Chapter 42: Regrets

Chris pulled the Slime back into his arm. He hadn’t needed much to kill the man. He’d probably invested too much into strength and too little into constitution. Or his armor provided him with bonuses to strength and little else.

Gregor’s body fell away, whatever connection it’d had to the axe had faded after death. Pulverized stone showered down over the dark armor.

Chris leaned down and tried to tug off Gregor’s helm, it wouldn’t budge. It was as if the metal had molded to his flesh. A pity. It might be worth cutting it off him later. Or just dissolving him.

That could wait till later. An empty suit of armor would be extremely suspicious. It was unlikely they’d notice his throat missing; but an entire body?

He was still leery of revealing his Hybrid nature, especially now that he knew Settlement Leaders had a quest to defeat Area Guardians. He intended to tell people, eventually, on his own terms. However, he’d need to know who the current Settlement Leader was before that.

Actually…

Chris left Gregor where he’d fallen and jogged to the settlement control building. The previous leader was dead, that meant that control Hartshire was ripe for the pickings.

He pushed the door open and stepped inside, coming face to face with Philip, his sword poised to strike.

They stared at each other.

“Are you going to put that down? You could put my eye out with that.”

Philip lowered his sword and Chris looked around. There were other people inside the settlement control building, and, in one corner, Dylan. He was alive!

Philip coughed. “Is Gregor dead?”

Chris nodded, then walked forward to the pedestal. For a moment, he considered letting someone else take control of Hartshire, but he could always assign permissions to others. Taking it for himself might also prevent any more Settlement Leader quests from being generated on his territory. He slapped his hand on the pedestal, keeping the name and aligning the settlement’s race to Human and Slime.

He sold off some of the Gnoll corpses outside the walls—twenty of them. He considered selling them all, but Hartshire would need capital to rebuild. He just wanted to buy something called the Settlement Subordinate System, and not do it on his own dime. It was cheap, costing only 1,000 System Coins. It was basic, too, but it would do the job.

He tapped the interface a couple of times.

“Dylan, Phil, you’re in charge of this place. And please come outside. There is something I must share with you in private.” He spoke up, “The rest of you, please wait in here for a minute.” He stepped outside and they followed him.

“You might get a quest when I tell you this, I’d appreciate if you ignored it. You’ve been given command of Hartshire under me. I don’t intend to intervene in how you deal with that, unless things get out of hand.” He looked at each of them. “Things won’t get out of hand, will they?”

“No.”

“No.”

“Good. When you eventually check out the control pedestal, you will see that the settlement alignment is set to Human and Slime. I’ve already set Slime natural spawning rate to zero, so you shouldn’t encounter any issues, but you’ll still see buildings related to Slimes. Any that spawn within the area ought to be friendly. I’m not sure how that will pan out if you deselect the Slime option for race. Understood?”

“Yes, but I haven’t got a quest yet.”

“Me neither.”

“That’s the next thing. The reason for that is because my race is part-Human part-Slime.” He saw both Dylan and Philip’s eyes cloud over as they read something. “Yeah, please don’t do that quest. I’m human, from Earth. I just got experimented on by aliens before I got here.”

“Uh, you know how crazy that makes you sound right now?” Dylan giggled.

Philip’s reaction was more… shocked. “I F****** KNEW IT!”

Chris laughed awkwardly.

“God help me, if that quest reward is good, I’m damn well taking it!”

“A bag of screws?” Chris suggested. “Anyway, I’m not crazy.” He stepped closer so no one else could see, and let his arm morph briefly into Slime.

“That’s so cool!” Dylan’s eyes went wide.

Philip looked a mix between nonchalant and quietly seething—if that was possible. “Meh, I knew you were a monster anyway. This just makes it more literal.”

Chris smiled. “Sorry?”

Philip glared, while Dylan just seemed confused. “Does this have anything to do with the troll quests?”

“I’ll tell you later. When Phil’s not around.” Chris winked. “That should be it. Tell those inside they can come out. Have fun, I guess. Oh, and buy a Defender’s Barracks, it’ll let you set a lock out for the pedestal until the guards are killed.”

They both seemed to rush toward the settlement control building. Chris almost let them both go… but… but… he had handled some things badly, in a way that was absolutely wrong. Failing to accept responsibility, was choosing to accept that he was happy with never changing. He wasn’t a hero, but he didn’t view himself as a bad person either. He’d endangered people’s lives, and apology was the first step to making amends for that.

“Dylan, if you’d stay a moment longer.” Philip could go ahead, that was just a bit of harmless fun, and he’d gotten some armor out of it, so he couldn’t really complain. He paused. “Wait, Phil. Just… I’m sorry.”

Philip nodded, then continued inside.

“Dylan, I owe you an apology. I thought you were the one killing the guards. I had no good reason to suspect you, but I still thought that you did it. So, I’m sorry.” Chris was honestly surprised to have seen Dylan in the same building as Philip, he would have thought the latter would have killed the former on sight.

Dylan’s face, which had been slowly becoming more excited, turned serious. He nodded somberly. “I’ll have to think about it. But I do appreciate you telling me.” Then he turned heel and went back to the settlement control building as people began streaming through the door.

Chris sighed. It didn’t feel great to not be explicitly forgiven, but it did take a weight off his chest, even if it added a different one. Unlike the first—guilt over things never said—he hoped the second would heal over time.

People were coming down from the walls, and a good deal of them seemed to be confused why one of their saviors had just murdered their other savior. Some had seen Gregor hurl the axe first, but more than a few angry glares were sent his way. Chris shrugged. He was past caring. It’d sort itself out eventually.

He walked over to Gregor’s corpse, then slung it over his shoulder with a grunt and carried it to the System Armor Vendor.

He walked out ten minutes later, grumbling. Gregor’s armor had been Soulbound to him—the paranoid bastard—which drastically reduced its resale value. He’d gotten 15,000 System Coins from the sale, but surprisingly, Gregor’s corpse had yielded 8,000 on its own—something about the combination of the Dao of Punishment and a Thaumic Heart being extremely rare. The Vendor had clammed up when Chris had actually asked what that was, though.

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That left him sitting at a little bit under 50,000 System Coins, which was definitely not bad for a single day’s work. There was still one more thing to get, though.

In his hands, Chris held the chain from Gregor’s axe handle. He scaled the ladder to the top of the wall, tied the chain around a merlon, then rappelled down toward a massive axe. Still embedded in the wall.

The Gnolls below were a seething mass of teeth and claws, but they could do little to the stone wall. Still, when they saw Chris their attempts to get inside the last defenses redoubled. It probably wasn’t a great idea to stay too long. They still needed to clear out the last of the Beast Horde.

With a mighty tug, the axe came free. Chris shoved the handle through the blackened hole in his breastplate to hold it, then climbed back up.

He returned to the wall walk, to come face to face with Steve.

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Chris sighed. It had already been a long night, it felt like it was just about to get even longer.

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