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Forestwalk proficiency has reached 45%!

The trip to the outpost was an uneventful one, Garth spent the two days practicing two things: channeling mana closer and closer to a Mythic Core, and creating a substitute for Hyper-Fertility. Most of Garth’s combat preparedness hinged on that one ability, and without it, he was practically gimped.

He tried to copy what he’d seen Beladia’s mana doing to the plant he’d touched with it. It was crude, but after a few tries, he got a seedling to emerge in a half hour of struggle. Without Beladia, the spell was infinitely more difficult. It wasn’t so much the messing with the plant that was hard, it was the localized time dilation. Basically, he was providing nutrients and energy to the plant, but also casting a specialized version of the Haste spell on it.

Garth was able to carefully review his memories and pick apart some of how the ability worked on a fundamental level, with an unexpected benefit.

“You have spontaneously manifested Haste! Proficiency 0.08%”

Ouch.

You have spontaneously manifested Plant Growth! Proficiency 10%

Sometimes the Status band annoyed him. He knew he’d figured out the spells, but he supposed knowing for sure that he was on the right track was helpful in its own way.

With a little fiddling, he found that the Haste spell, as it stood, allowed him one extra second of perceived time for each thirty seconds of real time. Not enough to make a big difference for the amount of concentration it took to manage, but once his mastery was higher, it could come in handy.

Since Garth’s plan for a lasting business model was still in agriculture, he set aside the Haste spell, as cool as it was, and focused the rest of the trip on sniping different plants with the Plant Growth and Control Plant spells from Sandi’s back as they traveled.

The Mythic cores dwindles as they came closer to the Outpost, already snagged by Prospectors, until they stopped even bothering to check any burned circles in the distance.

“I’m glad this happened in the spring.” Garth remarked, letting Wilson call his targets.

“Why’s that?”

Wilson pointed at a stand of grass, then a second later did a head fake and motioned to a tall tree, forcing Garth to cut the spell short and re-weave it from scratch. There was no visible difference on the plants themselves unless you were paying really close attention, but Garth was getting some good practice.

“Wildfires would have made it a nightmare to retrieve cores in the summer.”

“There are legends among my Hive of a dungeon that was flooded shortly after it came down from the sky, allowing its growth to continue unchecked, nearly destroying the planet. A wildfire would be similarly…sub-optimal.”

“Sometimes you just get unlucky.” Garth said, glaring at a pine cone on the side of their path, by the time Sandi had left it behind, he’d managed to force a five inch seedling out of it.

Speaking of luck, they’d more than their fair share of it. Fifteen Mythic cores was astronomical by anyone’s reckoning. It made Garth wonder why they were so valuable, being so easy to pluck off the ground. Although if you only got a few days to do it once every thousand years or so, then had to spread them around to satisfy the demands of the entire multiverse, it might make them a little rarer.

 

***

“How many times do we have to go through this?” Garth said, wafting a Mythic Core beneath the magical shopkeep’s piglike nose. The squat, fat humanoid with a mouth like a catfish inhaled deeply as the golden orb passed under his nose, as though he could smell its value.

“You. Were. Robbed.”

“But.” The shopkeep’s eyes widened as Garth produced a second orb, twirling them in his fingers. It was a useless skill, but Garth thought it made him look a little something like the late David Bowie. All he needed was a lot of hairspray and really tight tights. Wilson could be a goblin.

He was standing in the shop of the man selling spells and magical accessories to Outpost 3516, a ramshackle little box with a treasure trove of spells inside. Just from what Garth could see from this side of the counter, there was an incredible selection of magical tomes, and Garth wanted the ones that required background checks.

These were the ones with an inherent ability for misuse. Surprisingly attack spells didn’t fall into this category, since they were simply on par with weapons. No, the restrictions were on spells that could allow people to infiltrate secure locations like Teleport, or subvert government officials, like Mind Control.

“But, if you’re caught with one without official documentation, You’ll be killed.” The pig-man stammered.

Itet leaned against the rough wooden wall of the business, watching them impassively. She’d disappeared after arriving at the outpost, then simply wandered back, finding them a few hours later, claiming to not know anyone better than them. Garth wasn’t sure, but her posture seemed a lot more…relaxed than it had been before.

 while Sandi oohed and aahed, her Lure prancing around and poking at the various magical trinkets. She held a vial of some mysterious liquid up to the light, tilting her head as she studied its pretty blue water in the lamplight.

The delicate cap on the vial broke and the damn thing slipped out of her hands, splattering all over the front of her shirt. Sandi gave a yelp as the fabric began to conform to her breasts, giving everyone a pretty good idea of what she was packing inside that shirt.

She started brushing the liquid off with her fingers, merely succeeding in spreading it around rather than getting much of it off of her. She lifted her wet fingers to her lips and took an experimental lick before raising her shirt and wringing it out. If you looked hard enough, you could just barely see what was under there…

“Hey!” Garth said, snapping his fingers in front of the pig-man. Partly to get him to focus, and partly for Wilson’s benefit. The lizard wasn’t even paying attention to the conversation, and that meant Garth wasn’t paying attention to the conversation. He could hardly convince the shopkeeper to break the law if they were both constantly distracted.

