"Anita Sarkisian. Twenty-four, from a high-class family in Washington D.C originally, but soon left after gaining mastery over her esper ability, Plant Manipulation. She's a nobody trying her best to be a somebody by clinging to the heels of her betters," Rose coldly and calmly stated as she started listing off the four people that had approached Madison during the system's auction.
Seeing that Daz had no intentions on interrupting her, she continued listing off the people.
"Treyton James. Fifty-two, born in Delaware and raised specifically to serve as a butler for the prestigious Blanchard family. He has no esper abilities, but he's incredibly talented in reading people and manipulation. He can't hold a candle against Dad, and probably you, to be honest, but he's still skilled," Rose said.
Seeing Daz nod, she continued, "Chad Blanchard. Twenty-one, the younger brother of Keiran. He has yet to gain any mastery above level one over his esper power, but he's got the same one that his brother has."
The girl tapped away on her laptop's keyboard then spun the screen around so Daz could see the image of the man who was leading those four people that had bothered Madison. "And finally, Keiran Blanchard. Twenty-six, born in Delaware, the same as his younger brother and his butler. Like Chad, he has his family's esper power."
Rose frowned. "The power itself isn't anything special. It's called Metal Mastery. It's powerful and very useful at level-five, but Keiran's only at level two, so both of them can only barely manipulate certain metal types. What is concerning is that their family is part of the North American Esper Society, a group of esper families that bowed their heads to Dad before, but who would happily turn on you. They might just be stupid enough to pool their strengths together to take you on if you go kill those four people, the brothers in particular."
Daz stroked his chin thoughtfully. "I never wanted to kill them. They made Maddy uncomfortable, yeah, but that's all. They're all in Delaware, right?"
Rose nodded. "Yup. The brothers own the city of Wilmington, Delaware's largest city."
"Okay. I've got a good idea about the next cycle's main theme, so if the chance to visit Delaware comes up - which I suspect it will, I'll go give them a warning to not mess with Maddy ever again. I have no idea why they care about bloodlines outside of their petty little 'society', but regardless of that, they had best not have any plans for her," Daz said more to himself than to Rose or to Vanessa.
He then scratched his head and asked, "Was that all? Thanks, by the way, but I'm going to Guishan Island to talk to Han now. I'll stay though if you needed me for something else."
Rose shrugged. "Yeah, I just figured you'd want to know. By the way, it's six in the evening over there. Taiwan is sixteen hours ahead of us."
"Right. Time zones. I forgot about those... How do they factor into the whole 'attack starts at twelve-PM' thing?" Daz asked his brainbox of a little sister.
She rolled her eyes in response. "Obviously, it's twelve in each time zone. Hell, we were some of the last people on Earth to be introduced to the system's test. If it wasn't for the fact that the system manipulated the media and the internet as well as a few other factors, we'd have had extra time to prepare after hearing about Japan and Australia being the first ones to fight monsters. Maybe more people would have had the time to hold a good weapon. The only thing that had a unified starting-time world-wide was the auction."
Daz wore a surprised expression. "That's pretty amazing. Honestly, I never expected that."
Vanessa cocked her head to the side in confusion. "So, wait, I'd finished the first attack of cycle one before you guys had even started it? I never knew that."
Rose shrugged again as she loaded up a game on her laptop - this time, it seemed to be one where the focus was hunting or capturing dinosaur-like monsters. "Only people with friends and family in other timezones or people that left their timezones for whatever reason would notice it. It's not that big of a deal now that it's already happened since we couldn't have done a thing about it with the system overseeing it."
She started playing her game as she added, "Interestingly, you could take advantage of the time zones to sweep monster attacks and save lives, but only if you were super fast. Like, impossibly fast at that time."
"The system's really powerful, huh?" Vanessa commented with a bright smile on her face.
"You literally have no idea," Rose replied as she willed her chair to roll away.
Vanessa quickly said goodbye to Daz then ran after Rose and outside of the teleportation station.
The reaper just smiled at the two girls. He was happy to see his sister gaining a friend for the first time in her life, a real friend, not one that she'd never properly met before over the internet - a thing he'd never really used nor understood.
He turned to face the portal that was linked to Guishan Island's teleportation relay and then walked through it.
"Is this... the head of a volcano?" Daz asked aloud as he looked around at his new surroundings.
The ground was covered in a thick, black unnatural-looking rock of some sort. In the distance, just on the lip of the volcano's head, Daz could see a familiar-looking girl with horns and a lava-cracked face.
"It's really humid," Daz noted in a whisper as he walked towards Han.
The girl was sitting on the ground with her eyes closed and her legs crossed, but she heard Daz's footsteps, so she opened her eyes and glanced at him. "Hello."
"Hi. Nice place you've got here," Daz replied in what sounded like English to him, but to Han, it sounded like perfect Mandarin Chinese - the main official language of Taiwan.
"All I did was block the volcano and buy that teleporter. Half of the mountain is destroyed. There isn't even a turtle head here anymore. All that's left is the old military base and the visitor centre for tourists," Han said casually as she got back up to her feet.
'Turtle head? Hmm... I'm guessing that a part of the island looked like a turtle before? No? The whole island? Ah, okay. the whole island.' Daz wore a ponderous expression as he conferred with his Wisdom and his Survivor's Instinct. "Why'd you even save this place then? Sentimental value?"
"Something like that," Han replied as a distant look filled her eyes. Shaking her head lightly, she asked, "Tell me something about where you live for what I just told you, also, why can I not step through the teleporter?"
