"He actually won?" Adam said with a dumbstruck expression on his face as he stared at Sek's clone that was slowly walking down the crater.
He, Ben, and Commander Zach were waiting anxiously at the entrance to the inner city with forty survivors and their remaining six tanks. They were ready for the worst, but it would seem that the impossible had happened and Sek and Crusher had actually succeeded.
Sek's clone stopped just before he reached their forces. "The original told me to tell you that he's killed everyone except for Edward and Harriot, whom he intends to take back to his base and make his citizens."
"He's going to do what?" Commander Zach, a bald man with an average build and sunglasses, asked with a serious tone to his voice.
"Take them back as his citizens," the clone repeated himself emotionlessly.
"No! We have to kill that bastard for what he's done! Do you know how many of my men died because of his selfishness?!" Commander Zach roared.
"I do not care. The original has already left with them. I am simply the messenger. Are you done now? I have more information to relay," the clone stated.
"Am I done? Why sh-"
Ben placed a hand on Zach's shoulder and shook his head lightly. "Zach, it's fine."
"How is it fine?! You know what he did as well!" Zach seemed to genuinely be enraged by the fact that Edward had been spared.
"Just leave it. There's nothing we can do about it now. I trust Sek. If he decided to spare Ed, then I'm sure he had a good reason," Ben reasoned with a warm smile.
Zach grunted and crossed his arms, but he didn't speak up again, so Sek's clone picked off where he had left off. "My original intends to form an official system-bound alliance with Gem Kingdom once he has the spare points to buy that system function."
The clone then looked at Ben and said, "My original believes that trust is important, so he'd like to tell you that his real name is Daz and that you should request a meeting with him in the Court of Lords if you ever need any help. That's everything."
Without giving Ben, Adam or Zach any time to reply, Daz's clone turned into a wisp of green energy and flew off in the direction of Daz.
Ben smiled. "'Daz', huh? An alliance sounds fun. I should invest in that system as well." The young man then rubbed his ruby eye and spoke aloud, "One battle tank, M1 Abrams, gone. Edward and the Raiders dealt with. The difficulty of the first attack of the next cycle has decreased by thirteen percent."
'So he really was that kid from the skip site? What a drastic change... Or was he always like that deep down?' Adam cut his thoughts short when he realised something was off about what Red, Ben's second personality, had said.
"Only thirteen percent?" Adam asked with a tone that said he couldn't believe him. "Come on, Red, surely it has to be more than that. That Abrams was the most powerful tank we had."
"My calculations are never incorrect," Red said as he turned around and glared at Adam. "The probability of additional factors being added to the adaptability tests, a.k.a, the attacks, is at ninety-seven percent, so the challenge presented has increased."
"Really? Shit. Well, at least some of our worries are gone for now..." Adam said as he took a long draw from his cigarette.
"Indeed," Red replied before he rubbed his eye and returned to being just Ben.
"This thing can actually go pretty fast, huh?" Crusher commented with her head and upper body popping out of the tank's hatch.
"Well yeah," Daz replied a bit sarcastically as he kept his attention split between driving and his latest 'companions', "It's designed for war, so even though it's really heavy, it still has to have at least some manoeuvrability," he added.
"True, true," Crusher laughed. "I just wasn't expecting it to be able to get up to thirty so easily."
"Its max is forty-five mph, you know?" the young Reaper noted as he moved it to the side to avoid a crashed car.
Edward was listening to their conversation with a strange expression plastered across his face. 'They're really relaxed... Are they really that confident in dealing with me if I lash out now? Maybe this guy really can resurrect Jenna... after all, what reason would he have for lying to me if he can crush me like a bug?'
Daz continued to talk to Crusher, but his eyes noticed a change in Edward's status. Naturally, as soon as he and Harriot had accepted his deal, Daz made them citizens of Fort Skip. He didn't know previously that it could be done outside of the base, but apparently, that was another perk of being a Higher Lord as opposed to a regular one.
'It only went up by five points, but it's progress. I guess I'll set the real limit for two-hundred and fifty.' Daz was far more manipulative than he'd like to admit. As much as he hated his father, he couldn't help but take after him in some aspects.
Edward and Harriot didn't act up and nor did they speak on the trip back to Fort Skip. Edward was simply being stubborn while Harriot was lost in her thoughts.
She hated how unfortunate she was. First, she chose the wrong side and ended up being ordered around by Edward while she acted as his assistant, and now she was being taken back to a stranger's base to become his citizen. The poor woman could only laugh at her situation.
After six hours of non-stop travelling, Daz stopped the M1 Abrams and poked his head out of the driver's hatch briefly before returning to his seat and restarting the tank. It slowly chugged along and then stopped again shortly afterwards.
"Destination, Fort Skip, reached. All passengers, please disembark the vehicle in an orderly fashion," Daz said in a monotonous tone.
'Is he joking? It's hard to tell what he's thinking...' Edward said to himself. Meanwhile, his loyalty had subtly increased and was edging away from 'none' to 'very low' thanks to the young Reaper's peculiar sense of humour.
