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They reached Paris by sundown.

The second most beautiful city on Earth—after Sofia, the great capital of almighty Bulgaria—Paris was a shining beacon of culture. One couldn’t walk for a hundred meters there without stumbling on a monument. From the Champs-Élysées to Montmartre and the Sacré-Coeur, almost every corner of the city looked like a shiny postcard.

In spite of its beauty, Basil himself had never liked the city. Paris was a human anthill, with more than ten million people on a territory that could hardly afford a fraction of that number. The city’s inhabitants were constantly stressed and unhappy, with many burning out within years before leaving for the countryside. Paris was all the glories and excesses of civilization rolled into one explosive package.

Even so, Basil couldn’t help but feel a pang of sorrow as the city’s ruins came into view.

As the BuzzBand party had warned him, a sea of sand now covered the region. A vast desert of dunes began where the snowy wastelands stopped. Temperatures rose by thirty degrees when the Bohens crossed the border between the two, and a dark green hue soon polluted the sky. The frozen stream the Bohens had been following turned into a dry bed full of shipwreck husks and half-rusted cars. Basil assumed that this was what remained of the Seine River.

Desolate streets and the ruins of buildings lay half-buried among dunes. Modern housing projects and eighteenth-century houses alike had both fallen into disrepair, their windows shattered by sandstorms and their walls ravaged by the searing heat. Plumes of fire rose from rare craters of glass, as if the flames of the underworld escaped to the surface. No oasis offered comfort from the wasteland; all water sources in the city had dried up as far as Basil could tell.

As for the dungeons, they could be seen from leagues away.

The tallest and most recognizable was, as expected, the Eiffel Tower. Yet it had clearly gone through an architectural redesign since Basil’s last visit. Already tall, the monument now soared through the skies; its peak resembled a gigantic tesla coil whose power generated thunderclouds at its apex. The tower’s four foundations had transformed into mighty pylons of steel and gears, like the feet of a monstrous, colossal, archaic machine. Pipes and turbines released white smoke all around the dungeon, shrouding it in mist.

Another monument stood tall in defiance on the opposite side of the empty Seine River. The Louvre Pyramid, once barely twenty-meters tall, now surpassed the Great Pyramid of Giza in size and greatness. Arcane symbols covered its smooth obsidian surface. Basil recognized the Eye of Horus among them, alongside Greek letters and Roman numerals. The structure appeared to absorb light itself, like a dagger of darkness rising straight from Hell’s bowels.

Compared to these two titans, Notre Dame appeared small but no less threatening. The cathedral had grown in size and dreadfulness, its once-inspiring architecture now a twisted Gothic nightmare of steel spikes and black stone walls. Tentacled shadows danced behind stained glasses the color of blood. Gargoyle dragons watched over its towers, ready to swoop down upon the first intruder.

Any of these dungeons would have been cause for concern. The field-effect covering the city was nothing more than the cherry on the top.

Pluto’s [God-Field: Ditis Pater] changed the field to [Tartarus].
  • [Soul], [Corrosion], [Fire], [Earth], [Darkness], and [Mythic] elements are strengthened.
  • [Wood], [Water], and [Light] elements are weakened.
  • Healing effects are halved and chances of suffering from [Insta-Death] are doubled.
  • All creatures that die in the Field will rise up at sundown as mindless [Undead] Types.

“Spooky,” Plato rasped at Basil’s side. The former housecat had broken his voice after practicing his roar for too long. “I take back what I said. This place is not a good litterbox.”

“Gee, you think?” Basil deadpanned back as he watched the sky with binoculars. The duo had taken position atop a ruined hospital in the Val-de-Marne to better observe the area. The whole place had been crawling with zombies and skeletons, but none of them could survive a swing from Basil’s halberd. “This place is a goddamn warzone.”

Rosemarine had trailed the Seine River from the south before stopping in the Val-de-Marne, a few hours away from Paris itself. Approaching any closer would be suicide. Sphinxes patrolled the skies above the Louvre Pyramid, while red-skinned, wingless demons riding atop bat-winged mechanical gliders did the same for the Eiffel Tower. Basil half-expected Marvel to sue the latter over copyright infringement.

Androsphinx
Level 27 [Beast/Avian]
Faction: Metal Olympus (Psychopompos)
Steamfiend
Level 24 [Artificial/Fiend]
Faction: Apocalypse Force

Considering the Steamobile’s size, the group would be noticed and intercepted in short order the moment they moved inside the city center. The situation on the ground wasn’t any better. Paris’ streets were littered with bones and skulls, some of them moving on their own. Basil watched one unlucky undead blow himself up by accidentally walking on a trap rune drawn in the sand. Rusty bus wrecks and monster chokepoints blocked many paths.

