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A note from spacespeck

I am trying to use "*****" exclusively to show point-of-view changes. Let me know if that isn't working out.

He blinked at the tiny woman who was somehow managing to loom over him.

 

How did she even recognize it!? It looks different! Does she have a skill or ability? What would that even do? I guess there’s no reason not to tell the truth here...

 

“I found it in a pile of bodies. The description said the Mad Scientist killed him… I’m sorry. Was he your friend?”

 

She turned on her heel and walked back to the dragon’s corpse without saying a word. She approached the machete, still stuck in the neck, and went to yank it out.

 

Her hand paused over the handle of the machete, then she pulled it back. She reached out and…

 

Robin gagged a little. Did she just lick the blood!? Holy yoshi, that’s nasty…

 

The woman turned around and spoke in a matter-of-fact tone.

 

“It’s a Lesser Fire Drakeling. I’m going to use a skill on it to get the machete back. Do you need anything from the corpse?”

 

Robin slowly shook his head. Makes sense that it wasn’t a real dragon… I doubt it would be that easy to kill if it had been. The woman nodded and turned back to the body of the drakeling, muttering something Robin couldn’t quite make out.

 

She held her hand up and said in a clear, firm voice “A Husk Is Left Behind!”

 

The body of the drakeling seemed to sprout webs, wrapping it in a cocoon in a matter of seconds. Just as quickly, the webs dissipated into dust, blowing away. Robin was thankful he was outdoors now; if this had happened inside that amount of dust would have been dangerous. The machete was left on the ground, alongside a long stiletto-shaped tooth and a round, misshapen lump of what looked like red stone.

 

The woman was walking over to pick up the machete, and Robin hurried to catch up to her. Time to split the loot! ...I hope.

As he approached, the woman picked the machete up and pointed it at him, not looking back.

 

“Stop.”

 

Robin skidded to a halt, his hand unconsciously going to the handgun at his waist. Robin felt a small pulse of emotion, a sense of nonreactivity. He decidedly did not move his head or eyes, but he still caught a glimpse of movement to his right; Opal was on the wall beside them, maybe four meters away, hiding partially behind a small outcropping and steadily advancing. Pink Moon Mantis… that really did increase her stealth exponentially. I don’t think I would have seen her if she hadn’t wanted me to…

 

Robin found himself growing a little irate.

 

“Oh, right! You want to give the machete back to me. Okay, thanks.”

 

Robin held his hand out, palm open, and stared at her petulantly.

 

She laughed out loud, the high-pitched noise startling Robin more than anything he had encountered for ...days? It was the most human sound he had heard since the Ysari System triggered, and it cut through his annoyance much like the machete pointed at him was threatening to do.

 

She abruptly stopped laughing and turned around to stare at Robin, the machete still pointing at him.

 

“Why’d you run up on me?”, she asked bluntly, all traces of her laughter gone from her voice.

 

“I… It’s time to… It’s time to split the loot?”

 

She stared at him for a moment longer and dropped the machete to her side, looking at the ground and sighing. She wiped the sweat from her forehead with her empty hand and sighed again, then looked back at Robin.

 

“Sorry, kid. Everyone I’ve encountered over the last few days has tried to kill me, or eat me, or take me back to their plant-lords to become a mind-controlled slave. Thanks for the help back there. Can I keep this?”

 

She held up the machete non-threateningly, her face neutral.

 

Robin nodded. He already had one, and besides, she needed it. Greed really isn’t going to help me here… I thought there would be more people up here. I’m probably going to need her help to find my way to…

 

Robin felt his thoughts trail off as he realized he didn’t know where he needed to go.

 

“Aw, kid, relax. You can keep it if it’s that important to you.”

 

He shook his head vehemently. “No, no, it’s not that. I just… I just thought that there would be people who could help up here. I thought there might be guards, or the army, or… I don’t know.”

 

She nodded understandingly.

 

“I did, too. The dish is completely ruined, and the helicopter is gone. Probably going to have to try to make it to the coast and see if the port survived.”

