Misadventures Incorporated

by

Spicy Space Squid

Chapter 91 - Giant Frogs and Wooden Dogs III

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A note from Spicy Space Squid

Pssst. The art gallery has been updated with this:

 

Chapter 91 - Giant Frogs and Wooden Dogs III

Claire spent the next two and a half days circling between Crabby Crags and the citadel, the latter only at Zelos’ insistence. All the nonstop fighting netted her roughly ten levels in each class. She would have liked more, but her growth rate fell off drastically the moment her first class hit level 70. Not even the buccaneers, the toughest monsters in the instanced domain, were enough of a threat to provide any significant growth.

Contrary to the elf’s expectations, his presence was unnecessary. Claire was entirely self-sufficient and actively dissuaded him from intervening, even when he thought that it would be best to step in. Still, he stayed the full two days, often playing cards and other random games with Sylvia while Claire explored the labyrinth on her own. His lack of participation appeared to suggest that he was outright useless, but the man had proven his worth by teaching her to use a sword. His instruction had single-handedly bolstered both sword and greatsword mastery to level ten. That, however, was as far as he could take it, lest she wished to pick up on his particular school of swordplay. A blademaster or administrative class was required to provide any further general instruction, both of which were nothing if not uncommon.

Active combatants rarely ever took administrative classes for fear of lowering their efficacy, whereas blademaster classes were simply hard to come by. Becoming one with the sword was said to require the study of a dozen different schools of thought, a task much easier said than done. Adhering to a specific school’s principles was likely to induce mutation in any relevant skills, which in turn rendered it difficult if not impossible to abide by another school’s teachings. Zelos was no exception to the rule, his own sword mastery skill long evolving into a derivative named “willow in the western wind.” It would have been possible for him to impart the style on her had she chosen to follow his path, but Claire had decided against it. The traditional elven style focused almost exclusively on footwork and counter attacks. And more importantly, the learning process would apparently have taken weeks, weeks she didn’t have to spare.

Though learning from Zelos had improved her swordsmanship, Claire saw no reason to rely on it. The only sword-like weapons she had readily available were giant rusted cutlasses with nothing but weight in excess. The citadel had a number of smiths capable of forging them into something more decent, but the bloodthief couldn’t be bothered to seek them. She had no idea what kind of weapon she wanted and lugging around a bag full of everything wasn’t exactly practical. She much preferred salvaging random monster parts. Picking up whatever she could provided the opportunity to refresh her equipment after every kill—though it didn’t always go according to plan.

The third day’s final victim was one such example. The buccaneer was too battered to wield its cutlass; her ice magic had fractured its blade after a long series of clashes. Tired, but not quite exhausted, she breathed an annoyed sigh, collapsed the corpse’s face with a kick, and returned to the pair sitting atop a nearby rock.

“It’s dead.”

“Good job. That’s the first you’ve killed without any fire,” said the elf.

“And the last one I’m going to kill. At least in here,” said Claire.

“Huh? You want to leave already? We haven’t even been here that long,” said Sylvia.

She nodded. “The experience is slowing down.”

“You’ve gained… six levels between all your classes. I would actually say that’s quite decent,” said Zelos, as he did the usual with his eye.

“I gained three or four times as many yesterday.”

“Aren't you going to fight the boss thingy?” Sylvia hopped on her head as she spoke. “I’ve been expecting you to run straight at it since yesterday.”

Claire paused for a moment, bringing a hand to her chin. Zelos had already taken a quick peek at the monster and confirmed that it was over level 150. Apparently, it had three additional classes, each perfectly chosen to enhance its combat prowess.

Though certainly formidable, the creature’s form left much to be desired. To both Claire’s amusement and annoyance, the lord of the maze was not a crab. In fact, it wasn’t even a crustacean. The neon pink danger noodle was an eel, a glowing sea tube with a bright magical aura. Trees grew from everything it touched. Even the rocks that lined its arena were filled with roots and branches aplenty.

“I’m not fighting it,” said Claire.

“Aww, why not?”

