on them?" Edward asked in a cool and relaxed tone.
Gulping her saliva, the young woman replied, "No... I didn't dare to risk being detected."
Edward turned around and walked towards her, sending a chill up her spine. He smiled at her and lightly patted her cheek twice. "Good job."
"T... Thank you, Edward..." Something about how calm Edward was being put the woman on edge. Bad things usually happened whenever he was acting so peaceful.
"Wake everyone up. We're attacking Middletown tomorrow, so we need to prepare," Edward announced and then took another cigar from his shirt pocket and lit it.
"T... Tomorrow? Is... Is that really wise?" the glasses-wearing woman assumed that it would be better if they just left Benjamin's group alone and moved on. There was more to worry about than fighting among themselves, or so she thought.
Edward's gaze sharpened and he glared at the woman. "Do not question me, Harriot. Don't you understand how valuable that thing's corpse is? I don't want to do this too, but that kid refuses to give it to me and insists on keeping it locked up without using it, the idiot."
"I'm sorry... I... I'll go wake everyone up," Harriot nodded and tried to hide her fear as she looked at Edward's almost maddened eyes before she left the room without further questioning her leader.
Edward clipped his cigar and sighed. "Why did it come to this? So what if it requires a few tributes to use it? Ben, you fool of a boy. A few useless leeches are more than worth her life... Jenna... I miss you..." he mumbled as he took out a picture from within his wallet and stared at it with a melancholic expression on his face.
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