 

She looked behind her at the two items on the ground and then back at him. “Do you want to take one of these things? We don’t have time to experiment and see what they do, but we could figure that out later.”

 

Robin looked at her in slight shock. “What? Why don’t we have time?”

 

He realized what they had both now said and blurted out, “Wait, are we partying up?”

 

She cocked an eyebrow at him and said “...Sure, kid. I’m in charge, and you follow orders. Is that clear?”

 

Robin nodded eagerly, feeling like a huge burden had been lifted off his chest.

 

I’m not alone! I’m not alone anymore! I might actually have a chance to make it off of this continent! Opal, we have a party now!

 

Robin jerked his head up in a slight panic, and closed his eyes, focusing on friendship and pacifism, hoping that Opal would get the hint. He focused on her bundle of mental energy and found it radiating disappointment, but understanding. Good enough, Robin thought gratefully. No PVP today!

 

“That’s fine. But don’t call me “kid” anymore, please. My name is Robin.”

 

“May.”

 

He stepped up to her and extended his hand.

 

She lifted an eyebrow at him, shifted the machete to her other hand, and grabbed his, giving it two firm pumps.

 

Holy yoshi she’s strong. Robin did his best to hide his wince, flexing his hand slightly to let some blood back into it.

 

"We don't have time, Robin, because everything within thirty kilometers heard that thing roaring, and is going to be coming here looking for a meal. Let's make sure that's not us."

 

“Okay. I'll hurry. For your items... I can use the Identify skill. It tells me what the item is named and what it does, if I am high enough level for it. It ... has failed a few times before.”

 

She nodded, absorbing the information. “Okay. Let’s see it.”

 

Robin approached the objects on the ground and crouched to look at them, using Identify on the tooth first.

 

Lesser Drakeling Tooth (U)
Dragons are creatures of magic, and their bodies carry that magic.Born from a drop of dragon’s blood, drakelings carry this magic, as well. When shoved into the ground and left, the tooth will to begin to grow chitinous thorns from any natural ground within ten meters of the tooth. The chitinous teeth will continue to grow until they reach the length of the original tooth. The original tooth dissolves into the ground after use.

 

“It’s an area-control item. If you shove it into the ground, it makes thorns grow. It’s a consumable.”

 

“Ugh. Useful, but I hate puns. What does the other one do?”

 

Robin focused on the red stone lump and used Identify.

 

Gizardstone of the Fire Drakeling (R)
This stone contains some of the essence of a Fire Drakeling.

 

“This one is just a component, useful for making other things.”

 

She nodded, thinking to herself. She refocused her eyes on Robin and said decisively, “Well, which one do you want?”

 

Robin thought about it for a moment and then reached out to take the gizardstone. He could probably use it for something, and the tooth would be more useful for her.

 

He glanced at May as he was tucking the stone into his pack. She was nodding to herself, as if she had just confirmed something. She saw his glance and spoke up.

 

“I thought so. You can craft things, can’t you.” It wasn’t a question.

 

He nodded. “I have made a few things so far, and I have a couple of skills for it.”

 

“Good. That’ll come in handy. We’re going to head out soon. Is there anything else you need to do here?”

 

Robin nodded, remembering that he still had a lot of System Coins to spend, and walked back over to the glass door.

 

COINS

REWARD

x50

Ruby Wing of the Wild-type Grapefly

x50

Deverran Broom

x50

Clockwork Insect (Aluminum)

x100

Regal Spinneret

x100

Dagger of the Bloodbrood

x100

Random Potion

x250

Clockwork Insect (Red Brass)

x250

Opal Eye of the Pink Moon Mantis

x250

Crystallized Eye of the Regal Jumping Spider

x400

Linens of the Mad Scientist

x400

Satchel of the Generous Matron

x400

Coinpurse of the Lazy Researcher

x800

Anytool (Apprentice)

x800

Machete of the Dark

x800

Alembic of Elemental Purity

x1000

Crystallized Eye of the Mother of Broods

x1000

Anytool (Journeyman)

x1250

Lab Coat of the Exiled Genius

x1500

Amalgamatape (Silver)

x1750

Amalgamatape (Gold)

x2000

Akashic Adhesive

 

I still have a little over three thousand coins to spend… I should think this over carefully.

