"Be. Careful," Informazione, the Lesser God of Information said to his dear friend Pala, the Lesser God of Shovels.
"I'm... fine..." The haggard trenchcoat-wearing god's words were strained but he was finally speaking after such a long bout of silence so Informazione couldn't find it in himself to tell Pala to avoid talking anymore.
"I. Still. Think. It. Is. Too. Soon. To. Be. Walking," Informazione stated. "If. Only. You. Had. Access. To. Your. Greater. Religion."
"That's the... joy of the system... ain't it, pal?" Pala snarked. "Limited to... the planet we're... currently invested in..."
Pala stumbled to his feet and would have fallen over if not for his cyborg companion's assistance.
"Daz's done well..." Pala said before adding, "I'm getting... regular prayers... now. Just enough... to not worry... about dyin', haha."
"You. Should. Still. Refrain. From. Exerting. Yourself. You. Will. Only. Slow. The. Healing. Of. Your. Soul," Informazione stated as his eyes flickered, a telltale sign that he was receiving information.
"... Something important?" Pala asked.
Normally he ignored this quirk of Informazione's but of late he'd been getting a lot of intel on the group of system-deniers that were a threat to their champions.
With so much at stake for their little collection of rebellious lesser gods, Pala felt he had no choice but to worry when a potential threat to his champion reared its ugly head.
"Yes. Also. Very. Concerning," Informazione answered.
"Well?" Pala questioned. "Don't... keep me hanging... pal."
"As. We. Suspected. The. System. Deniers. Are. Being. Supported. By. A. Higher. God," Informazione said.
Pala's face fell more than it already had from his condition. "Shit... Well, that... champion... of yours should... be able to let Daz know... everything about... the god's champion, right?... Which... higher god is it?"
"I. Do. Not. Know," Informazione admitted with a bit of frustration in his robotic voice.
Pala closed his eyes and thought. "It must be... that one, then, right?... If you don't know... it's the only... explanation."
Only one higher god could keep such simply information out of Informazione's hands for so long. It had taken them weeks just to even discover that a god may have been involved with the group of system-deniers that called themselves Truthians.
A god that if their name was spoken they would know of it.
Informazione nodded. "So. It. Would. Seem. However. The. News. Continues. And. It. Doesn't. Get. Better."
Pala scowled. "You've... gotta be... kidding me. How... could things... get worse than... this? If that... that green blob is involved... then Daz is already in... for... a heap of... trouble. Morte was dumb, this guy? He isn't..."
"The. System. Defiers. Draw. Their. Power. From. A. Mythical. City," Informazione explained patiently.
"So what? That's... hardly anything sp-"
"A. Mythical. City. Founded. By. The. Aren. Species," Informazione interrupted, finishing his explanation.
Pala's expression went white with shock. "... Fuck."
'He's useful. Very useful,' was Daz's conclusion after witnessing Master Merit's sheer aptitude for business.
Right now Daz was re-reviewing the contract he and Adya had drafted up through the system for the second time and he had to admit, he was impressed. Very impressed.
'Compared to my contract with Emperor Nishikawa and my former contract with Emma, this thing is a veritable dictionary purely in regards to word count. Who knew the system had a page function?' Daz wondered as he flicked to the 57th page of the contract.
'And he even claims that this was child's play using one of his simpler contract drafts... The man's unloyal but his utility just shot through the roof. I see now why my instincts valued him being with me here more than Crusher and Dorian,' Daz thought.
Adya puffed her chillum as she rested on her pillows. "Finished yet, Dazji?"
Daz shook his head. "Almost. I need a few more minutes."
"I am in no hurry," Adya responded. "Tall and gorgeous over there is just a little bit of a loud snorer."
"I can't blame Crusher," Daz said. "Were it not so important to my future then I would allow myself to be consumed by boredom as well given this contract's depth and length. Besides, I'm sure she's a lot more conscious than she appears to be."
"You? Get bored? You seem above emotions," Adya teased.
"Emotions are valuable. I've lived without them for a long time and life is certainly easier with them. At least in a social aspect," Daz replied with a smile. "I'm finished now. I can't see any loopholes on your end and every clause is fair. I agree to this contract."
Master Merit smiled. "I'm pleased it met your expectations, Your Majesty."
Adya wore a coy grin. "You are a talented man, Master Merit. Would you happen to have any thoughts about working for me?"
"Oh, certainly, as a contracted employee. Unfortunately, I must disappoint you if you were hoping for something permanent. I am the type of man to go all-in on the winning horse, you see. Very fortunately for me, I've found my winning horse," Master Merit claimed as he glanced up at Daz. "Or perhaps it found me."
"Haha, how nice. I simply had to ask even if I already knew your answer," Adya said a bit regretfully.
"A wise and respectable move, Miss Adya," Master Merit replied in perfect Hindi as he bowed lightly.
"Dazji, what are your plans for Taiwan now? With our agreement and China's predicted withdrawal, you will only have to worry about the local band of heroes, no? I doubt they can bother you so I'm curious what you intend to do," Adya asked.
"My plans are my own," Daz answered stoically. 'I didn't expect her to try to recruit Master Merit with me sitting right in front of her. What would she have done had he said yes? What would I have done had he said yes?'
"Surely you can tell your ally something about your intentions, no? Put my mind at ease?" Adya requested in a soft tone.
'I am not so easily swayed by charm.' In truth, Daz was rather upset at having his least loyal but one of his most useful men be offered a job with him present.
