"So, who sent you?"
Once again I reiterated my question.
"I, I don't know."
When it came to answers I wanted, this one was practically in a different universe.
"How can't you know?"
"They didn't tell me who they were!"
"Then describe them."
"I, umm, there was a lanky guy. He was a little tall, and looked like an accountant from the old precorders."
The way she described him made it hard to imagine, but I was reasonably certain I've never seen the guy before. Or more like, I probably only saw one person from that side, so the chances that she'd describe anyone I'd recognize was pretty low. That said, hearing a decent description might be useful if I ever saw the guy in the future.
"What do you mean by that?"
"Y'know, those guys, like real skinny, short brown hair, thin eyes, big circles under them. He didn't have any stubble and was wearing a white curtain though."
"The other guy was huge, like if a star dreadnought was a person, he'd be that. He was bald, square jawed, and each arm was bigger than my whole body. He was wearing the same white curtain too."
This guy, sounded a lot like the guy I saw playing bouncer at the line I found myself in after I died. While it could've easily been just another guard, it might not have been so.
"...Is that everyone?"
"Yes! That's right! I didn't see anyone else! The big guy just took me from a weird line like everyone else, but unlike the others he came into the room I was put into! I don't think any of the other people I saw had anything to do with it!"
"They just took you from the line of dead people? Just like that?"
"Yea! The big guy said that I looked promising or something! But I really don't know what the hell they were talking about! I'm not really that special or anything! Hell, it's not like I was a real assassin or even some sort of trooper! I just liked to play they in some of the neural games we had!"
This woman's desperate cries were really getting me depressed. She seemed pretty pathetic, or rather pretty much normal. It was hard to see why the ones who sent her thought she was capable of taking me down. Or maybe they just really underestimated me?
"Neural games? What's that?"
"Huh? They don't have them where you came from? Geez, are you some primitive barbarian like everyone in this forsaken world?"
"Just answer the question."
She was making me have to stop myself from putting pressure onto her arm.
"It's just your usual system. Just jack a network cable into your neural implant and you can play games without your body interfering. Oh, umm, a network cable is..."
"I get it already. We had similar things in my world."
To be exact, they were extremely crude and experimental when I died, but I could imagine what she was talking about when referring to some of the sci fi shows and movies I had seen on Earth.
"So anyways, I think maybe that was the reason why they chose me? I mean, I regularly ranked in the top two million in Medal of Valour."
"T, two million? That's a good position?"
"Of course it was! I was scouted for a few teams even! It's just that I'm not that good at teamwork..."
The woman whispered the last sentence, but it wasn't enough to avoid me from hearing it. But maybe my misconception was because of the standards of Earth. Maybe where she came from, that was something comparable to the top thousand or something in a major game?
"How big was the player base?"
"Umm, I think the last time I checked it was around seven trillion? It's pretty sad how much it's shrunk the last year."
The scale of that was mind boggling. There were a thousand times more people playing that one game that she said was losing popularity than there were people on Earth. It suddenly made her claim a bit impressive.
"But still, even if that was the reason why they chose me, it's stupid they didn't give me an EAG-17 or something. What was I supposed to do with some pole anyways? Sure it killed stuff, but I've never even seen anyone fight with something like this before! I bet a G-Ball bat would hurt more than this thing."
The tangent this person suddenly got herself into made my brain hurt a little, especially with all the terms I wasn't familiar with.
"You don't like that light enchanted mithril sword? I don't know what a G-Ball bat is, but I doubt it would do as much damage as what they gave you."
"How am I supposed to know about that! You know how long it took me to figure out that you could pull it out of its container? That the stupid thing even was a container?!"
Thinking about it, someone who didn't even know what a sword was wouldn't have known what a sheathe was either.
"That's not even the worst part! They put me on this damned planet with all this gear on already! I couldn't figure out how to take it off for three days! Do you know how little good washing does when you can't take this stupid armour off?!"
Uwaaa. I didn't even want to imagine it. I thought starting off naked was nasty, but it was clear that she had somethings things much worse. Not only that, but she was on a job so she couldn't leisurely spend time figuring things out or getting comfortable.
Most likely, at the very least I wasn't born near civilization, yet started off with everything I needed to survive. This woman had to have started close to a settlement, or else, looking at her stats, she would've starved to death.
"Umm, anyways...that other thing you said you wanted"
I desperately searched for something to divert the subject as the woman was lightly pounding her forehead into the ground as if she was trying to delete some memory from her head.
"Oh, you mean the EAG-17? Well, it's just a type of compact shock rifle, but it was the best of its type in Medal of Valour! Ah, if you can only see it, the way its compact form fits in your hands, the feel of the shock waves as they pass over your body when you fire, the high pitched pinging when you hit something solid with it. I don't get those guys who always go for big rifles. Sure, they can punch through your power armour in a single hit, but its next to impossible to hit someone actively dodging you! Ah, those guys just don't understand the appeal of snubs!"