Crusher, Edward, Harriot, and Daz, all left the M1 Abrams and were greeted by a small unit of five soldiers, General Retford and Madison.
Daz's girlfriend was tightly cuddling her plushy of him, and she, without her usual hesitation, ran up to him and threw her arms around his neck. "Leave. No, say. Bad," she mumbled into his ear as she buried her face in his neck.
Daz wrapped his arms around her waist and smiled. "I'm sorry. It was urgent, and I needed to leave someone behind to look after Rimmy, didn't I?"
"Mmm... Still, bad. No, again," Madison ordered with a pout.
"I promise. I'll take you with me next time, okay?" Daz relented with a small laugh.
Madison nodded her head and lightly pecked Daz before she let go of him and stood to the side awkwardly. "Rimmy! Get in here and say 'hi' to our latest citizens, please!" Daz yelled as he faced the twelve-foot tall wall.
Edward and Harriot looked at each other. "Rimmy?"
They were then scared stiff when they saw a massive monster made of shining blue crystal hunch down and squeeze through the tall portcullis. It lumbered towards them and then smashed it's fists together provocatively.
"If either of these guys tries to escape, you know what to do," Daz said as he patted Rimmy on the leg a few times.
Rimmy bobbed his head around in response. "Yeah, that's perfect. I'm glad you can understand my meaning with so few words."
Edward looked at Crusher quizzically. "Is he... talking to that thing?" While he was initially shocked, he was able to pull himself together fairly easily. After all, he felt confident that if he tried his best, he could beat this Golem by himself. Little did he know that Rimmy possessed many powerful skills and a way to regenerate himself via consuming jewels.
Crusher put a finger over her lips. "Shhh. If you don't want anything bad to happen to you, then call Rimmy by his name. And yeah, it's a bit odd, but apparently, the Lord is the only one that can hear Rimmy's voice. I don't really buy it, but hey, it doesn't cause anyone any harm, so I say leave 'em be."
"Right..." Edward was finding all of this to be a bit... surreal.
This was definitely not what he was expecting when he was told he was to become one of Daz's citizens. From what he could see so far, there were soldiers everywhere armed with various medieval weapons.
The ballista and massive black tower sitting on top of the wall gave him a sense of danger. Not to mention this girl that seemed to be in a relationship with Daz appeared to be very strong, as did the burly lion-like man amongst the unit of soldiers that were stood in front of him.
Edward wasn't the only one looking around. Harriot was entranced by the peaceful and happy lives the other people who were living here. She found it strange. Why weren't they showing an interest in their leader returning with two strangers and a tank? Was such a thing really so normal for the people here?
Whether fortunately or unfortunately for the citizens of Fort Skip, at this point, they had grown a bit desensitized by the extraordinary. Their Lord looked like a freak show while his pet was a moving Golem with more personality than a travelling circus. There was also the fact that he had already returned once with military supplies, so it wasn't too much for them to believe that he was capable of returning with a fully operable tank.
Daz peeked at the two's statuses again and had some interesting thoughts. 'It feels like I'm playing one of those choice-based games that Rose liked a lot. The things I decided to do a few days ago are affecting their loyalty. Harriot's already at very low now. Well, at least it's going up, not down, so maybe I'm on the 'good ending' route?' Daz mused to himself.
He felt that he had been getting far more... loose, recently. His pent-up stress and anxieties appeared to have been getting replaced with concerns for his people and with a more light-hearted attitude. This scared the young man.
Daz shook his head and decided to move on from these strange thoughts. "Will, here," he said as he tossed the tank operating manual to the general, "Teach a group of your soldiers how to man this vehicle. It shouldn't be too complex. I want them to be ready by tomorrow morning, okay?" he added.
General Retford's face cramped up, but he put his fist to his chest and replied, "Yes, My Lord. It shall be done."
"Also, do you mind personally watching over these tw-"
"Ah," Crusher interrupted. "Lord, I wanna do that."
"Oh?" Daz looked at her quizzically.
"Edward seems pretty tough, so I'd like to fight with him a bit. May as well keep an eye on him and Harriot while I'm at it, right?" Crusher explained with a casual shrug.
"Sure. I don't mind. Well then, that's everything. Right, Crusher. Make sure you don't spend your points just yet. I'm still thinking about what to buy for you. Keep the points in the bank and we'll talk about it tomorrow," Daz recommended as he softly held Madison's hand.
"Yeah. Well, if that's what you think's best, sure. It's kinda stressful having almost half a million points... Well, whatever. I'll just pump any leftovers after your recommendations into regen," Crusher said with a small laugh before she wrapped her arms around Edward and Harriot and then walked off.
Edward felt his mind going blank. 'Half a million points?! And her weapon hasn't been upgraded? Just how is she so strong if she hasn't spent that many points?!' Edward was under the assumption that Crusher hadn't spent any points since day one.
Unfortunately for Edward, he was actually a very powerful survivor... when compared to most people. Fort Skip just happened to be one of the few places on Earth that had a lot of 'out of the norm' freaks in it who earned hundreds of thousands of points per attack.
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