Doc waved his tentacles for a few more moments before realizing nothing was happening. “Did I mess up my entrance?” he asked Claire, “Maybe I should have burst forth from the ceiling instead.”
“Doc!” Claire exclaimed happily as she tackled the slime in a big hug. She smiled in contentment as she felt the cool slime against her skin, before realizing the current situation. She backed away and slapped the slime hard, sending jiggles through it.
“Doc, why are you here in the town? Don’t you know how dangerous this is?” Claire paused as another thing occurred to her, “By the way, we’re on the second floor. How’d you manage to break through the floor . . .”
Milly looked on in surprise and confusion. She turned to Rowen with a questioning gaze. “Rowen, what’s going on? And are you feeling okay?” Milly asked as she noticed Rowen’s pale face getting paler.
“Oh right, she can’t hear me,” Doc muttered, “Claire, can you help translate?”
“This slime is Doc,” Claire informed Milly, “Suffice to say, this is the dungeon spirit you’ve heard so much about from me and Rowen. He speaks using the bond we have with him rather than sound, though his crystal body could speak to anyone touching it.”
“He’s also an impulsive master who still acts with consideration,” Rowen rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest, “Doc, how in the world did you manage to leave the dungeon? That’s suicide, isn’t it Claire?”
“I would normally agree,” Claire said hesitatingly, “Except I still feel the contract I have with Doc. He seems . . . to be in two places at once?”
“There is no need to fear,” Doc patted Claire’s head with a tentacle, “Even though my mind is currently in this slime body, my spirit is still connected to my crystal. You can’t see it, but I have a line of slime connecting my crystal body to this slime.” To demonstrate, the slime used its tentacle to reveal a narrow string of slime that was connected to its back. The string moved down into the hole the dungeon monsters had come from. “This way,” Doc explained, “I’m able to be in two places at once even if it’s the same medium.”
Rowen and Claire shared a glance of suspicion. “Doc,” Claire now also folded her arms across her chest, “exactly where does this slime trail travel through to get here?”
“I made a new emergency exit that’s right under this, um, tavern. It leads right to the heart room, and I even made it big enough for adventurers to crawl through.”
Rowen and Claire all stared at Doc, their expressions devoid of emotion and twitching profusely.
“Why would you do that!” they yelled together at Doc. Milly bounced backward in startled shock.
Doc flinched, and the odd blue woman stepped defensively in front of him. “Please do not frighten our lord,” she pleaded.
“Hey, I can hear her!” Milly declared.
Doc wiggled his body to ‘face’ Milly from behind Anadine, “So this is the little adventurer that Rowen talks with. Young lady, you have been an excellent ally of the dungeon! Even though none of us remember when Rowen told you our secret, you have done a wonderful job keeping it for us!”
“What’s he saying?” Milly whispered as she watched the slime jiggle, wiggle, and create various shapes with its tentacle, “Is he talking to me?”
Doc seemed to deflate as Rowen translated. “You know, this is getting tiresome. I don’t want my words of thanks translated by a third party.” After a brief moment of contemplation, Doc clapped one tentacle into another, “I’ve got it! Catch!”
In a spur of motion, Doc’s slime body flew up Anadine’s back and leaped off her shoulder landing on Milly’s head. He quickly engulfed the startled girl’s head and forced his slime down her ears, nose, and mouth.
“Doc release her!” Rowen cried out in panic as he threw his hands into the slime in a vain effort to remove it, “She can’t breathe Doc! Let go!”
“Stop it Doc!” Claire screeched as well, “her wings uselessly flapping as she too tried to remove the slime, “Doc, her eyes are rolling back into her head! You’re going to break her!”
After a few more moments, Doc loosened his grip and removed his tentacles from Milly’s head. Rowen and Claire unceremoniously threw Doc into the hole, to the horror of The Twins and Anadine, and lay Milly down as they hurryingly examined her.
“Milly, are you okay? How many fingers am I holding up?” Claire asked worryingly, “Do you need some milk or magic peptomismal?”