"Umm.., alright, I think I've heard enough about that..."
To have thought she was so passionate about a weapon from a game. Well, it wasn't like I was one to say much about that. I played my own fair share of games in my last life.
"So those guys, the ones that sent you. What was it exactly that they wanted you to do? Was it just to kill me?"
"That's pretty much it."
"Did they say anything else?"
"Ah, well, some random crap about you being evil and some sort of bad influence on the world and stuff, but I wasn't really listening to that bit, so I don't really remember."
I wished that she did, my life was riding on it after all.
"They didn't say anything else? Why did you go for it then?"
"Oh, I didn't say that did I? I agreed because they said they'd promise to give me whatever I wanted. To be born in a new life as close to how I want to, or something. When I asked if they could make me born to a filthy rich family where I'd never have to worry about earning any money, the lanky guy promised it."
"And what about your memories?"
"Huh? What about?"
(Did she really not think about this bit?)
"Your memories. When you reincarnate, did you ask to make sure you kept your memories?"
"Isn't that what reincarnation is?"
It looked like she didn't even consider the possibility.
"It's not. From what I can tell, normally they just erase your memories before sending you off. Everyone seems to get reincarnated, but you never wondered why nobody could remember their past lives?"
The woman's face grew white as a sheet.
"Wha, there's no point of it all if I don't remember anything! If I start again as a baby without any of my memories, who the hell would I even be?!"
"And that presumes they send you to a world you even like."
"...Wait, I made sure to ask for a good world to be born in!"
"Depending on the person, this is a good world. So would a world where the height of technology is making fire."
"You think they would've done that? Send me somewhere even more primitive and barbaric than here?!"
I took a bit offence at the slander of my new home, but brushed it off just as fast.
"I don't see why not. That's even presuming they bother giving you anything. It's not like you'd remember afterwards."
"Gah! You're right! They could've screwed me over as badly as they wanted and I wouldn't have realized it! Augh! Why did I take that deal?"
Well, for me, it was a good thing that she took the deal, looking at the results. If it was someone who was truly competent, then I might've been in serious trouble and not even be aware of the fact.
"So, you still thinking of betting on them not screwing you over then?"
"...in the first place, I don't see how I could even stand a chance. When you attacked me you weren't anything more than a blur. I couldn't even react. And before I knew it, I was on the ground. Even when I swung my weapon at the beginning, you stopped it with your bare hands like I was just a baby. There's no way for me to win. And now anything after I die feels real shady, so I'd rather live here than risk it, if I can."
"...well, I suppose that's fine."
Convinced of her sincerity that at least she felt like it wasn't worth the effort in trying to kill me, I let go of her arm and got off of her back before stepping to the side and sitting down.
The woman pushed herself into a sitting position while rubbing her left shoulder and took off her helmet before meekly looked up at me. Or technically down, as she was still taller than me, but the way she tucked her chin in while staring at me looked like she was looking up at me.
For the first time I got to see her shoulder length auburn hair, almond shaped green eyes, and tall, gaunt, almost pointed face. She had a sharp but narrow nose, which made some thing especially clear when she turned away slightly after her face grew red all of a sudden. After a moment, she turned her eyes back towards me, but angled a bit downwards. Her eyes grew substantially in size before they shifted to the side.
It made me wonder if Claret would be the last person I'd ever meet who wouldn't make such a big deal about my appearances upon initial contact.
"So I want to reiterate, you promise not to mean any harm to me or the people I care about?"
"If it means that you'll let me live, then sure."
The blatant flimsiness of that promise didn't escape me, and left me a little nervous, but it seemed like the best thing I would get from her. Killing her would only hasten the arrival of the next assassin, so delaying that for as long as possible was in my best interest. Even if it didn't, or even though I couldn't guarantee that she wouldn't aim for my life in the future, her lack of will to even try at this point made it extremely difficult to even lean that way.
For now, maybe something else would work.
"...It's hard to take your word at face value."
"Wait! I really won't do anything! I can't do anything! I don't know how you got as strong as you are, but it's obvious that you're way beyond me! I've been trying to raise my level for almost a year, but the difference between you and me is astronomical! And I know that the reason why I got as strong as I did so quickly was thanks to this pole and armour. But there's a limit to how much stronger I can get with just this! And that presumes I can keep fighting monsters near my level! With how strong you already are, everything in this dungeon is pretty weak to you, right? In that case, there's no way I can reach your strength! You'll just keep outpacing me no matter what I try!"
Her logic was sound. The equipment those gods gave her were the reason why she managed to level up as quickly as she had, but the stronger her opponents got, the less of an influence her gear would have, and the slower her progress went. Even if she managed to find a dungeon like my home that kept going way past floor 50, her progress would slow down to a crawl sooner or later.
