I take it back. Having a giant eagle-crow is not great. In fact, it fucking sucks. Hmmmm, because maybe it isn’t just a giant eagle-crow. Maybe, just fucking maybe, it is a giant eagle-crow with a bit of rooster mixed in there. And not the frill or beak or wings or weird legs of a rooster, but just the part of the damn chicken that decides to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn and wake up the entire state by cock-a-doodling. Why, oh dear Ripple why? Looking out the window showed the barest hint of the sun beginning to rise, and all I wanted to do was rip its head off and feed it to whatever animal likes big fucking birds on a stick. Oh wait, it’s my bird, as in, I literally control this bird. Grabbing the mental link this early in the morning was only made harder by the fact that the wakeup call would put exploding mortars to shame. Finally, I found it and yanked, cutting off the next cock-a-doodle halfway. [NO MORE] I sent down the link, burning it into its brain, [ONLY IF YOU SEE ENEMIES].

  I am not a morning person. Using flesh sorcery to finish the waking up process wasn’t fun as it spurred me to the bathroom. Morning necessitations completed, I went to the fridge and looked through it and the freezer. Almost empty. This was probably the best time to take advantage of no one being here. I geared up and went outside, whistling for Norn. His big ass was more than happy to be up at this hour. I ordered him to follow me as I hopped on my hoverboard and flew a couple miles to the nearby Giant food store, circling it twice to make sure that there were no obvious things here that wanted to eat me. I pointed Gungnir at a wall and blew it wide open. Power is awesome. Floating inside the abandoned Giant was not the usual happy-go-lucky experience that modern day shopping usually affords. For starters, the lights were all off and it stank, spoiled milk and rotten seafood were the first hints that even corporate America couldn’t take a hit from the Ripple. Even Norn decided that the smell was too unpleasant, as he shit on the ground right in front of the hole I had just made. “Awww fuck you!” I yelled at him, wheeling the hoverboard around, “Everything smells like ass and you have to add your own to it?”

  I circled the building again, this time blowing man-sized holes every twenty feet. I was after the preserved food, such as cans of soup, tuna, vegetables, and seasoning. As I finished my circuit of creating doorways and ventilation, Norn began squawking at me, rapidly increasing in volume till I made him shut up. Strengthening the hoverboard enchantment allowed me to rise up about fifty feet. “So where is it? Hmm you stupid bird?” Looking at the giant eagle-crow’s face as he flew around me showed me that it centered on the store, but I didn’t see anything yet. “Anybody in there?” I shouted as I charged up Gungnir, my voice unintentionally amplified by the powered up crystal tip.

  One of the walls that I hadn’t ventilated exploded outwards, a ugly looking feline shaking its head, growling and spitting out bits of brick as it stumbled through the rubble. Thin, slimy tendrels sprouting from its shoulders were wiping at its while a few more along the spine were stabilizing it. I could see missing patches of skin where its bones were clearly displayed. Holy fuck that’s a cat, I mean one of the dead cats that was eating my face and disappeared just a couple days ago!

  A giant zombie cat with prehensile appendages in the grocery store that I wanted to loot, is nothing easy in this new world? No, not dealing with this. I’m safe on my floating hoverboard fifty feet in the air. The Weiss grocery store was just a half mile away, I could go there, loot the soup and canned meat and veggies and hightail it outta there. As I pivoted the board around, a chunk of brick came flying by my head. I rose another ten feet and shouted, “Hey now! We don’t have a problem. I’m up here and you’re down there.” The scrappy lookin fella was not happy about missing, which was evidenced by the fact of three more tentacles grabbing more ammo and hurling it up at me, which they just bounced off my shield. “Dude, I swear, one more brick and I’ll show you how to throw a goddamn rock!” The shitty kitty obliged with a brick the size of a human chest, which just exploded on my shield from the force. Its milky zombie eyes squinted in unfulfilled anger as it yowled and futilely hurling shit at me.

  A solid bar of yellow light rammed the zombie cat from the size, sending it right back into the store. “Foul Beast! The great goddess Astria sends her wishes!” a shrill feminine voice rang out.

  “That’s right! Suck it fiend!” The second battle cry from a slightly more masculine version of the shrill voice being followed by another bar of light blasting into the hole where the zombie was first sent. “And it’s Astrea, get it right, we’ve been over this!”

  I pivoted in mid-air. Three humans on the smaller side in mis-matched armor made out of various sports gear were running flat out sprinting in my direction. Two of them were dual wielding aluminum bats with some more strapped to their backs, and the shortest one of them was holding a hockey stick with some crystals and stone pendants hanging from the curved part by string. A pitiful attempt at a roar came from inside the food store, sounding more like a very angry whine. The secondary appendages came out of the shadows of the hole, gripping the edges and slowly pulling it out. Out of the four main legs, only two were working, but the tentacles were shrinking and the flesh of the legs was slowly getting thicker. “Not on my watch you nasty kitty,” the smaller one yelled, her voice giving her away, “The Amazing Advocates of Astraea have come to put you down.” She posed with her hockey stick pointed at the regenerating zombie cat, its pendants glowing a soft white.

  Lame paladins. Lame adolescent paladins. That’s all I needed. They couldn’t even get their pronunciation of their goddess straight, but here they are. And I suppose they weren’t just going to let me leave in peace. This whole time I was pumping mana into the levitation enchantment and angling it away from this area, a silent retreat.

  “And where are you do you think you’re going punk?” A blast of light flew near me. “We clean up your mess and you just want to run away? The traffickers of darkness shall be cleansed by our Lady, the pure one!” A rather pompous announcement from the tallest of the teens.


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