A lot of Zac’s actions were born from instinct since he’d been in constant battle for months. Without hesitation a green shield encapsulated him, and the Dao of Trees spread through his body as he brought out his axe.
However, he didn’t even have time to look around before an extremely strong impact slammed into his shield, soon after accompanied by an enormous gunshot. Luckily the shield held true, as a large caliber bullet turned into hot molten metal that fell harmlessly on the ground in front of him. However, the danger sense only increased and he once again summoned the second charge of his gear, this time gearing to move away from the group with his movement skill.
The others in the group looked on gapingly, with only Ogras quickly reacting. Shadows gathered around him and he safely disappeared from the line of fire.
Zac was just about to step forward to disappear with [Loamwalker] when a second impact slammed into his new shield, leaving him defenseless. He barely had time to inch his head away when a third bullet grazed the side of his forehead. Everything turned white for a second before he found his bearing, only to find himself on his back on the ground.
He felt a scorching pain on his head, but a quick mental check showed he was largely fine. Since he upgraded to E-Grade Race he held a greater command of his body, and could generally tell the state of all his bodyparts. He was extremely relieved he’d focused almost all of his stat points in Dexterity lately in order to match his other monstrous stats.
He wouldn’t have been able to avoid that last round without the quick movement Dexterity allowed, and after feeling the power of those bullets he held no delusions he would be able to tank them like normal rifle rounds. Just as he was planning on getting up he saw an unfamiliar man almost teleport to his side, and immediately touched his chest.
Zac frowned as he stared at the man, who looked back at him with a horrified face. He immediately moved to flee, but an iron grip held him in place. Zac didn’t know what kind of skill the man used to approach him, but he used the same method as he utilized against Ogras to keep him in place, infusing his hand with cosmic energy.
The man struggled to get free, but a punch with the force of a truck in his gut made him curl up like a shrimp in the air. Zac looked around like an enraged beast as he got up, looking for any co-conspirators to this man while holding his captive like a shield. This clearly was some sort of assassination attempt, and this man was only responsible for taking his corpse.
“Are you ok?” a frazzled Julia asked from the distance as she waved soldiers to search for the culprits.
“Just this much won't kill me,” Zac succinctly said as he turned his eyes to the man he caught.
“Who ordered you to attack me?”
“Please, mercy,” the man croaked, still shaking after the punch to his stomach.
“Mercy? We don’t do that,” Ogras with a sneer said as he materialized back by the group.
In his hand he held a sack which he summarily threw to the ground, causing six decapitated heads to roll out, each one with a horrified look on its face. On his back the demon had two huge sniper rifles that looked strong enough to blow holes in tanks, and he was completely covered in blood.
“What the f-“ Julia screeched and backed away as she saw the grisly scene.
“Answer him or you will join my collection,” Ogras said with a demonic grin at the captured man, who looked horrified at the heads.
“Please, we weren’t ordered. We only wanted your Cosmos Sack,” the man cried.
“That’s why you tried to shoot me in the head with those rifles?” Zac retorted with a glare as he touched his forehead with his free hand.
It came back bloody, and Zac was enraged even further. It didn’t matter whether they were ordered or simple bandits, they had almost killed him even though he had no connection to them. If it wasn’t for his large amount of Dexterity and his defensive Dao his head would have exploded like a watermelon.
Zac slapped the man hard enough to knock him out, and threw him over like a sack to Ogras.
“Can you properly question him later?” Zac said.
“I guess. They did give me these new toys after all, so I should give something back,” he said as he looked at his two rifles.
“I am sorry about this incident, this is partly due to our oversight. I actually recognize this man, his name is Ricky. He’s part of a small elite group called the Red Mercenaries. Your friend is… holding… most of the other members in his sack. Including Red himself,” Julia said apologetically to Zac.
“Where are they from?” Zac tersely asked.
“They came through a private teleporter, we do not actually know which town they are from. More importantly, please let the government take over from here. A crime has been committed, and these men attacked you in the middle of New Washington. Please hand over the criminal, and their restricted equipment,” Julia said, shooting a glance at the two rifles on the demon’s back.
“What equipment?” Ogras said with a blank face as he slowly put the rifles in a Cosmos Sack one by one, drawing a glare from Julia.
“This one is coming with us. If you have any complaints you will have to take it up with Thomas Fisher. There has been no discussion of the details of our future cooperation. For now, we will maintain the status of diplomatic immunity, and we will deal with our issues by ourselves,” Zac said with a glance.
In a sense it was a declaration of independence. He was essentially saying that he and his group would do whatever they wanted and that they did not agree to follow any regulations from the New World Government. It was both a show of strength and a way for Zac to test the government's patience. But more importantly he was pissed off and was in no mood to accommodate the government, who might even be responsible for the attack for all he knew.
Julia frowned as she looked down on the unconscious captive, but after some hesitation she didn’t bring up her demands again. She simply walked over to a soldier and whispered some things before she led Zac’s group back to the limousine.
