Ellie was silent as Daz explained how her family had chosen to give their merit points to him with the help of the Higher God, the God of Death, resulting in them losing their souls. Daz made sure to state repeatedly that he had no choice in this matter and that it was beyond his control.
Once he had finished his story, Ellie grit her teeth and tears spilt out of her eyes. She muttered a few curses directed toward the system before she wiped her eyes and smiled at Daz weakly. "I'm sorry for wasting your time." Ellie got up and started to leave.
Just as she was at the door to the workshop, Daz called out to her. "If you ever need someone to talk to, I'm always here."
Ellie stopped for a moment. She turned back to look at Daz and she calmly shook her head. "Thank you, but I'm fine." There was a certain kind of destructive determination and fire in Ellie's gaze.
'Is my Enemy of Chaos skill not working on her? Maybe good enough motivation or willpower can overshadow the fear effect...' Daz ran his hand through his hair, disturbing Reika who had migrated there after his display with her halo. The tiny astral girl was seriously contemplating moving back there since his head was his new target.
The reaper stayed to think for a while. Eventually, he left his workshop and returned to the keep. 'I'm glad she isn't angry at me, but will her rage at the system really amount to much?'
At this point, no matter how much he hated the system and the gods, Daz was slowly starting to think that he had set his sights too far. Perhaps it would be best to focus on the here and the now instead of having grand ambitions like getting revenge on the gods and the system itself? After all, gaining control of the world was a lofty enough goal as it was.
Regardless of his thoughts, Daz arrived at his throne room. Most of the advisors were nowhere to be seen. Daz assumed that they were busy elsewhere in the keep, or perhaps they were sleeping. The only people present were the head advisor, Crosius, and his personal advisor, Lyle.
The two men were discussing something until they noticed Daz approaching. "Your Grace, it's great to see you. I trust that you are well-rested now?" Crosius had a very respectful air about him as he conversed with Daz.
"Yeah, more or less. Is there something you needed me for? If not, feel free to go and do your own thing. I'll summon you if and when I need you," Daz said in a friendly tone as he slumped down onto his throne.
"Nonsense! With all due respect, Your Grace, it would be unbecoming of us if we did not have at least one advisor present in the throne room at all times should a guest arrive or should Your Grace ever need councilling on short notice." Crosius was clearly far more used to these kinds of things than Daz was, so the reaper just nodded his head in agreeance. "I do have to say that your citizens have all been given a feature that allows them to send requests to the keep. I and my advisors shall handle most of them, but I suspect you might have to grant some audiences to personally manage the more complex or demanding ones, Your Grace." Again, Daz nodded.
"Well then, Lyle, I'm fairly sure you have business with me this late, right?" Daz asked as he looked at the man who was growing healthier and more muscular by the hour.
"Yes, My Lord. In fact, I have several things to discuss with you. Crosius was just telling me how stupid most of my ideas were, weren't you?" Lyle asked sarcastically as he glared at the old man.
Crosius stroked his long beard wisely. "Such distractions aren't necessary! His Grace need only to focus on his strength and the power of Fort Skip. I did not call you nor your 'ideas' stupid, Mr Middletown. I merely stated that bringing them up to His Grace would be foolish right now."
Lyle controlled his rising anger and spat out, "That is essentially the same as saying that my ideas are stupid. Rewording it won't hide what you feel, Crosius."
Daz sighed heavily. "I really think that I should be the judge of this, Crosius, not you. I'd appreciate it if you didn't try to make decisions for me or try to keep suggestions from me that you don't think are wise. Okay?"
"Of course, Your Grace," Crosius replied as he bowed his body slightly. "In that case, I shall take my leave. Another keep advisor should be with you shortly."
"Sure. Rest well," Daz said, dismissing the old man. He honestly didn't expect there to be friction between Lyle and Crosius. Lyle always seemed to be the type to play his cards very close to his chest, so him being so honest and blunt with Crosius had surprised the young man.
"My apologies for that, My Lord," Lyle said with a sorry expression on his face. "He reminds me a lot of my grandfather, so I accidentally got a bit... heated. Please forget that, if at all possible."
"Consider it forgotten." Daz waved his hand dismissively. "Well then, what are these 'ideas' of yours?" Daz's grin told Lyle how unconcerned but slightly annoyed he was. His expressions had been far more vivid and easier to interpret these days.
"Well, for starters, I've already begun creating official documents for a lot of the people. There are a few ex-government workers in Fort Skip that were employed in administration, and they were able to lead me to the paper records of the civilians of Waterford. Of course, we couldn't find documents for everyone, but excluding the otherworlders, there are only fifty people whom we don't have records for yet," Lyle said somewhat proudly.
"We had more government employees than just the ex-mayor?" Daz asked in surprise.
"Oh yes, My Lord. Several former government employees enjoy life under your protection. The very first thing I did when you gave me this task, was to ask everyone about their former occupations, for the records, of course. And as it happened, I found them. They certainly cut the needed time to collect information down by a lot. I was surprised that the town hall hadn't been completely destroyed, to be honest. That was certainly a treat." Lyle's resourcefulness was far greater than Daz had initially hoped, it would seem.