"Sure. I just used the City Creation Token and made a massive flying city. As for why only I can go through, well, you're strong, aren't you? I can't really let you through until I can be sure that you're trustworthy," Daz honestly said.
Han had a childish look on her face for a moment which showed a mix between wonder and frustration. "That's fair... A flying city? Can I hear more?"
Daz raised an eyebrow. 'Does she like fantasy stuff like that?'
The reaper nodded. "I don't mind, but don't you have to tell me stuff in exchange?"
"I don't have to... but I'll tell you about that," Han replied as she pointed to a distant city on a far larger island to the east of Guishan Island. "That's Taiwan and the city's called Yilan City."
"'City' is in the place's name?" Daz asked in a tone that spoke volumes of how silly he thought that was.
Han shrugged. "Many western cities have 'town' in their names, but yeah, it is a bit stupid. Nine of Taiwan's cities have 'City' in their names."
"You know the names of that many cities? I barely know about ten worldwide, let alone ten in America, but, to be fair, I never really cared about geography before," Daz said casually as he frowned in response to the heat. His Elemental Resistance made it so that he wouldn't sweat from just this much, but he still felt a bit uncomfortable.
Han plopped herself back down on the ground and replied, "Yeah. I like knowledge. Anyway, please tell me about that flying city?"
'It's only in moments like this that she actually acts like her age. She's a lot like Rose, which is pretty concerning, but I guess you don't become the champion of a god like the God of War unless you're at least a bit unhinged,' Daz thought as he smiled. "Sure. So, first, there's this big purple gem called Grid Cross..."
"It's getting late," Han mumbled as she hugged her knees a bit tighter and looked at the stars that were hanging lazily in the sky.
Daz stretched his arms lightly. "Yup. I still have work to do back in Waterford, so I should head back."
"Okay," Han softly replied.
Daz wore a troubled expression for a minute before he looked down at the seated girl. "Are you sure you're fine with me keeping you locked out of the portal? My instincts aren't telling me that it'd be a bad idea to let you into Waterford, so I don't particularly mind giving you restricted access."
The girl shook her head, making her hair swish about. "It's fine. It's better this way. I don't want my... condition to trouble others. You're one of the first people who took it seriously even after finding out that it wasn't a skill. Talking to you every now and then is fine if you don't mind."
As the two of them had spoken here, Daz had broached the subject of the girl's desire to constantly exchange information fairly, and, as Hsiao-Han had already stated, she had no incentive to do this beyond personal reasons.
Those reasons, Daz was unaware of. Han hadn't elaborated further than that and had returned to talking about Fort Skip, Fort Sky, and Waterford, quite quickly, so he didn't pry much further.
Daz smiled wryly. "Okay. I'll come back within a week. I don't want you going stir-crazy from loneliness, now do I?"
The young girl didn't reply to that and just stayed motionless as she stared at the night sky above Taiwan.
Daz walked back up the mountain-turned-sealed-volcano and stepped through the portal at its peak. As soon as he was back at Waterford's teleportation station, he muttered, "I wonder if she's also an esper? She's certainly weird enough. For now, she's a valuable ally. It shouldn't be that long until she's a lord under my rule, but more importantly, she needs to be my friend."
Daz headed to the station's exit as he wore a determined expression. "I won't bend good people to my will like you anymore, Father. Thought Manipulation is expressly reserved for enemies and dangerous people now."
Reika who was peacefully snoozing on her halo bed peeked her eyes open only slightly and she grinned. 'I like this Daz the best,' she thought before closing her eyes again.
"Sten, please, get out of the damned tank. We have to guard the keep."
"Nonsense, Leston! The general himself said that Lord Daz gave me permission to own and take care of this majestic beast, so surely that is as good as him reassigning me to put my very heart and soul into treating this magnificent machine as finely as I do my moustache, no? Anything less would be a capital offence, I'm afraid!"
"Ha-ah... Why am I your friend again?"
"Because your mother insisted I took care of you, and naturally, due to my dashing good looks and overwhelmingly versatile skill-set, you saw me as your father figure. What a ridiculously foolish question, Leston."
"My mother hated you for stealing her laundry... once a week. C'mon, let's stop playing around. General Retford won't let us hear the end of it if he sees us like this."
"What a lovely woman... A face fairer than the queen's... Hands as soft as snow... And those curves, oh... ohohoho, no, I must control myself, ahem."
"Stop fantasizing about my mum please, and just get out of the tank."
"Heavens no. Why don't you stop suggesting such nonsense? You know what, Leston, I have a game called 'Uno' in here with me. Maker knows what that word means, but the game's rather addicting given you're faced against a talented opponent. Care for a game or two? I've already installed a self-brewing teapot in here as well as a biscuit dispenser, so quite honestly, you're missing out an awful lot, my friend, by standing over there, and not in here."
"You know what? Fine. Whatever... Hey... Sten, is that a floating city?"
"Stop spouting hogwash, and get inside already!"
"Ha-ah... I really need to go see Doctor Werthers for a set of, what were they called? 'Pernickety lenses'? Even I don't need you yelling at me to convince me that there's no way a floating city could exist or would be here, of all places."
"Finally speaking some sense, Leston? Excellent. What do you prefer? Earl Grey, or perhaps a simpler Tetley? I've grown quite fond of the latter myself..."
Everyone that had watched this little interaction as they went about their days all thought the same thing, 'If King Daz gave you the tank, why couldn't you just park it in front of the keep so you could 'protect' both at the same time?'
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