 

Robin’s WILL was the only thing that prevented him from getting more Akashic Adhesive immediately, but it did not hold out long. He purchased it, wincing at the massive expenditure, and tucked it into his pack immediately.

 

I think the Anytool (Journeyman) would be the best option next. I wonder why it’s on the list, even though I’ve never had it? Maybe because the existence of the Anytool (Apprentice) implies the existence of higher-ranked Anytools? That would explain the Amalgamatape, as well. Not the clockwork insects, though. Did I accidentally step on one somewhere and not notice?

 

He reluctantly purchased the Anytool (Journeyman), feeling it materialize in his hand. It was in the shape of a screwdriver, and had a dark purple wooden handle, and the metal parts looked like a titanium alloy.

 

Not bad. It definitely looks neat. I wonder what shapes it can do? Let’s try the obvious ones first… Sword!

 

Robin hurriedly set it down, but found that it responded much quicker than the Apprentice version had, bursting into sparkling, snapping white flames almost instantly, forcing Robin to drop it. It had finished transforming before it fully hit the ground, taking the shape of a standard-looking longsword, albeit with a purple hilt and titanium alloy blade.

 

“My skill says that thing is partially mithril. Where did you get that?”

 

Robin jumped, whipping the sword with him as he turned, and then felt a blow to the side of the head, knocking him to the ground. He glanced up at her, standing with her hand upraised. That was a slap!?

 

“Watch what you’re doing, dumbass!”, May screamed at him, now from behind. “Maybe don’t cut me with your new toy?”

 

Robin collected himself on the ground. He had deserved that. His face flushed as he stood up, very carefully keeping the sword away from May. “I’m sorry. I was down there alone for so long, it kinda… I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry.”, he said again.

 

She nodded. “Don’t worry about it. Just don’t aim your weapon at me again. Do you know the firearm safety rules? I think they might help here.”

 

Robin nodded; he did know the rules very well. That wasn’t stopping her, though, as she went through each of them again.

 

“Your sword is always ready to kill. Always keep it pointed in a safe direction. Keep it in the sheathe until you are ready to use it. Keep your hand off the hilt until you are ready to use it. Do not point it at anything you do not intend to kill. Get it?”

 

Robin nodded again. He hadn’t needed the refresher, but he could appreciate that she had adapted it to melee weapons, at least.

 

“I got this as a reward from the Laboratory dungeon, from the coins that they give you.” He saw her eyes light up in recognition, and she pulled a coin from her own pack. “Like this?”

 

Robin inspected the coin. It had a picture of an elephant skull on it. Ominous…

 

He handed it back. “Yes, like that one. I think you would need coins from this dungeon, though.”

 

She nodded, putting it away. “Are you done then?”

 

“Almost.” Robin turned back to the door, careful to keep his sword under control, and touched the glass again, his eyes scanning for two specific items; he had an idea he wanted to try. He purchased a Regal Spinneret and a Clockwork Insect (Aluminum), stashing both in his pack for the moment.

 

“I’m done with that. Do you mind if I try making some items first, though?”, he asked hopefully, already reaching towards his bag.

 

“...go ahead.” She crossed her arms and watched, clearly curious. Robin took the Clockwork Insect and the ceramic plates from the water fountain out of his pack, as well as his roll of Amalgamatape (Silver). Working quickly, he wrapped plates around the tiny inert aluminum object/creature, waiting for the snap. He waited for several long moments before remembering that he had to put MANA into it, and focused it into the bundle until it could not absorb any more. The objects snapped together, the plates seeming to be drawn into the Clockwork Insect.

 

Robin picked the new insect up and used Identify.

 

Clockwork Insect (Ceramic) (E)
The clockwork insect is an autonomous insectile construct capable of obeying simple commands. While not truly sapient, the construct does possess limited ability to make decisions to further its ability to accomplish tasks, and will act to protect itself from harm. The Ceramic Clockwork Insect is resistant to fire, gaining ENERDEF (Fire) 5.

