“Claire!” Rowen screeched in alarm. He jumped over and threw the bag tied to his side over her, trying in vain to hide her. Milly just continued to stare with an open mouth.
“Rowen, stop it!” Claire cried out, struggling to break free of the bag, “Hey, let me out! This is an order!”
“Do you have any idea how Master Doc is going to be when he realizes you showed yourself here?” Rowen whispered worryingly to her as he ignored her, “He is going to kill someone, and not using his normal methods. I DO NOT want slimes invading this town!”
“It’ll be fine,” Claire protested, “Rowen, as your newly adopted maternal figure, believe me when I say that this is fine. Now let me out!”
“Who’s my new mother?” Rowen refuted harshly, “I doubt any mother would be so dumb as to put her life in danger JUST FOR SOME FUN!”
“Rowen . . .” Milly stammered, “What, who, is that?”
Rowen froze as he remembered Milly’s presence. Claire took advantage of his realization and quickly escaped the bag, flying over to Milly’s face. Milly’s eyes focused on the little pixie in front of her.
“Hm, so you’re Milly?” Claire grinned, “Nice to meet you, I’m Claire the Dungeon Pixie! Rowen’s shown me a lot about you.”
“Dungeon pixie . . .” Milly muttered. She gasped and brightened, “Oh, so you’re Claire! Rowen told me about you!”
“Really?” Claire frowned and looked back at Rowen, who shrugged.
“I don’t remember either,” he confessed, “but she claims I told her about our . . . relationship some time ago.”
“Hm,” Claire pondered with her finger on her lip, “I don’t have any recollection either. That’s odd.”
Milly leaped forward, taking the two others by surprise, and wrapped her arms around Claire in a hug. “Oh my goddess, you’re so cute and adorable! That dress goes so beautifully with your skin and hair, I’m so jealous! I can’t wear anything cute or pretty here in town because they’d get dirty!”
Claire escaped Milly’s assault and posed happily in the air. “You think I look cute? Thank-you so much! I haven’t been honestly complimented in so long I forgot how it feels like.”
“Me too,” Milly agreed, “I mean, it’s nice and all to be treated like a child, but no one ever means it when they complement your looks. I want to feel pretty and girly sometimes!”
Then, the two girls shared a hug and began to sob. Rowen face-palmed and groaned, before casting a spell. With a wave of his wand, the two ends of the alley was blocked by the illusion of crates.
“Phew, good thing Master Ganus has been teaching us some basic spells, otherwise this would be a very short-lived reunion.” Rowen muttered. He looked over at the two girls, who were wrapped up in the throes of new friendship, and concentrated.
“Doc, have you calmed down?” Rowen sent through the mental bond.
He heard a loud sob, followed by an affirmative.
“Right, do you know where Claire is?” Rowen asked.
“Claire? She was right her with me . . . huh? Where’d she go?” Rowen heard Doc’s wondering voice.
“Well, she’s here with me . . . in town . . . in front of my friend . . . and talking with her,” Rowen admitted sheepishly.
There was an odd pause.
“Keep her safe,” was all that Doc said.
“Huh? I thought you were going to have a panic attack like you usually do? You feeling okay Master Doc?” Rowen asked in concern.
He heard a long sigh from the dungeon. “As much as I hate the idea of Claire being in danger, we have bigger problems Rowen. Claire’s always told me that adventurers are the dangerous things, so if all the adventurers are gone then the town is completely safe. She explained it to me before she left.”
Rowen thought of the many soldiers, merchants, priests, and other dangers in town.
“Right then, as long as you’re okay with it,” Rowen whistled internally, deciding to leave the issue alone.
“Yup, as long as there is no danger, she can have all the fun she wants. Besides,” Doc grew oddly serious, “You and her need to use this time to find out who’s been killing my prey and blaming it on me. I hate not knowing! Since your friend knows about us, use her too. Or eat her, whatever works best. Just figure out the culprit and . . . do something bad to it! By the way, how are Claire and your friend doing? Are they getting along?”
Rowen turned his attention back to the two girls, who were now giggling and whispering.
“. . .kill any girl who tries to steal . . .”
“I know the feeling. Put what about instead . . .”
“No, not painful enough . . . I’d rather . . .”
“Heh heh, I knew you’d be the same as me! Put you need to remember . . .”
“Right! Thieves trying to take what’s mine deserve . . .”
The two shared a horrible giggle that sent shivers up Rowen’s spine.
“I think they’re getting along; I can’t hear what they’re talking about too good though,” he reported.
