There were ten thousand people standing in front of him, gazing intently up at Donny. Donny kept his face neutral, impassive. The sunlight sent speckled stars of gold careening off of his armor. Honestly, Donny was surprised so many people were willing to look so directly at him, all things considered.
But the air was somber. There was a seriousness in everyone that wasn’t usually there. This had been a cold splash of water in the face of Donnyton. Already, rumors about what happened were spreading to the other Villages. Donny hoped that it wouldn’t become politically important, but it was something worth keeping an eye on. But for now, he had a job to do.
As Donny cleared his throat, he noticed that Decklan was conspicuously absent from the front row, where the other leaders of Donnyton sat neatly. It was good that Decklan had been evening out recently, especially since the borderlands opened. The wildness was good for him and helped mollify his spirit.
But all of this had ripped away that humanization. Donny knew that as grief seized the man, something else would creep out of him; his true nature as a Killer.
“Tera Feeny has fallen… who next will stand for Donnyton?” Donny said, enunciating clearly.
It started with Dozer, but soon the entire first row was stomping their feet. Very quickly those rows spread backward in ripples until the entirety of the assembled ten thousand were stomping in unison. It was a slow, even beat, but extremely powerful when spread across so many individuals.
The tradition was a spin-off of the Ghosthound’s challenge to Donnyton. It had started in small-scale funerals, those of people who died in Dungeons, or to ambushes from Raid Bosses. Often, for the tragic loss of a talented youth, who recently became a member of a Donnyton Squad.
“We will stand.” Came the spoken reply. It was almost breathy. It was a sigh, as everyone released the energy of emotion they held in their hearts. And as they did so, the stomping got faster.
Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom.
Donny breathed in, and then breathed out. “The Vice-Captain of the Assassination Squad of Donnyton has fallen… who will next stand for Donnyton?”
Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom.
This was different, Donny abruptly realized, than any other funeral he had been to. Part of it was the scale, but another part, the more important part, was what Tera had been to Donnyton.
She had been there at the beginning. She was one of the firsts. She knew the Ghosthound before he was the Ghosthound. At the time, he had gotten to the Skills faster, but they were still reasonable. It was more like the Ghosthound knew some tricks that the others hadn’t grasped yet. Whereas now, he seemed to be operating on a scale that none of the rest of them could fathom.
One of their first, one of their strongest, one of their brightest had died.
“We will stand!” The crowd bellowed against the sky. In the combination of noise, something seemed to be rising. An old, sleepy beast was shaking off the dust that covered it and baring its fangs.
Donnyton had lost something. And it was angry.
The stomping feet grew even more rapid, so much so that people began to lose the rhythm. But they more than made up for it in terms of volume of sound.
BOOM BOOM BOOM. BOOM BOOM.
“A citizen of Donnyton has died,” Donny said, his mouth dry. When he spoke, he opened his chest and used every bit of his enhanced Stats to yell as loud as he could. If he did not, it would be impossible for these people to hear him. “Who will next stand for Donnyton?”
“WE WILL!” Came the reply, and the beast was awake now. It seemed to be rising up from the stomping bodies, strands of noise and emotion weaving themselves into something truly monstrous. This construct was out for blood.
Those individuals who were able to attend this funeral were not only Tera’s friends and family but everyone who was someone in Donnyton. Arrayed before Donny was the army of Donnyton to a greater degree. It was the weapon they had forged, urged on by the Ghosthound.
After the Ghosthound had left, they had continued to sharpen that weapon, with training and armor, but they had lost something. They had lost sight of their ultimate enemy, the System. The strange collection of impossible rules that had changed their lives and threatened to kill them. But under it, they grew strong.
Perhaps they had confused this given strength for kindness or compassion from the System. As if this was a collaborative effort, rather than humanity using every tool at its disposal to fight for every scrap they had received.
‘We will not make this mistake again,’ Donny thought, closing his eyes and letting the noise wash over him.
BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM.
“A human life has been taken!” Donny bellowed, raising his arms. “Who will take it back?!”
Randidly returned to his workshop on the drone factory campus and spent another day working. He didn’t attempt to trade in any of his drones, as he was slightly disappointed with the outcomes, but he had slowly been developing some ideas about how he would need to adjust the runes inside of them to do what he wanted.
The actual adjustment was a very frustrating job.
After 6 hours with only minimal success, Randidly took a break and considered his available PP. It had been quite a while since he had spent the time to upgrade his Paths, and he suspected that he had plenty of PP now to finish off his current Path.
He of course, was right. Randidly had gained 7 Skill Levels in Spearing Roots, 4 in Plant Dominance, 13 in Potion Making, 9 in both Refine and Extract, an impressive 20 in Chosen of Fire, 6 in Fire Resistance and Cooking, 5 in Chef’s Palate, 2 in Farming and Roundhouse Kick, 5 in Mana Engraving, 10 in Spriggit’s Tinkering, 4 in Aether Understanding and Aether Detection, 7 in Living Aether, 9 in Gravity Affinity, 3 in Soul Bond, and 14 in Engineering Savvy.
There were plenty of PP, so much so that he could easily finish off his current Path.
Congratulations, you have completed the Intermediate Soul Bond Path! Some consider these paths to be lonely pursuits, but you have found a way to forge a bond with another, while each of you continues on their own path. There is a danger here because this connection will associate you with threats against the other, but there are rewards as well. Take care, traveler. For the farther you walk with another, the more catastrophic the eventual parting will be. Health, Mana, and Stamina +200. Level up gains increased by a small amount due to your partner’s abilities.
Due to the power of your partner, you gain an additional 6 unallocated Stat points per Level. You have gained the ability to instantly summon your partner to your current location. Consumes ½ of your total Health, Stamina, and Mana. There is a one-month cooldown.