After a moment of intense scrutiny, Mrs. Hamilton bowed her head. “I apologize. What I did was out of line. I took advantage of the fact you had less information than I did to intervene directly in the process of your Class’ creation. The details I was given were vague, but it was clear that I would be able to exert an influence on you, one far beyond the usual clout I have in our discussions.”
Randidly remained silent, watching her.
Without needing to be pressed, Mrs. Hamilton continued. “I had also begun to somewhat suspect the Creature’s motives weren’t entirely hostile, and that it was rather pushing you to see how far it would be until you break. Not entirety concerned with your safety, but also not really out to put you in harm’s way with the express goal of ending you. However, I made the executive decision to keep these suspicions to myself, lest it dull your edge against her.
“In addition, I recommended that Ace and his companion Rose be included in the Raid Party not because they were the most capable options as assistants to clear the Raid Dungeon, but due to political and economic concerns. It might not have become clear while you were inside there, but that Rose is uncommonly insightful; right from the original notification she reached out to me and offered me significant… bribes, as it were, in order to ensure that she and Ace went into the Raid Dungeon. But, from the success, I expect that this decision didn’t affect the result too adversely.”
Randidly opened his mouth but found he didn’t know what to say. Clearing his throat, he finally managed, “Chrysanthemum is dead, or rather dying right now. Thea… it’s hard to say how she will handle the loss of her Soulbond. From what I’ve seen… it affects people differently.”
Pursing his lips, Randidly’s thoughts turned to the Wild RIder. Abruptly, he realized that he had no idea what had happened to her after the group had begun to fight against the Dintan people. He supposed she had been wiped out of existence when the Key of Death was used.
“That… oh that poor girl,” Mrs. Hamilton said. “Is she… so she returned to Donnyton?”
“As far as I know, she remains insensible next to the body of her companion,” Randidly said, slowly shaking his head. “I didn’t have the heart to move her. Because I remember how… volatile I became when Neveah entered into her coma, prior to going into the Raid Dungeon. It was… unfortunate timing.”
Mrs. Hamilton was silent for a moment, considering that. Then she looked up at him. “I have betrayed your trust with the things I’ve been doing. My only feeble defense was that they were crimes of pride, rather than malevolence. I mean you no harm, I simply believed that I had enough information and understanding to make the correct calls without consulting you. And always, I made my decision to advance the status of Donnyton. Is there anything else you would like to ask.”
“No, I believe that covers it,” Randidly said shortly, inwardly wondering what had just happened. He had expected… well, he wasn’t too sure what he truly had expected, but what he had pictured was coming in here to her and having Mrs. Hamilton repeatedly denying him, in some sort of evil monologue, where she revealed her plan for Donnyton. Not a megalomaniac, like Ace, but more… more a self-righteous fool.
Not that Randidly was particularly astute in a lot of matters, and to be fair he had relied on Mrs. Hamilton in several instances for her ability to perceive situations, but it was clear now that the town of Donnyton had a tacit understanding of the Creature, one beyond suspecting it existed.
From the memories he received, the Creature had only made true contact with a single individual, but Mrs. Hamilton was too smart not to realize something was up. But to have all of that frankly revealed, as well as this other issue regarding Ace and Rose’s inclusion in the Raid Dungeon team…
Wasn’t this too easy?
But beyond that first reaction, he also believed that sometimes, what you saw was what you get. It would be an incredibly clever ploy to reveal all these… relatively unimportant details so matter-of-factly, only to reserve a deep, dark truth that she had been concealing, use those minor matters to buy credence for cluelessness on the big thing.
Still… Randidly wanted to believe Mrs. Hamilton. She was also one of the few people in Donnyton that he believed could destroy the town simply with her absence, so moving against her was a nuclear option.
Besides, Ace and Rose had acquitted themselves very well, especially by the end of the expedition. Although Randidly hadn’t expected this to be the case, Rose was useful just for her ability to act as a very detailed Skill radar. If a Skill was used within a half kilometer of her, she could pinpoint the direction and the Skill, with what seemed like a high degree of accuracy. Sometimes the particulars would escape her, but she could get the general function of the Skill almost every time.