“It’s like Dax all over again, but a hundred times worse,” Basil complained as he lowered his binoculars. “Every single monster in this city is stronger than Steamslime.”

“At least half of them are birds or undead,” Plato replied. “You hunt the latter and I’ll take care of the former.”

“I would rather that they don’t notice us.” Basil checked his cat’s new and empowered stats once again. “And you can help with that.”

Name

Plato (Rakshasa Kitten)

Type

Beast/Demon

Faction

Homeowner Revenge Association (The Bohens)

Experience

229,684/250,000

 

Immune

Resist

Weak

All illusion effects, Mind.

Soul, Wind, Wood, Darkness, Mythic, Ailments.

Beastslayer, Demonslayer, Corrosion, Metal.

Level

Health Points

Special Points

36

1500

730

 

Strength

Agility

Vitality

Skill

19

(C+20%)

55

(A+20%)

22

(C+20%)

55

(A+20%)

Magic

Intelligence

Charisma

Luck

37

(B+20%)

24

(C+20%)

31

(C+20%)

54

(A+20%)

 

Physical

Mind

Soul

Corrosion

Metal

Wood

Life

Support

Ailment

-

Strong

Strong

Weak

Weak

Strong

-

Strong

Strong

Fire

Water

Earth

Wind

Frost

Lightning

Light

Darkness

Mythic

-

-

-

Strong

-

-

-

Strong

Strong

 

Passive Perks

Active Perks

Sharp Claws

Focus Up

Somnonapper

Windfang

Birdbane

Catnapping

Nine Lives

N/A

Swordsmanship I

N/A

Pawerful Dao

N/A

Manbane

N/A

Illusionist IV

N/A

Personal Perks:

  • Sharp Claws: Plato’s claws inflict SKI-based damage. He gains advanced proficiency with unarmed attacks, fangs, and claws (x2 damage, +10 Crit).
  • Somnonapper: while under a [Sleep] effect, Plato recovers HP as if he benefited from the [Regen] positive ailment. Additionally, his body will act on its own to dodge attacks and retaliate.
  • Birdbane: Plato’s attacks with natural weapons inflict [Birdslayer] damage (x3 damage against [Avian] Types).
  • Nine Lives: When Plato would die, he instead benefits from an [Auto-Revive] effect bringing him back to life at critical health; this also purges Plato of ailments. Plato can be revived eight times before the Perk becomes inactive. 6/9
  • Swordsmanship I: Medium proficiency with swords (x1,5 damage).
  • Pawerful Dao: Plato can run on vertical structures, and even ceilings so long as he remains in motion. Additionally, the length of his jumps is doubled.
  • Manbane: Plato’s attacks with natural weapons inflict [Manslayer] damage (x3 damage against [Humanoid] Types).
  • Illusionist IV: The Rakshasa’s mastery of illusions transcends schools of magic. Plato can learn and cast spells up to Tier IV from any school of magic, but only illusion-related spells.

Active Perks:

  • Focus Up: 30 SP, [Support]. Buffs Luck, Skill, and Crits chances for five minutes.
  • Windfang: 60 SP, [Wind], Technique. Plato can unleash a sharp blade of wind with any bladed weapon, claws and fangs included; proficiency bonuses apply depending on the weapon used (base [Wind] damage 100, +30% crit).
  • Catnapping: 50 SP, [Support]. Plato can designate a foe within his line of sight. On a successful luck check, all the enemy’s buffs are transferred to Plato as if they had been cast on him in the first place.

All in all, Plato’s metamorphosis had granted him an enormous boost in power and versatility; though Basil suspected he would have traded it all for a noble roar.

“You should train with Vasi and learn illusion spells while I figure something out,” Basil said. “We’ll have a tough fight on our hands.”

“Are you giving me homework again?” Plato cleared his throat, his voice filled with mock outrage. “After I killed so many birds so that you might sleep without worry? After dirtying my paws with blood and sand for your sake?”

“It’s not homework if you enjoy it,” Basil replied with a smirk.

“See? See? You admit to feeding off my pain.” Plato wagged his tail. “Honestly, is the situation really so bad? You wouldn’t ask me to train otherwise.”

“Let’s just say we’ll need more prep work.” Basil raised his binoculars and looked west. “Infiltrating the catacombs will be a challenge, let alone the Louvre Pyramid. Your illusion spells could make the difference.”

“You should have started with recognizing my peerless talent before asking me to do chores,” Plato joked, his eyes set on the pyramid dungeon. “Are we sure the hippie is inside it? For all we know, he turned tail and left for another city. Hopefully somewhere without snow.”