Maybe Sandi could do better convincing him than me. Garth thought, sparing her one more glance. Sandi was currently trying to pick up the pieces of the vial from the floor, facing them on her hands and knees, her jeans dangerously low, and revealing her thong. The front of her shirt was semi-clear, showing her breasts swaying just inside that thin transparent container...

Maybe not.

“Are you doing that on purpose?” Garth called over his shoulder.

“Huh?” she asked, glancing up at them. She looked a little sheepish when she saw Garth’s expression. “I was getting a little bored?”

“I think this’ll go faster if you try not to distract us. You’re making it hard to concentrate.”

“It is hard.” The pig man nodded, eyes drifting away from Garth again.

“But I wanna watch you make yourself a legend, like you said you were gonna do!” Sandi pouted.

“This is the boring part, I promise.”

Garth glanced over at Itet, whose antennae were wiggling vigorously.

“Is that amusement?”

“Yes, with a bit of disdain,” she said.

Good to know, Garth thought adding it to his list of Tzetin body language expressions.

Amusement/Disdain

 Most of their body language had two messages: a primary and a secondary. The primary being stronger, while the secondary added flavor, allowing for a bit of subtlety, or even downright sarcasm.

Garth rolled his eyes and turned back to the shopkeep.

“Look.” He said, capturing his attention once again with a Mythic Core. “Do you know how much one of these is worth on the open market?”

“The Office of Acquisitions offers a five million credit bounty for each one.” The shopkeeper said.

“If you wanna settle cheap, sure. Even if you did settle for that rather than trying to resell it on your own, this one Core is worth more than all your shop combined. Two of them… you’d be set for life.”

“But it’s illegal.”

Garth sighed internally. He really wished he’d been able to find someone with more flexible morals in the outpost with access to restricted spells. Kinetha would have been on board. On second thought, she would have killed him for trying to burn her books. This guy, though, he had the lazy look about him, but Garth had to hold his hand and walk him through it, build his confidence enough to bribe him.

“No one has to know.” Garth said very slowly. “You sell me the books. We burn your shop down, then you turn the Cores in, and claim you found them later on your own, desperate after the unfortunate loss of your business. Are you insured against fire?”

The pig man shook his head.

“Even better. No one will guess that you lit the fire yourself.”

“The law has truth spells…”

“The law,” Garth said dismissively. “Have you seen a whole hell of a lot of law and order around these parts? This is still the very beginning of this stage, everyone’s scrabbling to get theirs, offing each other left and right. You think fifty years from now anybody’s gonna remember that one shop that burned down and think it’s worth digging into the richest man in town’s background, huh?”

“The richest?”

“If you play your cards right.” Unlikely, but Garth wasn’t going to tell him that.

The pig-man hesitated.

“Women like this one coming to you.” Garth said, pulling Sandi’s Lure away from another table full of breakable equipment by her belt loop. He spun her to face the counter. She stood stock still eyes wide and guilty, holding a tiny apparatus that looked a bit like a watch with a landscape of frolicking animals on it. Probably planning on breaking it, too.

“And best of all,” he whispered, leaning forward. “No one gets hurt.”

 

****

It was less than an hour later that the three of them stood watching the city guard desperately trying to organize a bucket brigade to put the fire out. It was far too late, the shopkeeper’s sales records had already been destroyed, along with his remaining inventory.

“Why is your first instinct to cover a wicked deed to conceal it with fire?” Itet asked. “And how can no one suffer in an arrangement meant to circumvent the law? I understand very little of what went on there, but it was nevertheless eye-opening.”

Garth shrugged. “Glad I could show you a thing or two about being shady. It comes naturally to humans. As for the fire thing, you know I was offered patronage by Hastia and Entramond. They must’ve liked the cut of my gib. Holy crap, that makes so much sense.”

“I am unfamiliar with that expression.” Itet said.

Garth stopped to ponder whether or not there were deeper reasons for those particular gods to offer their patronage. Maybe he was more suited to them rather than simply gaining their notice in passing. Garth liked fire. He liked money, but not enough to work really hard at it or hurt people, at least before the world went to shit. What did Beladia see in him though? he didn’t even have a houseplant.

“So why’d you come back, anyway? Looking for more handouts?”

Itet wiggled her antennae in the motion Garth understood to mean No/Irritation.

“I sent the Mythic Cores to my Hive and used the ethernet to inform them of my failure to protect my hivemates. My Queen has banished me until I learn how to be a… person of less than honest nature.”

“A scumbag?” Garth asked. “You think I’m a scumbag.”

“You are a human. It comes naturally to you, yes?”

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A note from Macronomicon

It's come to my attention that I lost a lot of casual readers on Chapter 23

my writer buddy thinks it's the shopping scene boring people into seeking entertainment elsewhere. If you have any input on anything that bothered you about the chapter, let me know! I want to make this as good as it can get, and that takes feedback.

Also, if you've gotten this far, a rating would do wonders for the story's visibility, which would mean more chapters. If you don't have an account, get one here, then come back and help me game the system.


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About the author

Macronomicon

  • Alaska

Bio: Born in Alaska, raised in Alaska, where the nearest job is 60 miles away. approaching 30 years old, happily married homebody diving head first into writing professionally . Looking to make friends and fans, meet artists and get feedback.

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