Milly groaned and slowly raised her body up. “I feel like I just went through a horrible tentacle related nightmare,” she shivered.
“Well, it wasn’t a nightmare,” Rowen admitted, “but tell us how you feel. Are you in pain? Do you feel wrong in any way?”
“I feel like I need another bath,” Milly admitted, “but I’m more concerned with those three over there. They seem to be quite worried about . . . Doc? I can hear their panicked voices quite clearly.”
Claire and Rowen gave each other a surprised look.
“You can hear The Twins?” Claire asked.
“Well, yeah. I mean, they’re shouting down the hole loud enough to be heard at the palisade,” Milly covered her ears, “I can’t seem to get them to be quiet. Daddy . . .”
With a shriek, Milly scrambled over to the hole. She peered over the edge and screeched, “Hey, why are all the chairs piled together in the pantry! Ah, the slime melting a chair! My daddy is going to kill us!”
The two pups stopped shouting and turned their attention to the human next to them. “Are talking about the bigger human?” one of the pups asked in human tongue, “My sister and I waited until his smell was gone before entering this den.”
Milly blinked at them, “Wait, are you both The Twins?”
The two pups raised their paws and waved them back and forth in a very human fashion, as if they were greeting someone from a distance.
“So cute!” Milly exclaimed, “Your fur is beautiful!”
The Twins shared a glance before they shifted their bodies to look at Milly. They stared up at her. “Are you Milly?” one of the asked. “Are you trustworthy?” the other questioned.
“I’m Milly, and I’m trustworthy,” Milly asserted, “Who are you?”
“Ayla,” the one on the left said.
“Aisha,” the one on the right said.
“Want to be friends?” Milly asked, stretching her hand out toward them. She backed away quickly as they growled at her.
“Careful Milly,” Claire warned, “They may look cute now, but The Twins have served Doc well as some of his strongest bosses. Doc, are you alright?”
The slime hopped out of the hole and vibrated itself like it were shivering. “I’m alright,” he said, “I used up a bit of mana connecting Milly to the dungeon mind, so I wasn’t ready for landing. I had to reassemble myself.”
“Is that what you did to me?” Milly asked curiously, “Couldn’t you have done it in a less . . . invasive manner?”
“I needed to reach the inside of your head,” Doc seemingly shrugged his slime body, “That way I could create a whisper slime and leave it there.”
“You put a slime in my head!” Milly screamed in horror, “No, I don’t want to get eaten!”
“The slime is harmless,” Doc argued, “All it does is vibrate out the sounds of our mental voices so you can hear it. It’ll only kill you if you try to reveal our secrets.”
“Doc,” Claire frowned, “I don’t think that’s the best way to make friends. Friends don’t stick timed booby-traps in a friend’s neck.”
“So, did I do wrong?” Doc asked.
“I can’t really fault it,” Claire admitted, “It solves the problem of doubt at the very least and helps her hear us. Now I can talk to her mentally without having to use my magic.”
“Can I offer a complaint of privacy invasion,” Milly demanded, obviously infuriated by the conversation.
“Not really,” Doc shook his slime.
Milly produced her throwing daggers, which began to float around her in a circle. The Twins growled and Anadine took a protective stance in front of Doc.
“These daggers will still attack even if I die,” Milly warned with a red glow in her eyes.
Claire and Rowen stood off to the side, both looking worried and conflicted.
Doc examined the daggers, sighed, and shrugged his slime body’s tentacles, “Fine, I’ll remove the core so the slime can no longer grow. It’ll still function as a whisper slime, but without any threat of murder. We okay?” With a tentacle beckon, a stone rolled out of Milly’s ear.
Milly’s face scrunched up in disgust at the initial feeling, but she relaxed as the stone disappeared. “Sure, but no more slimes in my house. Also, fix the hole, chairs, and move the entrance hole to the practice area in the back instead of the pantry. I have a secret exit to the practice area in my closet.”