 

That’s not really what I was hoping for… but it’s not bad. I wanted it to have ceramic blades, or at least weapons of some kind before this next part. Maybe I should try something else. Robin reached into his pack and withdrew the Crystallized Eye of the Regal Jumping Spider, the red crystal sparkling in the sunlight. Robin nestled the Ceramic Clockwork insect over the eye-gem, and then started to tape them together, self-conscious about May watching him. He felt immediately validated in feeling awkward when she told him to stop.

 

“Let me look at that crystal before you tape it together”, she said, her hand extended expectantly.

 

Robin handed it over. She examined it closely, nodding to herself. She then reached into her own pack and withdrew something, holding her bulging hand out to Robin. He held his hand out, unsure, and she dropped his crystal back into his palm, along with seven more that looked exactly like it.

 

“I guess you wouldn’t know, but there are giant jumping spiders everywhere out here. You can see one looking at us now from that tree, see?”

 

She pointed with the machete at a tall tree a dozen or so meters outside the wall. Robin squinted and caught sight of a couple of large, perfectly round eyes peeking at him from the bough of the tree. He remembered an old “fact” that had gotten tossed around when he had been in grade school and shuddered.

 

“Wow, thank you. Um… Wasn’t it a statistic that there is always a spider within six feet of you?”

 

May did not appear to find his fact very fun.

 

Robin clumped the eight gems together with the Clockwork Insect and began taping them together. By the time he was done he had used half the roll of Amalgamatape. His end result looked like a poorly made half-size football of silver duct tape, but it held it all the crystals and the insectile construct together.

 

He infused the bundle with his MANA and felt them crunch together, the sound of breaking glass somewhat startling. As the tape dissipated, he was left looking at a pale, cream-colored ceramic spider with six small red gem-eyes and two larger ones. It was sitting in his palm, not moving, but Robin was still mildly unnerved by it.

 

Do spiders have an uncanny valley? They may have just gotten one, if not. I should change this. This could be better.

 

Robin reached into his pack and pulled out his almost empty tube of Akashic Adhesive, setting it and the spider on the ground in front of him. He followed the Adhesive with the Dagger of the Bloodbrood, glancing up at May as he pulled it out. The sharp features of her face showed shock for a split-second before she caught herself and slowly nodded slowly to herself.

 

Robin was partially through adding the adhesive to the bottom of the spider when she asked him a question, catching him off guard. His upgraded AGI was the only thing that prevented him from glueing his finger together to the spider.

 

“Did you release all these damn spiders?”

 

He looked up at her briefly, before turning his gaze back to his project. Focus, you have to make this. It’s important. Then you need to add… something to it. I’ll figure it out.

 

“No… I didn’t. There were a lot in the Laboratory, though, and the Mad Scientist may have released them. He had a grim thought, thinking about the video game RPGs he had played. “They might be the method the “dungeon” uses to force the locals to react.” He finished applying the Adhesive to the Dagger of the Bloodbrood and pressed it onto the spider, waiting impatiently until they snapped together. He didn’t look at the thing they made, already reaching into his bag.



*****

 

May looked at the boy in front of her. He was … frantic. Every motion he was making was made like he only had a few seconds to do it, and he wasn’t even looking at the thing he had made. May used a skill she hadn’t had much opportunity to use yet, staring at the boy as she focused. Find The Weak.

 

Lingering Taint of Brilliant Madness
The longer a person spends in the Laboratory of the Mad Scientist, the more they are affected by both his genius and his madness. The Lingering Taint of Brilliant Madness is a curse effect that, when triggered, causes the afflicted individual to enter a frenzy of creation, utilizing all methods and means at their disposal to create new items, upgrade items, or test combinations of available chemicals. In the absence of any of these, the subject will feel compelled to seek them out. Performing any of the afflictions of the curse has a chance of triggering it. The curse effect remains until the individual leaves the area of the Laboratory.

 

Oh, great. This kid is going to waste all of his items if I don’t get him out of here.

 

She kicked him in the head without hesitation.

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spacespeck

Bio: Just read my stories and make wild assumptions, it's more fun that way.

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