The atmosphere in the car was quite oppressive after the events, and any discussions quickly died out. Soon they arrived at their destination, a large luxurious highrise hotel. Ogras caused quite a scene as he walked in like a bloody devil, but Julia quickly smoothed things over. Zac had already eaten a healing pill in the car and wiped off the blood on his head, so he was essentially looking normal again, apart from his frown.
It seemed like the hotel was managed by the government at the moment, which made sense as there shouldn’t be too many travelers needing temporary places to rest at the moment. That might change though when New Washington becomes a hub in their network in the future, and Zac couldn’t help but be a bit jealous.
He was fighting tooth and nail to simply avoid his emerging town becoming overrun by beasts, but these people had quite a laid back life. It seemed that this town hadn’t really been tested at all since the start, and Zac wondered exactly how this kind of environment could create a system-approved Lord.
They were given their own wing on a floor, but only a few actually went up to check the rooms out. Zac sat down in the bar and ordered a bottled beer. It cost 1000 Nexus Coins, which was far and above what food usually cost, but to Zac it didn’t really matter.
Everyone came streaming down one by one, and soon only the demon was missing. It only took 20 minutes for Ogras to come back looking freshened up, any sign of blood scrubbed away and donned in new robes. When he came back he didn’t carry the man they captured either, giving Zac a clear indication of Ricky’s fate.
“So, what’s the plan?” Ogras said as he looked a bit excited, with a mischievous glint in his eyes.
“We have two things to do. Buy materials and find people. I think we can split up,” Zac said, still feeling angry over the attack earlier. “I’ll accompany Sap Trang who will focus on acquiring talent, acting the part of the bodyguard. Calrin I assume will go to the Bazaar to make some deals.”
The gnome nodded, looking a bit excited.
“If you can try to get talks going for a few branches. I don’t care if they’re a part of the new government network or independent forces. It’s all money into our pockets,” Zac said.
“I agree. We have a great opportunity here, it will take some time before competing consortiums deign to come to this planet, giving us a good head start to seize control of the market. If they arrive at a later point we can just squeeze them out. Even a dragon can’t fight the local snake,” the gnome said with a grin.
“I’ll go with the little blue bastard, seems more fun,” Ogras said.
“Good. What about the prisoner?” Zac asked.
“He’s in my pouch,” the demon answered with a grin, confirming he was dead.
“Ibtep, who do you wish to go with?”
“I will join you. I am curious to see what professions you humans have. I feel your societies are more diverse than that of the Zhix, and learning more might strengthen our hives,” the Zhix answered.
“Good. As for you two,” Zac said as he turned to the two Ishiate who had joined their party. “You’re free to do whatever.”
“We will go to the bazaar to look for things that could help Cogstown,” Shea, the female Ishiate, said.
“Very well, we will leave early tomorrow, at 7 am New Washington time.”
With that they were done and started heading out of the hotel. Their odd party kept getting glances from all directions, but they were used to it by now. However, four men walked up to them just as they were about to exit.
“Mr. Monk and company. We’re from the New World Government, and we have been tasked with accompanying you during your excursion. Please do not take it the wrong way, it is simply to allay any troubles that your… unique party composition might bring,” a man politely said.
“Fine,” Zac lightly said after some consideration.
He didn’t really care if the government employees saw their activities. It was not like they could hide it if they brought new people with them through their teleporter tomorrow.
Soon they were walking through the bazaar, which was a huge square and the neighboring streets. There was a surprising amount of hawkers, selling everything from hides of mutated beasts to Old World luxury objects such as Perfume and jewelry. There were also quite a stalls with street food. All in all it created a bustling atmosphere that made a jarring contrast to the fact that 80% of the world’s population had perished the last months.
As soon as they entered the commerce area Calrin and Ogras veered off, with two of the government employees following in tow. As for Zac’s group they looked around for a bit before they stopped.
“Just how are we going to recruit people?” Zac asked with some hesitation as he looked around.
“I have an idea, but it would require us to expose a bit about Port Atwood,” the old fisherman said.
“Well, it’s already well past lunch as the auction took up much of the day. We only have a short time to convince people to actually join us and move to an unknown area. They would be taking a huge risk compared to the relative safety of this town. We need to give them a good enough reason,” Sap Trang said.
“Money?” Zac asked hesitantly, but the fisherman shook his head.
“Me? What do you mean?” Zac asked confusedly.
“You’re so strong so you might not realize the reality of most people walking these streets. They might look happy, but they are scared. Terrified. There are real-life monsters just outside the gates, and any day those monsters might break through those walls and kill them,” Mr. Trang explained.
“But if they know Port Atwood is protected by the strongest man alive, and that it is safe enough that we only need to recruit non-combat classes, a few might risk it.”
Zac mulled it over for a few seconds, but then finally nodded. The government leaders would have to be mentally challenged if they still didn’t know he was either The Super Brother-Man or Salvation by now. Since the milk was already spilled they might as well use his identity to their advantage.
“So what do you propose?” Zac asked, and the fisherman only answered with a big toothless grin.