“Deal,” Doc shook tentacles with Milly’s hand.
Claire let out a breath of relief as tensions died down. “Well,” she smiled wryly, “Now that that’s out of the way, Anadine why do you have legs and why are you wearing adventurer armor? And also, how are you talking out loud?”
“Oh, allow me to explain everything!” Doc said exuberantly as he poked his body out from behind the slime woman, “See, while Claire here has been gone, I’ve had a lot of time to do some dungeon experiments with new traps and slimes. In order to test them properly, I’ve had The Twins and Anadine take on adventurer forms to test them. Unfortunately, their immortality has proven an issue with avoiding the traps.”
“Then,” Doc continued, “I called Claire and heard all about what’s been going on in town. I got really concerned since I don’t like the idea of being killed over something I didn’t do. I mean, I don’t want to be killed at all, but this just seems like a dumb reason to die. So, I had a brilliant idea!” he paused dramatically, “Why not fix both my problems, I asked myself. The two teens could come into the dungeon to train and test my traps, and my bosses could investigate the town for the murderer.”
“Gods above, is there anyone in the dungeon to mind it right now?” Claire gasped in horror, “I mean, any intelligent beings?”
“I told you earlier, I’m still there,” Doc reminded her, “Anyway, during my testing Anadine managed to perfect her adventurer disguise. Once I gave her some of the female armor I had in my astral bag, she became a perfect slime hiding in plain sight. She also learned to talk by copying adventurer throats that I had, uh, lying around.”
“Except she’s blue,” Rowen pointed out, “You’ve covered her up pretty good, but her palms, face, and neck are too blue and see-through to ever pass as a normal person.”
“I have a solution to that too!” Doc countered eagerly, “Behold, the booze slime!”
With a flourish from his tentacles, an amber-brown colored slime emerged from the hole in the floor.
“I hope your plan doesn’t involve making the whole town drunk,” Rowen said dryly, “Though, doing that would certainly improve your reputation given the coming shortage of booze.”
“I don’t have enough booze slimes for that,” Doc shook his slime body, “but, this slime is perfect for Anadine. Watch!”
With another flourish, Doc gave Anadine a signal. The slime woman obliged by sticking a tentacle into the booze slime. With audible gulps, the tentacle began to suck the slime away from the booze slime into Anadine’s body. Slowly, the visible blue tinge changed color to a tan color, reminiscent of a farmer’s skin who worked too hard in the sun. Anadine stopped after the booze slime had lost half of its slime. She hiccupped, and covered her mouth in embarrassment.
“Excuse me,” she apologized.
“What do you two think?” Doc asked Milly and Rowen.
Milly walked around Anadine in a circle, carefully examining each part of the pseudo-adventurer. She poked certain parts of Anadine’s body, sighing when there was no reaction.
Rowen just looked Anadine up and down and shrugged, “She looks fine to me; her skin matches and her eyes are visibly brown too. I think her hair needs a little less brown color, otherwise I think she’d catch too much attention. Also, it’s not wise to wear adventurer clothing in a town where every adventurer is gone.”
Milly clicked her tongue at Rowen and waggled her finger at him, “Just like a boy! You haven’t at all seen the various flaws in this disguise. For instance,” she pointed at Anadine’s chest, “her chest is disproportionate to her waist. It needs to be a finger-length thicker on each side! Another thing, here,” she picked up Anadine’s wrists, “look at this gauntlet around her wrists. It’s clearly meant for a man’s thick wrist. She filled it up perfectly with slime, but it clashes with her beautiful face. Also, why is she wearing leather pants with a metal breast-plate?”
Claire nodded in time with each one of Milly’s criticisms, while everyone else in the room stared on blankly.
“Am I . . . ugly?” Anadine asked slowly.
“No!” Milly and Claire cried out together.
“You just need a little work,” Milly admitted.
“We’ll help you!” Claire promised.
