Kortock dragged him by his ears into his office. He wasn't supposed to be so heavily involved in Ian's life, yet here he was, spewing insults and moral sermons and banging on the table.
It made Ian think that this all might be performative by nature. A barking dog was not supposed to bite.
Indeed, as Kortock became certain that no one was listening to them, he gave Ian a wild grin.
Sadly, the grin was covered by a system window, and the voice spoke out once again.
[FILTIGERS SLAIN: 3/5]
[QUEST PROGRESS: 60%]
The filtigers kept dying in the jungle. Ian didn't even have to be present and he was still making progress.
"You know, I am over halfway through with my first quest," Ian said sheepishly.
"I don't know whether to be enraged about you destroying our biological bumper or happy about you being just the type of explosive hero we wanted you to be." Kortock scratched his head.
"Perhaps be glad about me surviving two fires and a krobinnuti? And two filtigers?" Ian flashed a quick smile to his mentor. "Do you really want to be my mentor? I know I can be difficult at times."
"Then we have something in common," Kortock said, hopped up to sit on his desk and swung his legs on top of each other. He had a certain jumpiness to him that suggested a restless mind.
[FILTIGERS SLAIN: 4/5]
[QUEST PROGRESS: 80%]
"We are both a bit difficult at times," Kortock said, finishing his hook of a sentence, thoroughly impressing Ian, but that was not enough for the mentor.
No, Kortock reached into his pocket, pulling out a flask, the serious kind that was not designed to be displayed out in the open, and took a swig.
"Since you're old enough to go to the army, you're old enough to watch me do this and not whine about giving you a taste," Kortock said.
Ian was almost ashamed of his innocence, but he couldn't help being curious about whatever bad, humanizing habits this man had.
Kortock shook his head. "It isn't booze. It's probably something you have never heard of."
"What is it, then? I feel like you are just baiting me to infodump," Ian protested. "And you know I want to know."
"It is krobinnuti growth hormone," Kortock said, shrugged, and chugged some more liquid. "I need two bottles every evening. It hits me when I sleep, allowing exceptional strength, with minimal visual growth."
"What does that even mean?! Krobinnuti…growth hormone?!"
"You heard me right, son," Kortock said and flexed his biceps.
It was only now that Ian realized how much Kortock's suit – a bit old-fashioned and definitely inappropriate to the weather – was hiding. The cut was perfect for slimming him down, but there was a thickness to his neck that hinted of something more underneath the jacket of the perfectly tailored suit.
"Krobinnuti growth hormone will not give you the largest muscles, but it will give you the strongest ones." Kortock took off his jacket.
Like a sensible man, he had ripped off the sleeves of his shirt. It was way too hot to be wearing two sleeves on top of each other. But even though he had claimed his muscles to be far from the largest, under that suit that was apparently not too big, but rather fitting, he was really buff. Buff enough to fill up Ian's suit, buff enough to drag him to his office, buff enough to put a hobbyist bodybuilder to shame. Ian was in awe, and that was a reaction he had been subconsciously craving since becoming the overpowered rockstar with awesome skills.
Here, he was in the presence of a personality too big for any regular frames, another rockstar, a daring man and a true adventurer in the disguise of a sensible, tie-wearing office rat.
Kortock was pretty awesome.
"They are not supposed to know that I drink this stuff. It's not strictly…researched. Or proven to be safe. I do have the permission to do whatever I want with it, but I'd rather not hear you scream about this on the street, you understand, young man?"
"I do understand," Ian said, and he was not sure if he was lying. "Who are they?"
"That's a discussion for another time. I have a question for you."
Ian knew what Kortock was doing. He was building a relationship based on trust, applying the worst form of manipulation on the young man by making himself seem human. It was working.
Ian expected to be reprimanded for letting Lilac into his system and giving her access to his finances. For all he knew, she could be spending his currency, buying herself diamonds and driving him to homelessness.
"If this is about the girl, let me be, I was upset," Ian said.
"This is not about the girl. That flashlight," Kortock said and nodded towards Ian's pocket. "Where did you get that? I suppose you did not suffer from an urge to break into a local museum for some theft and jaywalking?"
The humanoid had been so weird that Ian had trouble taking its warning seriously. Perhaps it was right, but from its own perspective. Everyone was so secretive about interdimensional business. It was really hard to tell who was being objective and who was merely trying to get things to happen in a certain way.
Kortock was cool, though, and sometimes being a cool and human role model was way better than whatever lofty ideas of gallant selflessness people had in their heads.
"I met a humanoid in the jungle," Ian confessed. "The humanoid…sorry, I don't know what words to use about them, well, it told me to watch out for you and get some batteries for the flashlight."
"You want batteries?" Kortock opened a drawer and pulled out something that Ian had never seen before, two little cylinders that looked rather hazardous.
"I think I know who you met in the jungle today. The Outcast."