Unlike her, I was able to continue to level at an accelerated rate because I was a vampire, and my vampiric abilities scaled well with my level. The stronger my opponents, the faster I grew. Not only in XP, but in skills, and my inherent abilities grew alongside it all. Even without that, the fact that I didn't have to sleep and generally needed very little time to rest and recover, I could much more efficiently use my time to grow stronger than any other living creature I knew of in this world.
Her logic did seem a bit flimsy beneath the surface, but as long as I didn't go around long periods without raising my strength, she most likely wouldn't be able to catch up in strength.
That said, I didn't have to play that game, and I wanted some insurance.
As I thought about it, my eyes randomly caught the sight of Claret as she was carefully watching the armoured woman for any aggressive movements.
"What is it Master?"
Even when I called out to her, the dark spirit floating off to the side didn't dare to let that woman out of her sight. Despite the end of hostilities, her vigilance didn't let up a single Planck length.
<Wouldn't things be safe if I made her a familiar?>
That look of surprise as her face snapped directly towards me practically screamed the exclamation marks that was sure to be stuffing the inside of her head.
<I was thinking that if I made her a familiar, then we'd be able to track where she is at any time. We'd get plenty of forewarning in case she were to try something, right?>
<Scarlet, while I think it works as well, what about me?>
<If she became your familiar, then she'd be able to hear us talking all the time. While you and Claret can just say things out loud, I can't do that. Everything I say is heard by both of you all the time, with her as well if you do this.>
That was a serious problem. I didn't want to reveal Alicia's existence if I could help it. Her separate view of things had lots of advantages. If people spread her existence around, it could cause trouble if it wasn't received favourably, or the information was skewed in bad ways as malicious rumours.
That in itself wasn't too bad, and there were ways for me to deal with it, but if everything she said was transmitted to a potential enemy, there was nothing but things to worry about constantly.
It looked like maybe this idea had to be scrapped.
"Maybe that's not a problem."
<How can't it be? There's chances of her overhearing sensitive information. At the very least, I'd be pretty anxious that the wrong thing might slip like this.>
"I can't say that something wont' slip, but maybe we can keep her from hearing what we're saying Master."
"Master, familiar communication works similarly to telepathy, just that it's shouted out to everyone connected all the time. But if Alicia can learn to use real telepathy, then that would solve everything."
<Was telepathy a skill or a spell?>
"It's a skill. I never learned it myself, but I heard that it's relatively easy to learn."
I quickly scanned through the skill master list, and found it. [Telepathy] was a skill that transmitted thoughts from one person to another, or a group of people. It was exactly as on the tin it seemed. A quick glance at the method of learning, but it seemed like it wasn't going to be difficult.
Or rather, the armoured woman already had the skill now that I thought about it, and a quick check confirmed exactly that. In theory then, thanks to the familiar contract, we could simply use her copy of the skill until we learned it for ourselves. I couldn't see any more problems regarding this idea.
<Alright. Do either of you have any more objections?>
"While I can't take your world at face value, I know of a way to help make sure you keep it."
"What is it?"
Turning my attention back to the woman, it looked like she had been squirming around for a little while, having gotten impatient while the rest of us were having our silent conversation unbeknownst to her. When I finally gave her my words, the woman had given out a large sigh.
"I'll place you under a familiar contract. It'll allow us to know the location of each other at all times. If you try something, I'll know it."
"Oh, is that it?"
"It'll also let us communicate to each other at any time though a telepathic channel."
Though I don't plan on actually using that feature with her.
"Oh, so it's a type of private chat then?"
"...It is, but I don't want to be spammed by you."
"Fine, I'll only use it for emergencies."
I really hoped that she wouldn't ever use it, especially in an attempt to start a casual conversation.
<By the way, is it possible to block messages though the familiar communication?>
I did my best to hide my disappointment from everyone present.
Pushing out my mind, I sent a request for the familiar contract to the woman.
"When you see the message, just hit accept."
'Sarah O'Connelly has become your familiar.'
(Oh yea, that's her name. I forgot about it.)
It was a little weird seeing this actually work, but at the same time, there wasn't much reason to think that such a feature wouldn't work on anyone, considering it worked fine with greater spirits like Claret already.
Just to confirm everything, I opened up the woman's, err Sarah's, stat page. Everything there was as it should have been.
For the next step, I focused my thoughts on her skill: [Telepathy]. Instead of using my usual means, I tried to send a message through Sarah's skill.
<Claret, Alicia, can you hear me?>
"I can Master."
Doing it this way felt like a part of me was passing through some strange, muddles passage. Like trying to force my arm through a pipe filled with sticky sludge. It took far more effort than normal. In addition, Alicia's return message sounded distant and tinny, with tons of distortion like her voice was passed though an extremely low bit rate filter or something.
<Seems like it works, but I want to learn the skill quickly. Just trying to talk like this takes way too much effort.>
"I'll do my best to learn the skill as well Master."