Basil thought about the offer for a moment and reached a decision.
“You son of a bitch, I’m in,” he lied.
“Yes, the [Bug] master type unites!” Bugsy lowered his head in submission. “Please don’t kill us.”
“You are mistaken, human, I am no son of a [Beast] type,” Megabug answered Basil. “I was born from Lord Apollyon’s hive.”
Plato looked up at Basil with an annoyed glare. “Basil, are we truly allying with this dolt?” the cat whispered. “Can’t we pick a better side?”
Basil locked eyes with his pet and pointed at the cauldron with his chin. Plato squinted, but he understood the message. The two hadn’t needed a common language to understand each other before. They had their own nonverbal method of communication.
Will the others catch on though? Basil wondered. Bugsy was too intimidated by Megabug to even consider striking him, while Rosemarine hummed to herself. She looked completely oblivious to the danger at hand. It’s all or nothing.
“So, do I have to follow an initiation ceremony or something?” Basil asked. His eyes calculated the distance separating him from Megabug. If I sprint, I can hit him in seconds.
He couldn’t let a genocidal bug get his hands on the dungeon and retreat would end in swift defeat. Only a surprise attack and seizing the initiative would give Basil’s party a chance to prevail.
“Lord Apollyon will induct you into the Apocalypse Force upon arrival.” Megabug retracted his stingers and glanced at the goblins hiding in a corner of the room. The critters shuddered in fear; they knew their time had come. “In the meantime, you will exterminate the survivors. They are unworthy of recruitment and I barely get experience from killing them.”
“What about the Boss?” Basil asked, his gaze turning to Ogremoche. The ogre was still alive, but in no shape to assist. There would be no team-up against a greater threat. This only strengthened Basil’s resolve to follow through with his plan.
“Mine,” Megabug hissed.
“System,” Basil whispered as Megabug peeked into the cauldron. “Can you level up in the middle of battle?”
You can assign your levels anytime so long as you have the necessary exp.
It was a gamble, since the System had only afforded Basil’s party experience after a battle had concluded so far. He hoped the current circumstances would be unique enough to represent a special case.
With nothing left to lose, Basil charged as fast as his legs could carry him. Plato outpaced him with his claws out. Bugsy and Rosemarine remained behind, too confused to move.
“Huh?” said the centipede, since he hadn’t caught on.
Megabug didn’t expect the surprise attack. How could he? Basil’s Party would have to be suicidal to strike him after he so clearly established the gap in power between them. When Plato jumped at his face, the bug monster didn’t react fast enough.
“Argh!” Megabug snarled as Plato furiously scratched his left eye. The cat’s claws sprayed the floor with green insect blood.
Hoping his cat could buy him some time, Basil kicked the cauldron and spilled the stew all over the floor. The stunned Ogremoche rolled on the ground.
“Ugh…” he groaned as Basil’s shadow blanketed his face. “What… what the…”
Praying he hadn’t made a mistake in his beating heart, Basil brought down his axe and beheaded the ogre.
Thankfully, God had taken pity on him. Basil’s party did earn some experience, probably because striking down Ogremoche completed a quest unrelated to Megabug.
Quest: Baddest Ogre in Town completed! Your party earned 1500 EXP + 500 Quest EXP (500 EXP each). You earned 1 level and an [Ogre Necklace] Quest Reward!
By defeating Ogremoche, your Party can now bypass the Neurotower’s barrier and decide the dungeon’s fate.
One level? Basil gritted his teeth. He sensed something appear around his neck but was too panicked to care. One level wasn’t enough! He had hoped for at least two!
Worse, Megabug had regained his composure. His hand swiftly grabbed Plato by the neck and lifted him above the ground with casual ease. The cat attempted to cut his foe’s arm, but his claws barely scratched the exoskeleton.
“You dare strike me?” Megabug snarled. His stingers extended from his forearms, and he raised his free hand to punch Plato. “You low-level trash?”