Basil summoned Kalki’s conch shell from his inventory and played a few notes. Plato winced in response, much to his owner’s annoyance.

“I’m not that bad,” Basil protested.

“I wouldn’t wish your recital on a dog,” Plato replied.

“I’ll let you record my song for bullying purposes,” Basil joked back before following through with his melody. As per Walter Tye’s magic, a shining arrow of light materialized above his head. It reminded Basil of quest markers in games.

The arrow turned around slightly and pointed straight at the Louvre Pyramid.

“You know,” Plato said. “As far as hints go, that one is surprisingly straightforward.”

“We had to pay for it,” Basil replied with a grunt as the arrow disappeared. “Maybe you’ll find a spell that will let you grow a mane.”

“Or an illusion to disguise your awful singing,” Plato shot back before fleeing back into the hospital. “See you later, slavedriver.”

Basil smiled and summoned documents from his inventory. The first was a sketch of the catacombs gifted to him by BuzzBand, the other a map of Paris. Although the latter wasn’t up to date, Basil used his current observation position to compare it to the current reality.

Paris was no stranger to roadblocks and traffic jams, but the city’s transformation had only worsened the situation. Every path Basil observed with his binoculars were either blocked or crawling with monsters. All those above ground anyway.

The metro seems like our best shot for now, Basil noted as he examined the maps. If we take line 8 and then 6, we should reach the Denfert-Rochereau station. It’s right next to the catacombs, so we’ll just have to dig our way inside.

This path should allow the Bohens to access the pyramid without being spotted by flyers, though Basil couldn’t tell how the situation looked underground. BuzzBand’s members warned him that the catacombs crawled with undead and considering the city’s current state, he would have bet a hand that monsters took over the metro tunnels too.

More worryingly, Basil had yet to see other humans so far. The Apocalypse Force employed Players, but he didn’t see any of them among the forces protecting the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps they were hiding inside the dungeon or gathering their strength somewhere else.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Basil muttered to himself as he studied the Eiffel Tower. Mechanical monsters worked on building tesla coils on the building’s metal legs. “Are they upgrading the dungeon somehow?”

“Mister, Mister!” Rosemarine called out. Basil walked to the roof’s edge and looked down. His tropidrake had buried most of the Steamobile under a sand dune, except for the entrance. “I’m almost done!”

“Good job,” Basil congratulated her from above. With the Steamobile so well-camouflaged, Fire Seeds should be enough to take care of it while the rest of the party infiltrated the pyramid on foot. “We’ll entomb the entrance later.”

“It will be quieter than a tomb,” Rosemarine chirped. “I will stash our victims in a coffin of steel and sand.”

“You have my permission to eat them before they become undead,” Basil replied with a smile. “Let’s skip the burial step.”

“I love you so much, Mister,” Rosemarine replied before licking her fangs. Aww… adorable.

“A bit shameful, but understandable.” Zachariel’s voice and the sound of flapping wings echoed behind Basil. The angel dropped the invisibility effect as he landed on the roof. “I am ready to report, Sir.”

“What’s the situation on the ground?” Basil asked. He had sent the angel, Shellgirl, and Bugsy to secure the area around the hospital.

“I believe we have found a suitable location for a Lair capable of sustaining a Teleportation Circle. A strange cavern called, I quote, ‘Maisons-Alfort Les Juilliottes’.”

“The metro station?” According to the map, it was located right between the unemployment and the cotisations offices. “Only the foulest of monsters would dare to make it their home.”

“A level 25 scorpion monster did, but we had no issue dealing with it.” Such a feat would have been noteworthy in the past, but by now Basil’s team didn’t even receive experience from it. “Our mutual friends are hard at work reinforcing the area in preparation for claiming it as a Lair.”

“I’ll ask Rosemarine to spawn Fire Seeds to help you,” Basil replied as he glanced at the sky. The sun would disappear beyond the horizon within an hour or so. “Let’s finish this before nightfall. According to the field, the city will turn into a Walking Dead rerun soon enough.”

“I am not familiar with the reference, but I agree.” Zachariel nodded sagely. “If we can create a teleportation bridge with Bordeaux as the general asked, we could summon immediate reinforcements.”

“Hopefully,” Basil agreed. “But I would rather assume that we’re on our own for now. It beats being disappoint–”

Congratulations, Players of Earth!

A notification appeared in front of Basil’s eyes, immediately ruining his mood. “Is Christmas early too?” Basil snorted. “Or is it a surprise Thanksgiving?”

Thanks to your hard work, you have unlocked a new [Incursion] event! The kids’ gloves are coming off!

Damn it.

Basil’s jaw clenched as he read. The message wasn’t unexpected after Nessia’s warnings a few weeks back, but it still complicated matters.