"That's good news. So how long before we have a functional system set up for keeping track of my citizens?" Naturally, Daz could see all of his citizens' information if he asked the system, but that only showed him their name, their age and their gender as well as a brief overlook of their life. It wasn't specific nor convenient enough for him since he wasn't the only person that would need to have access to that information.
Lyle stroked his chin and held his elbow with his other hand. "Hmm, a day or two, three at most."
"That's a long time," Daz stated as he frowned.
"I know, My Lord, however, the otherworlders are the real issue." Lyle took a second to collect his thoughts before he continued to explain. "It will take another day to finish getting all of the needed information from our fellow Earthians. It will then take another full day to get all of that information on paper. I'm trying to avoid wasting merit points on this, but I will change that if you badly desire this census to be completed post haste."
Daz shook his head. "If you can not use merit points, that's for the better."
"Very well. Then, if everything goes smoothly on day two, I can probably do most of the otherworlders as well, but they are tricky since a lot of them can barely speak any English at all. Mave will have to help me with translating what I want to know from them. The soldiers and Gnomes should be simple enough, but the twenty or so people from the dungeon will take hours to process." Lyle seemed apologetic, but there really was no other way around this unless they wanted to fork out a lot of merit points to translate everything via the system.
"That's true. Speaking of which, how is that going? Is Mave teaching them well, or is there little progress? From my understanding, simple sentences are fine," Daz said with interest in his tone.
Lyle nodded and smiled. "Mave is an excellent teacher, despite her somewhat... snappy personality. As you said, simple sentences are fine, and very basic conversations can be held. Mave is the best interpreter for them, even with the help of the language manuals that were purchased some time ago, it isn't something that will be completed overnight."
"I understand that. Okay, so was there anything else you wanted to talk to me about?" Daz asked.
"Yes, My Lord. One other topic," Lyle answered.
Daz motioned with his hand for the man to go on. "My Lord, I believe that it is incredibly important that we improve the state of our city, of your city, and that we obtain as many citizens as possible."
Daz's instincts went off like a fire alarm the moment he heard those words come from Lyle's lips. His gut was telling him to do exactly what Lyle was saying and to do it immediately.
"Why?" Daz asked, trying his best to not show how internally flustered he was. It had been a long time since his instincts had acted so strongly.
Lyle raised an eyebrow but answered his lord regardless. "These tests are called adaptability tests by the system. I personally don't believe that we'll continue to get tasked with fighting waves of monsters. Tactics will have to be employed. We could be tested on our intellect, our endurance, hell, we could even be forced into a situation where our newly gained abilities are no longer available to us."
"Those are interesting ideas. In fact, Rose and myself have had the same thoughts, but, I still don't quite see how that relates to improving the city," Daz said.
"My Lord, with all due respect, you are being blinded," Lyle claimed.
"How so?" Daz didn't understand.
Lyle scratched his cheek as he found the correct words. "Upgrading Fort Skip is all well and good, for now, but I can see Waterford as being a far more useful asset to you. I've looked into it, and cities are much more capable than mere bases are. You could always spend the time developing Fort Skip into a city, but why not use the one you already possess?"
Lyle walked up to the seated Daz and placed a hand on the young man's shoulder. "I suppose 'blind' was the wrong word. Perhaps 'narrow-sighted'?. Look past Fort Skip. Order will soon return to the world. Tests will become the norm, governments will reform or be born, politics on the worldwide scale will resume. Humans are nothing if not adaptable. My Lord, I think it would be wise to focus on the biggest asset you currently have, Waterford. Delegate the management of Fort Skip or put it on the sidelines. That is my advice to you."
"Hmm..." Daz seriously began contemplating Lyle's words. "You make a good point. I'll think more on this later."
Daz asked the system for the time and saw that it was seconds away from midnight. "Aren't you tired? Isn't Mave going to be lonely without you?"
Lyle shuffled back from the throne and his face flushed red. "Hahaha, you do like to joke, My Lord. I see that a sense of humour was also mixed in when you regained your emotions."
"Is that so?" Daz smiled knowingly. "A sense of humour it is, I suppose." His mind floated elsewhere. 'So he knows that I regained my emotions, not revealed them or have chosen to open up to him?... Curious.'
As the two were wrapping up their conversation, a system notification that couldn't be ignored appeared in front of their eyes.
The system has detected an attempt to interfere with the test on [Earth] from one of its inhabitants. The system is greatly impressed that a mortal has the means to attempt something so brazen and impossible.
As a reward, all inhabitants of [Earth] shall be exempt from the final testing day of cycle two.
The host [Davido Hamilio] has been granted two golden tickets for [The Grand System Auction] that will be held during the next resting cycle. This is a reward and a show of respect for this incredible accomplishment, however, do not try such a thing again. Any hosts on [Earth] caught doing as such, shall be enslaved in both body and soul for the remainder of the system's existence.
Lyle subconsciously muttered two words with confusion as he glanced at Daz. "Davido Hamilio?"
Daz's fists were clenched tightly enough that his nails had pierced his skin, forcing blood to flow out of his palms. "You bastard... Manipulating people wasn't enough for you... You even went and tried to manipulate the fucking system!"
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