Having finally realized the danger at hand, Bugsy and Rosemarine charged into the fray. “Mr. Plato!” the centipede roared. “I’m coming, Boss!”
“[Tamer]!” Basil snarled as desperately rushed to help Plato. He would have taken a level in [Berserker], but he needed a Perk right now! “Something good, something good, something good!”
Tamer Level 3 Stat Gains: +1 STR, +1 AGI, +1 MAG, +1 INT, +1 CHA, +1 LCK. Your Health Points were raised by 20 and Special Points by 20.
Passive Perk Improved: Monster Charmer II: You can unlock the hidden potential of a recruited monster, granting them an additional Perk that they cannot access in the wild. Monsters will keep these additional abilities even if you kick them out of your party.
Plato learned [Nine Lives]! Bugsy Alphonse Venture learned [Agility Up]! Rosemarine Eglantine de la Barthe learned [Seed Decoy]!
Megabug stabbed Plato before Basil could reach him.
The monster’s stinger impaled his cat through the chest. Plato tried to say something, but he could only spit blood.
Basil’s heart skipped a beat at the horrifying sight, and doubly so when Megabug contemptuously tossed the wounded cat aside. Basil’s vision turned red, his distraught drowned out by unyielding rage.
“You little shit, I’ll tear you apart!” Basil furiously swung his axe at Megabug’s chest. The monster dodged with a backstep before retaliating by thrusting his stingers at astonishing speed. Basil quickly found himself on the backfoot as he struggled to avoid the flurry of blows.
“You stole my kill.” Megabug’s voice was lower and brimmed with cold fury. “You can’t fathom how much I’m going to hurt you. [Acid Blast]!”
Purple particles swirled around Megabug’s left hand before taking the shape of an orb. As he was already engaged in close-combat, Basil took it straight in the chest. The projectile melted his sweater and reached the skin underneath. Basil gritted his teeth as the acid burned his chest. Megabug quickly followed his attack with a mighty kick that sent him stumbling.
Bugsy and Rosemarine both threw themselves at the enemy from two different angles. Megabug spin-kicked the centipede in midair and sent him crashing against the bone throne at the end of the hall, the structure swiftly collapsing on him. Rosemarine had more luck and managed to bite Megabug in the left arm. Her maw’s tight grip cracked the exoskeleton and drew blood.
Megabug grunted as he tried to get Rosemarine off him, which gave Basil the opportunity to move to the monster’s left. With Plato having cut out his eye, he shouldn’t be able to see attacks coming from that direction.
The thought made Basil feel sick in the stomach. His eyes wandered to his cat, lying dead on the cold stone in a puddle of blood.
I’m sorry, Plato, Basil apologized in his mind. The adrenaline—and the rage—kept his attention focused on Megabug. He won’t outlive you, I swear!
He swung his axe from Megabug’s blind spot and hit the chest. His weapon broke past the exoskeleton with a mighty cracking noise. Blood dripped from a gaping wound and Megabug let out a buzzing noise.
“Hummie, kick his ass!” the goblins hiding behind the chests cheered Basil. “You can do it!”
“Your cheers make me puke!” Basil snarled back, especially since the goblins would rather watch from afar like cowards than intervene.
His next swings missed one after another and Megabug backflipped to safety. When Rosemarine refused to let go of him, he hit her at point-blank range with an acid orb. The poor plant squealed in pain as she fell defeated on the ground.
Holy shit, he’s fast! Basil thought as he tossed his axe aside and grabbed his rifle. Bugsy emerged from the ruins of the bone throne for round two. Numbers are our only chance.
“How does this work?” Bugsy muttered to himself, his antennae raised in alarm. “Ah, I get it! [Agility Up]!”
A blue aura flared to life around Bugsy. His legs picked up speed, allowing him to catch up to Megabug in a blur. The centipede threw himself at his foe to bite him only for strong hands to catch him in midair. Basil opened fire with his gun at Megabug to support Bugsy. He aimed for the creature’s last eye to blind him, but his aim was terrible. Basil’s bullets missed or bounced off the creature’s head without hitting a soft spot.