“Ahem,” Rowen interpreted, “As much as I hate to see this moment of friendship blossom, what was that about going back to the dungeon? I’m also curious to know why a booze slime has changed Anadine into a person.”
“The booze slimes’ slime changes Anadine’s color and she can control the amount of color in her body,” Doc explained.
“That makes no sense, but since magic is involved I really don’t want to get into the issue. Now, about going to the dungeon?” Rowen pressed.
“Yes,” Doc chirped up from his slime body, “I’ve decided that you and Milly will take turns in the dungeon facing my traps and slimes. That way you both will get stronger, and in the meantime the one of you not training will assist my bosses with tracking the rogue slime.”
Milly rubbed her hands together, “Well, I’m up for it! I need to practice using my new daggers anyway.”
“Milly no!” Rowen hissed, grabbing her shoulders and turning her to face him, “Listen, Doc doesn’t know the meaning of restraint! His traps, especially the new ones, are normally over-kill!”
“I resent, yet agree, with that remark,” Doc jiggled contently, “Don’t worry though; I used The Twins and Anadine to test them, as I said before. They were fine.”
“They are immortal!” Rowen argued, “We, and especially Milly, are not!”
“What was that about your mortality?” Milly asked, suddenly alert.
“Nothing important to this discussion,” Rowen side-lined, “What’s important now is that Doc is making us risk life and death for his amusement!”
“Well, it’s not like I haven’t been doing that since I opened as a dungeon,” Doc pointed out, “And in any case, I’ve seen both of your current abilities. You are both some of the weakest adventurers in town. Milly was the only one out of the two of you with any real combat ability, and her daggers no longer give her the same amount of magical strength. I’d say in order for you both to survive whatever is coming, you and Milly need to learn to fight properly.”
“And a dungeon can teach us how to fight as humans?” Rowen rolled his eyes in disbelief.
“Your time away from the dungeon has really made you cheeky,” Doc grumbled, “When you first woke up, you were so polite and respectful to me.”
“I’ve learned how impulsive and inconsiderate you can be,” Rowen muttered, “Also, . . . no matter. Why are you so fixated on getting Milly and I into your dungeon?”
“Honestly, I’m quite bored,” Doc admitted, “There’s not much to do besides testing new traps and trying to unlock new slime evolutions. I need adventurer input, and since you both are allies and adventurer, you’re the best help I can get! Not only that, but while the other is training, one of you can help take my bosses around town to search for the murderer.”
“Is that wise though?” Milly questioned as she turned away from Anadine, “Your wargs can pass as puppies, but they are liable to attract a great deal of attention with their cuteness. If they attack anyone, then it’ll be a problem.”
“We can take human shape,” Ayla offered, showing off her smoke transformation into a hooded figure.
“Take off the hood,” Milly retorted.
Ayla slumped in defeat. “I can’t,” she sighed, “There’s nothing under it.”
“Don’t try it,” Claire warned as Milly took a step toward Ayla, “Doc and I tried it once. There is literally nothing under the hood because this form is a magical illusion. They haven’t evolved into a high enough monster to have a proper human guise yet.”
“So two puppies and a suspicious adventurer,” Rowen counted, “I guess we could make it work . . . especially if we tell Fred we hired Anadine as our bodyguard!”
“I’ll make up the story,” Milly agreed, “He’ll definitely listen once I teach Anadine what to say.”
“So, is this plan good then?” Doc asked.
Rowen and Milly shrugged in resignation. “This is as good a plan as any,” Rowen chuckled, “I was ready to give up anyway. Some training and new eyes on the investigation might be just what we need.”
“Great, then your first Rowen,” With a slimy grin, Doc grabbed the young man and leaped back down the hole, a screaming Rowen wrapped in tentacles following close behind.
“Hey, fix what you broke!” Milly called down the hole, not moving to save Rowen.
“I’ll send some slimes back!” Doc called cheerfully in fair well, “Oh, sorry Rowen! Didn’t see that ceiling there.”