He got up and turned his back on the woman. "I've already told you what I intend to do. I will become Taiwan's sole ruler. I'll likely gather up all remaining citizens on the island to Yilan City and rebuild it as the new capital. Beyond that, you need not know since it doesn't concern you. You only care about this plot of land, correct?"
Adya nodded. "That is correct. I assume this is goodbye then. Have a safe journey back, Dazji. You too, Master Merit, as well as to the couple in the back. Give them my well wishes. They may require them."
Daz's eyes narrowed. He didn't like how she had said that. It gave him a strange feeling in his gut. It wasn't his Survivor's Instincts but perhaps his inborn natural ones. They were telling him to read into her words a bit more than one might normally do so.
He simply nodded and then called for Crusher and Dorian, waking the former and relieving the latter. Apparently Dorian was getting bored too.
The three of them and Master Merit left the Indian temple and Adya on her own.
Sucking on her chillum once more Adya smiled as she closed her eyes and leaned into her pillows. "A strong pillar, that one. If he plans to assimilate the whole planet into his kingdom, then if all goes as planned he'll eventually set his eyes on India..."
Adya giggled faintly. "I wonder if he will seek allies or enemies among the 8 kings?... It's all irrelevant though with the gate safely secured. He can play his game of sovereign."
Daz clearly knew that there was something special here that she was hiding but he genuinely didn't seem to be interested in it. That alone was why Adya had been so curious about a man more than half her age.
She was glad that she had given him a chance. The meeting had been incredibly interesting for her.
"Hmm?" One of her eyebrows raised. "Ah. Foolish Bei has sent his sneaky troops to obtain the gate again? What a silly man."
Adya lightly tossed her chillum to the wall and it smoothly entered the marble mosaics. Not a second later a person flickered into existence with their neck pierced between the chillum and the wall.
Adya casually reached into her fortress of pillows and pulled out another bamboo pipe. "Such a shame. He has a good figure. Well, I'd best get someone in here to clean up this mess... I really do wish Foolish Bei would stop sending me his trash..."
"All went well, I assume?" the Yaoguai asked as it lumbered up to its feet, completely destroying the ruined building it was previously resting on.
Daz nodded before jumping up onto the monster's head. "Well enough to be satisfactory."
Crusher, Dorian and Master Merit jumped or clambered up onto the Yaoguai's back, each getting themselves comfortable.
"I see. Where to now?" the demonic bear questioned.
"Yilan City," Daz answered while he seated himself on the Yaoguai's head in a meditative pose - something he'd picked up during his time with Mu. "Two political meetings are more than enough for me today."
The monster hummed softly in acknowledgement. "Very well. I was starting to miss my pack, so I'm thankful for the chance to return so soon."
"How long were you expecting us to be gone?" Daz asked in curiosity.
"I was unsure. I have never served anyone before nor have I acted as their transport. I am very young. I was prepared to ride and rest intermittently for days, weeks even if need be," the Yaoguai answered honestly.
Crusher laughed. "Diligent little bastard, ain't it?"
"Quite," Master Merit said with a smile.
Dorian gave him an odd look. "How is it that you can understand it? It's speaking Mandarin. Come to think of it, you spoke perfect Hindi with that Indian lady from before too."
Master Merit shook his head. "Come now. Do you really expect a world-class businessman like myself to not be well-versed in the art of language? Speech is my most powerful weapon. Well, conventionally, at least."
"And unconventionally?" Daz asked as without turning to look at the three of them.
"Why, Your majesty, merit points, of course. My name is Jeremiah Merit for a reason," Master Merit claimed with a devilish grin. "But to give a serious answer to you, Mr Elkwood, I have skills that assist me with communication. Skills not too dissimilar to the one you, Crusher, and His Majesty share."
"How do you know my surname?" Dorian asked with a raised eyebrow.
It wasn't exactly a secret that he didn't share his last name with his father, but most who knew of the connection between him and Fort Home's newest general assumed he was also a Miller.
"I simply read the public records. The ones in the keep of Fort Skip," Master merit answered. "There is much to be learned in that place."
"Huh." Dorian shrugged then yawned lightly. "It's a wonder how people like you and Lyle can be the way that you are. I don't think I could ever be that type of person."
"Please, Mr Middleton and I are nothing alike," Master Merit protested softly.
"I'm with Dorian," Crusher chimed in. "Ya'll are peas in a pod."
Daz recalled something and said, "Speaking of Lyle, Master Merit, did you write up and present that local currency draft to him like you said you would?"
"Not quite yet, Your Majesty. There are a handful of details I've yet to figure out in regards to avoiding old word capitalistic legal loopholes, but I am making vast progress as the days pass," the short and portly suited man answered as he tipped his top hat elegantly.
"I see." Daz had no further interest in the conversation so he let the three talk and grow closer on their own.
He was still somewhat focused on Adya's seemingly veiled warning she had said before they had departed.
"... Have a safe journey back, Dazji. You too, Master Merit, as well as to the couple in the back. Give them my well wishes. They may require them."
'Does she have some sort of prophetic ability?' Daz wondered after recalling Adya's exact words. 'Maybe something clairvoyant? Did she see danger back at the mall? Maybe the local champions are aware of us being here and don't take kindly to our presence even if they don't know my intent yet?'
Daz had questions but no answers. There was a simple way, however, for him to gain some insight while also training one of his esper powers and expanding his internal energy all at once.
"Future Sight it is," Daz muttered as he activated the esper ability with himself and the Taiwanese champions in mind.
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