“Because I’m not reckless.”

Sylvia narrowed her eyes. “You don’t have to hold back just to prove a point, you know?”

“I’m not,” said Claire, with a perfectly neutral expression.

“Now, now girls. That’s enough arguing. Why don’t we head back to the citadel?” said Zelos.

The lyrkress glared at him. “This is barely an argument. You’ve started way more.”

“Those weren’t arguments. I was giving you advice because your plans weren’t thorough enough.”

“Yes they were.” Claire pointed at the three dead buccaneers behind her.

He flashed an awkward smile. “You’ll understand one day.”

“Yes, Elder.” She smiled earnestly, raised the hems of her cloak, and curtsied.

“Excellent, I’m gla—damn it, I fell for it again.” The elf took a glug from his flask. It was the seventh drink of the day, with each marking one of the times she had gotten him. “This is really going to take some getting used to.”

“I know right! I’ve been hanging around her for like a week and a half, and she still catches me off guard sometimes,” said Sylvia.

“Good.” Ripping off the crabs’ legs and slotting them into her belts, Claire consulted her map and made for the nearest exit. “Now let’s go.”

___

Though Sylvia had claimed that her father was a competent cook, their meals went about as terribly as usual. The dishes he made were incredibly basic, with none of the flair that Claire was used to seeing atop her dinner plate. Despite her open criticism, the elf was not insulted. He seemed to take her distaste as a challenge. Each subsequent dish came with a swing in the overall direction, often influenced by her most recent criticisms.

That said, it wasn’t as if he was pulling out dish after dish in an attempt to please her. He was simply trying something different each time he prepared a meal, and he always seemed to stick to a sort of routine. Breakfast was always a variety of salads, lunch, a series of sandwiches, and dinner, a finer meal with much more work and preparation.

The third night's dinner had taken the better part of two hours to prepare. He had hidden behind a soundproofed barrier of branches to ensure that whatever he made would remain a surprise. And a surprise it certainly was.

When the elf finally stepped back out of his makeshift secret base, Claire found herself staring at the most ridiculous dish she had ever considered eating. In a word, it was a tree, a miniature conifer with all its branches and leaves still intact. The colours, namely the ridiculously vibrant greens and the excessively darkened browns, made it clear that the plant had gone through some sort of cooking process, as did the thick mulberry-coloured sauce sitting at the bottom of the plate.

“I’m confident this will impress you,” said Zelos. He set the dish down on the table and cut a piece for each of the three present. His knife melted right through the wood, as if it were made of butter.

“It smells pretty good! What is it?” asked Sylvia.

“It’s called a gneskst.” Zelos smiled as he cut a small piece off the wood and raised it for the girls to see. “It’s a traditional dish, wood elf ancestry. Your grandmother made it all the time, and I’m sure it’s one of the most delicious things you’ll ever eat.”

“It is?” Ignoring her silverware, Sylvia shoved her face into her bowl and bit right through the trunk. “It’s really soft and tasty! I can’t believe this is a tree!”

Claire was skeptical, but the elf’s stare prompted her to give it a try. Fork and knife in hand, she gracefully cut off a small piece off the end and brought it to her lips. The mouthfeel was as Sylvia described, soft and fluffy, akin to a pastry despite the organic aesthetic.

“Too bland,” said the lyrkress. Its flavour profile wasn’t bad per se, but it wasn’t anywhere near complex or refined enough to satisfy her palate.

“Really? I think it’s super tasty,” said Sylvia. “It’s really mellow and nice.”

“I think I’ll have to get back to the drawing board…” Zelos scratched the back of his head. “I’ll try some of the Green Belt’s spices next time.”

“Maybe it just has to be cooked a certain way,” said Sylvia.

“I don’t know,” said Claire.

Though the dish failed to spark any enthusiasm, the meal continued as would any other, with members of the group taking turns recounting tales of days long past. Claire told them of her mischievous streak and relayed all the pranks she played on her closest acquaintances, while Zelos and Sylvia respectively listed and criticised the elf’s supposed epic adventures. Sylvia didn’t quite seem to believe him, but Claire was at least willing to lend an ear, seeing as how the man was over level five hundred.