As a reminder for those who missed the first one, [Incursions] are worldwide phenomena where Earth temporarily connects to Trimurti System-compatible universes. Rifts will transport Players, monsters, dungeons, treasures, and even landmasses from other worlds!
[Incursions] are time-limited and centered around rifts; check the closest location with your [Logs] option. Experience gains will be boosted and extremely rare items will spawn within the rifts’ vicinity.
Thanks to your hard work, the [Level Barrier] has now been raised to 60!

“Sixty?” Basil choked in horror. “Is that a typo?”

“I read sixty too, sir,” Zachariel replied grimly as he watched his own screen. “This is… bothersome.”

Oh right, and Paris had a minor weather problem. Before Basil could wonder how and why they jumped from a level limit of 25 to 60, the System somehow managed to pile up another bomb atop the pile of bad news.

Players, monsters, and dungeons up to level 60 will be able to cross over! Existing dungeons will also increase in difficulty!
The [Incursion] will begin in 72 hours and last for a full Earth week (168 hours for those who can’t count)! You can’t miss it, but you can survive it!
Dismaker Labs wishes you a happy apocalypse.

The head start was welcome, but the event’s length caused Basil’s blood to freeze in his veins. He reread the message twice, to make sure he hadn’t misread.

The first question that crossed his mind was: what had Dismaker Labs’ board been smoking? What kind of magical drug could make a week-long interdimensional invasion look like a good idea?

The second was, did they even control the process? Did anyone?

“A week,” Basil whispered in shock. “A week.”

The next Incursion would last for a full week.

The last one took five hours to end, during which tide after tide of monsters emerged from the rifts. Even Basil’s team hadn’t managed to slay all the creatures that spawned out of Dax’s portal.

He doubted that all the creatures going through it would reach the maximum level, but if waves of monsters in their thirties or forties crossed over…

“What the hell were they thinking?” Basil wondered out loud. As if on cue, the stars shone brighter in the greenish sky. A golden circuit started to slowly link them together, as it did once in Dax. History was repeating itself. “How could they hope to survive this?”

“They did possess great powers,” Zachariel pointed out.

“Not enough to beat a party in their thirties,” Basil pointed out. “Unless… unless they expected to grow in power with the dungeons.”

That was the most likely explanation. When Ronald claimed Château Muloup, his level was set to align with his dungeon’s. He would only grow in power with Incursions.

It was the laziest method to gain power, one that demanded next to no effort except waiting for time; no doubt the board would flock to it. Pluto’s control over the Louvre Pyramid all but confirmed it.

“Pay-to-win users will be fine as always, but everyone else…” Basil shook his head. “Three days of calm followed by a week-long storm…”

Mankind was teetering at the edge, struggling to rebuild. The next Incursion would destroy all its progress and eradicate what was left of civilization. So few would survive…

“Sir, all is not lost,” Zachariel argued, though his trembling voice betrayed his doubts. “If we can destroy this city’s dungeons, perhaps we can slow down the process.”

Yeah, right, they still had time. “We need to capture Pluto within that time frame,” Basil replied. “If he administers the Neutotower network or part of it, we can force him to sabotage the Incursion before it begins.”

Hopefully.

It was a long shot, but Basil didn’t see any other alternative. He opened his Logs to check the closest rift. His System map showed him a swirling vortex located right above the Eiffel Tower.

Rift Destination: Famine’s Wasteland.
Ruling Faction: Apocalypse Force.
Max Spawn Level: 60.
Bonus: Experience gains are increased by 50% within ten kilometers of the rift. High-quality items will randomly appear within its vicinity.
Field Type: Desert.
  • [Fire], [Earth], [Wind], and [Light] elements are empowered.
  • [Wood], [Water], and [Frost] elements are weakened.
  • [Sandstorm]: The [Sandstorm] weather condition will generate spontaneously at random intervals.

Basil silently turned to face the Eiffel Tower. Thunderclouds gathered at the top of its tesla coil alongside crimson particles. No doubt would the rift snap open once the countdown reached its end.

You have a new message from: [Apollyon, Horseman of Famine]. You can check it in your Logs.

Basil opened it without fear. It was short and to the point.

APOLLYON: I told you, Bohen. I am coming. For you.

Basil glared at the Eiffel Tower, imagined it burning like a candle–like his house–and then forwarded his answer.

BASIL: Bring it, bug. I’ll send you where you belong.
BASIL: Under my heel.
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About the author

Maxime J. Durand (Void Herald)

Bio: I'm Maxime Julien Durand ([email protected]), a European warlock living in the distant realm known as France, spending all his time writing tales and forbidden scrolls.

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