Doing his best to put his Path woes out of his mind, Randidly turned his attention towards his immediate goals. Dealing with the Creature was at the top, but Randidly still wasn’t confident in his ability to do that yet. Although it felt a little bit like procrastinating, Randidly was unwilling to move forward without first understanding Aether a little bit more completely.
The strength that thing had displayed on their last encounter… it made Randidly grit his teeth. He was not at that level yet.
Below that was investigating in the whereabouts of Sydney and Ace. This was difficult because, based on what Randidly knew from his dreams, she was near the Skeleton Knight. IF those dreams could even be trusted.
Ace was apparently in contact with her, although there was some conflict there, so he was likely near there.
Randidly turned and surveyed the area. Previous classes of pledgees had come back to the area around the Wild Rider, from whatever anthill they had been hiding in. There were about 70 of them, and based on their movements, they were quite well trained and focused. As Randidly watched, the Wild Rider held a quiet discussion with Jemma while a contingent of these riders flanked her, glaring at anyone who would come near their leader.
There was a blind devotion in their eyes that made Randidly slightly uncomfortable. Well, perhaps uncomfortable was the wrong word. He didn’t like them, and planned on having as little interaction with them as possible.
Of course, just as Randidly thought that, the Wild Rider began walking over towards Randidly, dragging Jemma along with her. Randidly groaned inwardly, and did his best to keep his face neutral.
Apparently his acting was extremely poor, because as soon as she arrived, the Wild Rider said, “Am I really that bad of a conversationalist? You look like you are preparing to eat your bonded animal’s dung.”
As Randidly opened his mouth, he paused, because every one of the riders that followed, and ostensibly guarded the Wild Rider, was giving him a glare thick with jealousy and animosity. Were they offended because the Wild Rider came over to joke with him, or because he didn’t consider it an honor to eat his animal’s dung…?
This was exactly why he didn’t want to interact with extremist groups. Randidly supposed that the Wild Rider’s extreme independence was similar, but that also made it so she cared very little whether people followed her. Probably, she would prefer if they didn’t. As such, it fell to her little peons to become over involved in the affairs of the world…
Randidly just shrugged helplessly, half meaning it as an apology.
The Wild Rider laughed, which sounded like chirping insects. “Well anyway, I would like to discuss your future plans David. And of course, you too…?”
The Wild Rider gave Randidly a questioning look. “Neveah,” He supplied.
“David and Neveah,” The Wild Rider said, nodding. Randidly could tell that underneath her Regalia, the girl was giving the Bone Wurm a wide smile, as if it was the cutest thing in the world, and not a huge construct of bone and rot.
What Randidly didn’t expect was Neveah’s reaction, as she flailed somewhat, and rolled her body towards them with a upthrust of rock. “Why David? Name’s not David.”
There was an awkward silence. Randidly winced, rubbing his neck. It took a few seconds for the people around to understand Neveah’s raspy, echoing voice, combined with her broken english, but very quickly they seemed to reach the correct conclusion all at the same time.
Of them all, the guards seemed to take this the most seriously, as if a fake name was a discovery that could threaten the Wild Rider. As if now that his fake name had been revealed, Randidly could turn against them, striking now that his cover had been blown.
Jesus, how touchy can you guys get…?
Jemma just seemed confused, and the Wild Rider tilted her head to the side. “Your… name isn’t David? But you told Simon-”
“Not David, Ghosthound.” Neveah supplied happily, righting herself and trying her best to rub, in a way that Randidly had to assume was affectionately, against his side. She basically just tore a hole in his pants with a protrusion of bone. Randidly sighed.
Unlike the previous time, THIS time the reaction was immediate.
There was no one in Zone 33 that didn’t know the name Ghosthound.
The guards drew their weapons and leveled them towards Randidly. Jemma began to tremble, looking at him with wide eyes. Her metallic dog squeezed through the press of bodies and rubbed reassuringly against her side.
One of the taller guards, riding a moose and holding a glaive, said to Randidly. “You… are the Ghosthound? Of Donnyton? What’s your angle, coming here?”
His voice was cold, and from his eyes he had a confidence in his ability to fight. Randidly just shook his head inwardly. Jesus, if he had known founding that village would make him famous someday, he would have thought long and hard about whether to do it. And likely refused to do it. This was getting annoying.
As if she couldn’t sense the palpable animosity around her, the Wild Rider walked forward and patted Randidly’s arm. Randidly looked at the horns next to his face curiously. Although the girl was only tall enough to reach his shoulder, her Regalia stretched higher, level with his eyes. It truly was a beautiful headpiece. He wondered what effects it possessed.
“Ah, of course, I should have known. You are Randidly Ghosthound, the man who has made this Zone much more advanced. The Skeleton Knight and I were very surprised, that we were called down so early. We were actually second, but the first Zone on this World was of course Zone 1. The Zones are numbered based on size, so statistically, the area that Zone 1 possesses is about 100 times as large as yours. Statistically, you could not compete. To beat Zones 2-32 is something to be proud of.”
Randidly filed this information away for now, but didn’t say anything. It would perhaps be worrisome going forward, trying to compete against a larger Zone once all of the Zones opened up, but for now, it wasn’t an issue.
Instead, his mind latched onto the fact that based on what the Wild Rider said, she and the Skeleton Knight had peaceable time together before they came down to this world. Perhaps they understood their role as part of a larger System, and accepted it to a degree.
Realizing that the Wild Rider was waiting for a response, Randidly opened his mouth and said. “…thank you. As for what I’m doing… I think for now, I want to….”
Randidly trailed off. But then he seized onto an intermediate goal that he would enjoy, and would be an understandable thing for the people around him. “I want to improve my equipment. I have some ways on my own, but I’d like someplace to buy raw materials, or even finished products. It doesn’t look like you have anything here, but…”
Randidly trailed off, as the glares from the guards grew more pronounced. Randidly didn’t know whether to be angry or roll his eyes. Although it probably would be annoying, Randidly was 100% confident that he could defeat them all, all at the same time. He had improved by leaps and bounds since he had lost to the squads of Donnyton, and although these guys probably trained well enough, they were not at that level.
Well, Randidly reflected, perhaps his frame of reference had just changed by too much. They might be the equal of Donnyton’s Squads from… 6 months ago? Time was also hard to keep track of…
“…You probably want to go to the Refuge,” A woman rider said, who seemed slightly more friendly than her peers. “The armor they have there isn’t so good as what comes out of Donnyton-”
She stumbled, her eyes flicking to Randidly. He didn’t respond. Obviously, going there would get him the best options, but the Creature was still there, and Randidly wasn’t willing to draw her attention.
Perhaps, the most annoying part of this conversation was that Neveah had revealed his name. If word got back and she started looking for him.
After a hesitation as she scanned his face, the woman continued. “-But it’s good enough, and the best place in the North to get it. Just… know that they will test you.”
“Yes…” Jemma whispered, her arms wrapping around her shoulders. “Dauntless… is a monster…”