“Enough!” Wind swirled around Megabug’s hands as they held Bugsy’s mandibles at bay. “[Shockwave]!”
A mighty blast of compressed air erupted from Megabug’s stingers. The surprise volley hit Bugsy in the face and flung him backward. The centipede hit the stone wall with enough force to crack and it didn’t rise up.
Damn it, damn it, damn it! Basil panicked as he fired bullet after bullet. Megabug extended his wings to take flight as none of the projectiles hit their mark. He was too strong, too fast.
And then the rifle jammed.
“Judas!” Basil shouted in frustration as Megabug flew straight at him with both hands extended. Basil tossed the rifle aside and rushed at his axe to grab it again.
He never reached it.
Basil heard one of his ribs crack as a blast of air hit him in the chest, followed by the deeply unpleasant sensation of a foreign object going through his stomach.
At first, Basil didn’t feel much; no pain, no nothing. He sensed a thick, warm liquid running down his chest as Megabug slammed him against a dusty stone wall near Plato’s location. Only then did the pain sink in. His breath grew heavier.
Basil’s eyes looked down at the stinger impaling his stomach. His mind went blank, his heartbeat grew so loud he could somehow hear it in the back of his head.
I’m bleeding, Basil thought, his hands trembling. I’m bleeding.
The goblins were silent. Plato was dead. Bugsy and Rosemarine couldn’t help him. Soon he would die too. His team had landed some good hits in, but the battle’s outcome had never been in question.
Megabug pressed an arm against Basil’s throat to keep him pinned against the wall and stabbed him in the stomach with the other. Basil sensed a foreign substance spread through his blood, cold and slimy.
[Poison] ailment resisted!
“You might resist Corrosion and Physical, but you are weak to Wind,” Megabug rasped as he twisted his stinger. It took Basil all his strength not to scream from the sharp pain in his chest. “You picked the wrong fight, human.”
“What the hell… are you talking about?” Basil hissed through his teeth, trying to distract the insect with conversation. He refused to die in a cave at the hands of a bug! He had sworn to his dead cat that Megabug wouldn’t outlive them, and Basil Bohen always followed through with his threats!
“Weakling, you don’t even know your elemental affinities?”
I could rip out his other eye with my fingers, Basil thought. Anger gave him focus and numbed his pain. But without a weapon…
Wait… he still had a tool available… but would the System allow it?
“I will give you this, human, you made me run out of SP. But this ends here.” Saliva dripped from Megabug’s mandibles as they opened. He intended to bite Basil’s face off. “Any last words, human vermin?”
Here goes nothing, Basil thought as he opened his inventory screen and mentally selected the only item registered. Please make it work…
Item selected: [Renault Kangoo].
“Yeah...” Basil stuck his fingers between Megabug’s mandibles. “Carmehameha.”
Basil’s hand shone as he summoned his car.
The monster’s head immediately exploded as the much bigger Renault Kangoo materialized inside his mouth. The car expanded in the blink of an eye, shattering Megabug’s skull into a billion tiny pieces and showering Basil with blood. The monster’s beheaded body crumbled under the vehicle’s sheer weight. The arms snapped in half, leaving only a severed stinger embedded in Basil’s stomach.
Basil half-expected Megabug to rise up again, but the corpse remained firmly under the Kangoo’s wheels. He gritted his teeth and ignored the pain as he extracted the stinger from his stomach. Basil knew it wasn’t a good idea to remove a blade from a wound, but keeping a poisoned weapon inside his flesh sounded much worse.
“I may be weak to Wind,” Basil taunted Megabug’s corpse, one hand holding the stinger and the other covering his wound. “But you were weak to windshields.”
Your party earned 6000 EXP (1500 EXP each). You earned 3 levels!