“Just take care of Claire, search for the culprit, and find me some interesting materials to use as slime evolution catalysts,” Doc ordered, “Meanwhile, I’m going to have to start saving my mana. Without any adventurers to replenish my stockpile of mana, Claire told me I’ll start to lose my abilities and floors! I’ll have to suspend the mental connection temporarily too, so only call me if it’s an emergency. Good luck!”
Rowen sighed in comfort as he felt the persistent mental bond with the dungeon relax. He took a moment to appreciate the freedom he hadn’t felt since he joined the dungeon.
“Claire, did Master Doc really need to stop communicating to save mana?” Rowen asked the little pixie.
Claire giggled, “Nope, that’s one of his innate abilities. I just wanted a break from talking to him; you too right?”
“Well, I can’t say it isn’t welcome,” Rowen admitted, “But you really lied to Doc today about a lot of things. This town is still really dangerous for you to be here.”
“True,” Claire admitted with her arms crossed, “However, after Doc’s tantrum yesterday over the murderer, I felt that this opportunity couldn’t be missed to thoroughly explore the town to find the culprit.”
“Murderer?” Milly asked curiously, “Do you mean the Beheading murderer? Yeah, he’s been a big topic of discussion at the tavern. Random men and women found dead and missing their heads, their necks melted. A few adventurers said they’d come across slime in the dungeon that attacked the same way.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Claire protested, “Doc’s slimes only go for the head when falling from an aerial trap. There aren’t any traps in town, nor any active slimes.”
“How about inactive slimes?” Milly suggested.
Claire and Rowen shared a quick look before shaking their heads. “No, Doc would never risk himself by creating slimes outside the dungeon. I taught him too well for him to be that dumb,” Claire reasoned, “Like my mommy once told me, ‘you can lie to me about not eating the cookies, but you have crumbs all over your face’.”
Milly and Rowen stifled their laughter, as Claire was nodding her head in complete seriousness.
“So,” she continued, “All we need to do is find the crumbs of the culprit! Now, to the crime scene!”
“Claire, if you want to go, then you’ll need to hide in pocket,” Rowen said seriously, “We can’t afford to let others know of your existence.”
“No!” Claire disagreed.
“Here Claire, hide here in my shirt,” Milly pulled her pocket open, “I have more room, and it smells nicer.”
“Okay!” Claire said cheerfully as she dived into the shirt pocket. Rowen grumbled for a moment as he dispelled the illusion on the alley.
“Alright, I think the newest crime scene is near the Tent City gate in here in Iron Town. Follow me,” Rowen muttered as he led the two girls down the street.
“I know I’ve been watching everything through his eyes, but he really is grumpy isn’t he?” Claire wondered out loud.
Milly nodded sagely, “Yup; his two normal moods are either prideful or grumpy. If he’s smiling, then something bad happened to someone else.”
“Those type are sad aren’t they,” Claire sighed, “So pitiful in their loneliness.”
“I can hear both of you, you know?” Rowen grit his teeth, “And Claire, stop talking out loud. Use your telepathy.”
“We know,” the girls chorused, Claire speaking in Milly and Rowen’s minds.
Groaning, Rowen led the girls through the town toward the Tent City gate. The mob at the Noble District gate was large enough that the three met very few people on their way.
“This is close enough,” Rowen announced as he stopped at an alley entrance, “The latest victim was . . . a farmer’s wife I believe. Milly, how did the adventurers describe the scene again?”
“No head and surrounded by vegetables,” Milly announced, “Her body was buried near the mass grave next to the undead dungeon ruins.”
“For some reason, I feel like making a mass grave next to the ruins of an undead dungeon is a bad idea,” Rowen complained, “Isn’t just asking for trouble?”
“It is, but that’s not important right now,” Claire declared, “Now it’s time to find some crumbs!”
Rowen cast his illusion spell on the alley, and Claire flew out of Milly’s pocket.
“Now, since you two have been learning mortal magic, allow me to show you some fey magic!” Claire said gleefully. Floating parallel with Rowen’s head, Claire slowly drifted down the alley with her arms in front of her, her hands wrapped around the air. Slowly, a ball of purple light began to form between her palms, which she manipulated by rotating her hands around. A small breeze began to whisper through the alley, a dim purple light illuminating the walls and ground.
“Blessings of the earth,” Claire muttered, and she released the ball of purple light. It fell down and was absorbed by the soil. A pulse of energy shot through the alley, covering every surface. Slowly, the purple glow of a headless body appeared on the ground, surrounded by spilled food.