With her on the squad, they hadn’t even encountered a true ambush; Rose’s warnings gave them ample time to prepare and counter threats that were heading their way. All in all, it was difficult to begrudge Mrs. Hamilton for insisting they include them. His opinion might have been different when the expedition started, but after it all, it was clear that they had thrived in that environment, and grown to a level of strength that justified their inclusion.
Still, there was a small part of Randidly that whispered that if Ace hadn’t come, Randidly wouldn’t have had to put his own life on the line, and then Chrysanthemum wouldn’t be dying, accompanied only by a weeping Thea. But very quickly, Randidly did his best to bury that impulse. Passing blame would be pointless at that point.
Upon the back of the previous thought, a strong desire to return to Thea’s side emerged, which Randidly also had to suppress. The things he was doing now were important. He needed to verify the integrity of Donnyton to his own satisfaction before he began focusing on improving himself.
It was only after Mrs. Hamilton spoke, that Randidly realized that he had been quiet this whole time.
“Have you…?” Her question hung in the air as if she was unwilling to finish it.
After a few seconds, Randidly blinked and realized what she was referring to. “…No, I believe I will save that for last. We can’t… we can’t continue doing this.”
Mrs. Hamilton nodded solemnly, asking nothing more. For which Randidly was very glad because he had no idea what he could say on the subject. Even now, the final test he needed to run seemed like a mess of old feelings and new problems that were growing to an irresponsible level.
“Well, in other news, I can’t say I would have made the same decision, but I understand why it is a good idea.” Mrs. Hamilton finally announced.
Randidly frowned at her, this time without a single clue as to what she was talking about.
Mrs. Hamilton shrugged and pointed upward. “Appointing Simon the Champion. He has an incredibly useful ability, and pushing a lot of the NCC’s towards illusions will probably pay long-term dividends. The issue is simply whether the boy has the backbone to hold up underneath the pressure of being Champion. After all, we only know the initial phase of the Champion’s role. It is difficult to tell what will happen next.”
Mrs. Hamilton continued on talking, heedless of the fact that Randidly’s lips pressed together more and more tightly. He agreed with her 100%, of course. And in a very detached way, Randidly was mature enough to think that Simon might have been one of the candidates he would have considered giving the Regalia to become Champion.
But he likely would have decided against it for the same reasons that Mrs. Hamilton just articulated. In fact, of all of the longshots for who to appoint as Champion, Simon would have likely been beaten bloody by Kiersty in the brackets. Although the girl was shifting towards a weirdly culty vibe, she at least dedicated herself to it with alacrity.
After several seconds of internal struggle, Randidly just said, “It… happened very quickly. For now, I hope that I can trust you to take advantage of the resources it provides us with.”
Mrs. Hamilton’s eyes flashed. The word trust hung heavily in the air between them. After a few seconds of thought, Mrs. Hamilton nodded seriously. “…Of course. The same way that I trust you won’t be… extreme, in your search for answers.”
Suppressing the sudden urge to bare his teeth, Randidly just flashed a tight-lipped smile. Well, she had a point that it would be for the best to keep from doing something as hasty as making an ultimatum. There was room for some give in his tests because Randidly wasn’t very good at running a Village. His strengths tended to lie in the direction of training and accomplishing very simple tasks with force.
Delicate diplomacy wasn’t how he rolled.
They both fell silent as their gazes went to the spiderlings, continuing their seemingly eternal labor of creating clothing. Whoever would receive the clothing would likely get a pretty decent defensive boost out of it, at least against bladed weapons. There was a certain amount of dampening of magic from the material, but powerful magic and pure force would still be dangerous to the wearer.
It reminded Randidly that he had to stop back and visit Sam to drop off his… almost completely destroyed Bone Cloak. So many links were broken that it was likely impossible to salvage anything from the remainder, but Randidly intended to ask for it anyways. Through his time in the Raid Dungeon, he had grown to quite like the intrepid cloak and its myriad abilities and bonuses.
“We can accomplish a lot when we put our mind to it,” Mrs. Hamilton said softly, her eyes on the spiders as they ran the Marrow Silk through the dyes. “But if you two refuse to-”
“The more complicated the task,” Randidly interrupted dully, his voice tired, “The more dangerous it is to have volatile elements moving freely, thinking they know best.”
Mrs. Hamilton said nothing as he got up and left her office, moving on.
Next… it was time to visit Donny.