The group split up after dinner, with the elf heading off to a bar to join a few of his friends and the halfbreeds returning to the camp they set up along the beach. Zelos had tried inviting the pair to come with him, as he did both the previous nights, but both girls refused. Sylvia wasn’t a fan of alcoholic beverages and Claire wanted to stay incognito—not that she managed to escape all her interpersonal obligations. Returning to camp meant interacting with a group of manatees.

The first one she met happened to swim by their camp the night they escaped Crabby Crags. And after learning how nice it felt to sit by the fire, the not-cow decided to call all its friends and effectively take over the encampment. Every evening since, sea cows would gather around their location, laze around, and play to their hearts’ content. The final activity in the list was one that the lyrkress enabled. The balls of ice she made as practice were used in their games, thrown from one creature to another as they flopped around the beach.

“Not going to join them today?” asked Claire, as she dragged a fresh palm tree into the fire pit.

The fox was sitting on a dried out log with all her limbs tucked comfortably underneath her. It was a bit of an unexpected sight, given that she had spent the previous two nights playing with her newfound submarine friends.

“I’m a bit too tired,” said Sylvia.

“Aren't days in the meadow longer?”

“Yeah, but I normally nap all the time, and I haven’t really had a chance lately.”

“Lazy.”

“No I’m not! That’s just how we foxes are!” Sylvia’s tail shot up.

That just means you’re all lazy. Claire refrained from voicing the thought and returned to practising her magic. The balls that the sea cows played with were quick to crack and shatter, in part because they were melted by the warm seawater, and in part because the creatures were slapping them around with their tails. She had to create a constant fresh supply to keep them entertained and they were more than willing to vocalise when they weren’t.

Though they seemed simple enough, the orb-shaped toys were a pain and a half to craft. The sea cows would annoy her if they were too heavy or not the right size; she had to hollow out their centers to make it possible for the creatures to play with them. Even more difficult was making them perfectly spherical. Even the slightest disruption in her focus would introduce a number of jagged edges and pose a risk to the cows’ safety. The most familiar manatee had somehow wound up with a permanent, cross-shaped scar on his forehead as a result of one such interaction. Even though cursed wounds were the only ones that weren’t supposed to fade.

Log Entry 2317
Achievement Unlocked - Cult Classic

You have been denoted an object of worship. A minor religion has been started in your name.

A notification echoed through her mind as she formed the tenth ball of the day. Having assumed that it was her fifteenth Ice Manipulation level, she ignored it until the goddess was about halfway through the description, at which point she was struck by a sudden searing pain. It lasted for only the briefest of moments, but seemed to reach every last corner of her body before concentrating itself in the shard stuck in her chest. And then, it vanished. Just as suddenly as it had appeared.

What… was that? She dropped the ice ball and moved her hand to her chest.

Log Entry 2318
You have acquired the divinity stat. The base value of divinity is 50, but your body lacks the necessary features to support it. Any divinity in excess of 5 will be temporarily withheld and unlocked upon further physical adaptation.

Log Entry 2319
The faith stat is now more difficult to acquire. Faith will no longer be accessible unless it is in excess of your total divinity.

Log Entry 2320
The Ice Manipulation skill has evolved into True Ice Manipulation. You have acquired a new spell and gained the ability to enhance your ice magic.

Log Entry 2321
The Lyrkrian Shapeshifting skill has mutated into Frostblight Lyrkrian Shapeshifting. Your body has become more malleable.

Divinity? How?

Thoroughly confused, Claire popped open her status and tried to determine the source of the sudden change, only to be greeted by a mountain of unspent ability points.

“I’m just going to go to bed.”

Mumbling to herself, she closed her eyes and turned off her brain. There were a tonne of issues to address, but as far as present Claire was concerned, that was future Claire’s problem, and not-so-future Claire had nothing to do with any of it.

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Spicy Space Squid

Bio: Surprisingly tangy and delicious.

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