“Wow!” Milly exclaimed in wonder, “I’ve never seen or heard of this type of magic before! Ms. Claire, you are amazing!”
“I agree,” Rowen said in amazement, “How are you doing this?”
Claire grinned cheekily, “Oh, when I told you about what my mommy said earlier, I bet you thought I had actual crumbs on my face didn’t you? Sillies, she just cast this spell and revealed the ghost of my sins. That is what the spell is called by the way, ‘Ghost of Past Sins’. It’s a very high level necromancer spell to you humans, but it’s one of my family’s blood abilities. I’ve actually added my own special twist, using the earth magic my daddy taught me to use the memories of the soil to project what happened.”
To illustrate, Claire waved her hand, and the purple images slowly started to move in reverse. Slowly, the food and other goods floated into the air toward a purple basket, and the body arose into a very odd posture.
Rowen frowned, “The way her hands are moving, it looks like she’s trying to get something off her face. But why can’t we see what attacked her?”
“The attacker isn’t appearing in the memories of the soil,” Claire explained, “Which likely means it never touched the ground in this alley.”
“Well, what about when the attacker was finished?” Milly asked, “It should have at least touched some surface after the body fell.”
Claire grimaced, “I’d have to restart the spell, and that might drain me of too much mana to cast anymore magic. Just keep an eye out for the start of the attack.”
“Claire, you’re sweating,” Rowen cautioned.
“Just a little effort to keep this spell going, but don’t worry about me! Concentrate on finding the attacker,” Claire groaned.
Milly and Rowen watched carefully as the victim’s hands continued to struggle with the invisible attacker. Suddenly, the hands began to drop down.
“Hurry, the spell will end soon!” Claire cautioned.
Rowen and Milly turned their heads left and right as they looked for any additional purple outline that could give them a hint of the attacker’s identity.
“Look!” Milly said suddenly. She pointed at the top of the roof on the right. There, a round figure was slightly poking over the edge.
“Can’t!” Claire gasped, her hands dropping to her side. The magic disappeared and left the alley in shadow once again. Rowen caught Claire as she fell.
Claire grinned sadly, “Wow, I haven’t cast a spell of this size in some time; I’m out of practice. Mommy would be really mad if she found out how bad I’ve gotten.”
“You did really good Ms. Claire,” Milly complimented from the side.
“Please, just call me Claire,” Claire begged, “Ms. Just makes me sound old.” She turned her head to Rowen, “Did you figure out who the murderer was?”
“It could have been a slime, but it also could have been a head. I couldn’t make it out very well,” Rowen shook his head, “Whatever it is, the attacker seems to leap off the roof onto the heads of its victims. Judging by how she struggled, I don’t think the attacker was very big; about the size of her head.”
“It must be a slime then,” Claire grimaced, “It’s the only thing that would fill both criteria; round and the size of a human head. This is really not good.”
“Why?” Milly asked curiously, “We know the attacker now, so let’s go get it!”
Claire and Rowen shared a worried look.
“Milly,” Claire said calmly, “every slime in the dungeon is created, used, and controlled by Doc the dungeon. If there is a slime out here killing people, then . . .”
“It might be Doc doing it,” Rowen finished, “After all, he has been complaining about the lower numbers of adventurers in the dungeon. It might be possible he just got hungry and acted wrongly.”
“The worst possibility is that he’s corrupted,” Claire continued, “That would mean this entire town is on the verge of being turned into slime spawning ground.”
“Maybe it isn’t your dungeon at all,” Milly reasoned, “It’s not like real slimes don’t live in the forest. Maybe the demons forced them to change hunting grounds. Your spell didn’t show what color the slime was.”
“But it acted intelligent,” Rowen argued, “Wild slimes are idiots in every way.”
“Milly might have a point,” Claire considered, “After all, wild slimes are perfectly capable of learning how best to hunt prey; they just have to live long enough to gain experience. Which would mean a very old, very cunning slime is working this town. That really isn’t any better than Doc being the bad guy.”
“Really? I feel like a rogue dungeon is the worst thing that can happen here!” Milly argued.
Claire shook her head, “No, because an old slime feeding this frequently means it’s close to reproducing. And slimes reproduce by splitting themselves into multiple new slimes, each with the same level of experience as the parent.”
“So,” Rowen said grimly, “Either way, this town is looking to be covered in slimes unless we find the culprit and kill it. That’s not even considering the multitude of demons waiting to invade the town.”
“Just another day in the Dungeon Town,” Milly sighed, “Alright, let’s go home and give father the bad news about the adventurers. Goddess knows he’ll be mad enough about that.”