Somehow, the sight of new levels didn’t reassure Basil. As he leaned against his car’s hood to stand upright, he wondered if he would live to assign them.
How can I even walk with a wound like this one? Basil wondered. The gaping hole in his chest bled profusely and his broken ribs made him ache each time he breathed. He should have collapsed already. Is it the work of my Vitality stat?
“Guys?” Basil called his pets. He prayed that at least one of them had lived through this disaster. “Guys?”
Bugsy was unconscious, but alive. Rosemarine was waking up. And Plato…
Basil froze upon recognizing the voice. His eyes glanced at a corner of the hall where Plato had fallen. To Basil’s surprise, he found his cat struggling to stand on his four legs; weak and drenched in his own blood, but alive. His fatal wound had somehow closed on its own.
“Plato?” Basil didn’t hide his relief and surprise. The blow should have killed his cat on the spot. “You’re alive?”
“I feel weird, Basil…” the cat replied. A shining purple number appeared above his head, briefly going down from ‘9’ to ‘8.’ Plato tried to take a step forward and stumbled instead. “I see birds… dead birds…”
“Plato, how dare you be alive?” Basil chuckled and spit blood for his trouble. “After I swore to avenge you!”
“I’m napping,” Plato groaned, his eyes closing. “Come back tomorrow…”
“Mister!” Rosemarine joined Basil and sprayed him with colored dust. “[Sweet Pollen]! [Sweet Pollen]!”
Screen messages informed Basil that he had recovered some HP, but he could already tell by himself. His stomach wound closed before his eyes. Flesh knitted itself back together and new fresh skin grew to replace the old.
“Where’s the body mass coming from?” Basil asked in confusion. He felt good as new, and it made no sense! “Where are the nutrients? You can’t grow intestines from nowhere!”
“When I evolve, I will hang animals by their intestines!” Rosemarine chirped.
“Ugh, it doesn’t matter.” Basil sighed and petted Rosemarine on the head. She wriggled in happiness with a cute little noise. “Thank you, Rosemarine. Please heal the others too.”
“Yes, Mister! Can I eat the big bug afterward?”
“Anything you want, sweetie.” Basil moved to recover his axe and patted his Kangoo Renault on the back. Megabug’s blood was splattered all over the hood. “I’ll give you a car wash, I promise.”
Basil’s joy lasted until he heard the surviving goblins stepping out of their hiding spot. In total, six of them had survived Megabug’s rampage by bravely watching others kill him for them.
“Up for more?” Basil asked, half a challenge and half a threat. He briefly wondered if they would try to exploit his exhausted state to strike.
The goblins looked at Ogremoche, then at Megabug’s corpse, and finally back at Basil.
“The old Boss is dead!” They shouted at the same time. “All hail the new Boss!
Predictable, Basil thought. He looked down on the treacherous goblins with contempt. I’ve never seen so many piles of filth in one room. “Before I let you in my team, I must confirm something.”
Basil’s grip tightened on his axe.
“Have you killed other humans?”
“Yes, yes!” One of the goblins answered. These critters couldn’t read Basil’s mood to save their lives and believed they could earn his favor with empty boasts. “We killed two! Yes, two!”
“Two?” Basil squinted at the monsters. “I counted only one corpse outside my home.”
“We ate the other,” another goblin said. He pointed at the cauldron. “That stew isn’t made of vegetables, ya know Boss?”
Basil forced himself to smile. He noticed Rosemarine had finished patching Plato up and Bugsy was starting to wake up. “Good to know. Honesty is the first step toward building trust. However, I feel you may have misunderstood the situation.”
The monsters exchanged confused glances. “How so, Boss?”
“I didn’t save you to recruit you.”
Basil cut down the nearest goblin with a swing of his axe.
“Now that the bug is gone…” Basil’s grin turned wicked. His tongue licked some of Megabug’s warm blood still sprayed on his face. “I can kill you all by myself!”
The goblins screamed in fear, but their lives were already forfeit.