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A note from zaifyr

Hey! So the list of Writathon participants came out recently and I wanted to give you all a recommendation of a fellow member of that list.

geryly has a really interesting story that I think many of my readers will also enjoy. Tales from the Underside: How to Maintain a Questionable System-in-Progress. It also has it's chill moments, absurdity and a unique premise. 

Spoilers for the first few chapters :

Isekai but the MC is not that different from a ticket collector on the train... you'll find out more if you read it :)

Now is not the time, mysterious voice. I let out a distressed beep as I used my newfound energy to circle around the group of minor demons. However, the voice was not to be ignored.

CHOOSE

Fine. I swerved around the pillars to put them between me and the horde. Fine, fine, fine. I didn’t know what a flamethrower was, but a fire, in general, wouldn’t be a healthy choice for the flooring or the rugs; that's not an option. Sandblasting might be nice if I intended to strip paint, but that's not my primary function. Sanitation lamp. I didn't really know what that was. Sanitation sounded practical to me, maybe not in this situation, but in general. Okay, yeah, sanitation lamp. Come on, let's hurry up.

I felt energy rush through me, leaving slight alterations to my internals in their wake. This time the changes felt much smaller than they had with the mop and claw. No, I didn't really feel much difference at all besides the fact that I had a single new function. I turned it on, and a section of my front bumper began to glow, casting a ghostly blueish-purple light a few inches in front of me. I couldn't turn it left or right. It just pointed in the same direction I did. I could raise it up and down slightly, but that was all. It didn't have any other effects that I could see. I pointed it at one of the demons, but nothing happened.

I have to say that this is less than ideal. I could have used something like another claw right now. I suppose I could have gone with the flamethrower, but that seemed like a bad idea. As I considered my new function, I noticed something. It was taking surprisingly long for these demons to catch up to me. They seemed to be moving slower than they had just a moment before.

No, that wasn’t it. It seemed I was moving faster. It seemed like everything about me was faster. Time appeared to have slowed down a bit, or my processing speed had increased. I calculated this by watching one of the demons jump out of my way and noticing how he fell down 5% slower than he should. So unless gravity also decreased, I just got faster. Wow! Training had done much for me besides just giving me more functions.

I started weaving back and forth, and they seemed to have even more trouble keeping up. Getting bolder, I started going in between them and through them, pirouetting around their legs and dancing around them. I tried using my light on them from very close, but still nothing. What a waste! A sandblaster might have had a few uses, even after fighting these dirty mess makers. Though maybe, it would have turned me into an even worse offender than them. Who knows.

Anyway, I needed to figure out how to get out of there. My human was counting on me.

Now that I was awarded an upgrade, I wondered if the minor demons would still be able to avoid my suction. I turned to face them, and they seemed to realize something was wrong. They all hesitated for a second before deciding there was enough of them that they all jumped forward to attack. I zipped at one, in particular, trying to catch it before they managed to convene on me. I had no trouble reaching it before it could react. The demons holding hands were still too much for my suction, so I tried a different tactic. I raised my counterweight and slammed it into its arm, where it held its battle partner. The sharp object cut cleanly through. Black viscous oil sprayed everywhere as the demon clutched its stump and screamed. I turned on my vacuum, and it flew into my dustbin. Its partner, now holding only a hand, did not nearly have enough weight to avoid my suction. Despite trying to jump backward, it didn't make it. Caught in mid-air, it zoomed into my dustbin.

Two more down, 12 to go. Taking stock of my surroundings, I realized that the demons were much less aggressive than they used to be. Now, most were looking at the exit, wondering if they could open the door and leave. They could not. I took no joy in extermination. Sadly, it was necessary to keep the house clean, but it was just an unpleasant act. So I didn't play with them or drag them out. I simply picked another pair and advanced right at it, counterbalance held high. They ran away. I chased them down, one pair at a time, and there wasn't anything they could do. One group tried to open the door, but I quickly cut them off.

The last pair found themselves in the center of the room, surrounded by pillars, as I finished consuming their only remaining compatriots. I had managed to corner them. They stood there, and instead of trying to run, they started drawing with their fingers in the black oil the others had released as they were damaged.

It really wasn't clear to me what they were doing. Perhaps they had a picture they wanted me to pass on to their loved ones? I had seen humans do that on TV before. I mean, I wouldn't say no to that. With my mop, I could trace out and replicate the lines they were drawing. But I would be surprised if I could track the intended recipients down. How would I even start? I didn’t know where they lived. Also, I didn't even understand their language and therefore possessed no way to find out. Also, I honestly doubted that they had loved ones.

Whatever their intention was, they single-mindedly drew their patterns in a circle. While one was finishing, the other was on the inside, drawing something else. This behavior was quite odd. I went over the first circle carefully, cringing as the black liquid still managed to splash my wheels. I turned the suction on and could ineffectively suck up some black fluid. This is going to be a hard floor to clean later. I was not sure I had enough water to do much.

The outer demon drawing the circle screamed a warning to the other. It looked up and saw me, then began to draw faster. Whatever it was doing was too late. I was close enough now that my suction started to pull at them. In a few short seconds, they were being tugged off their feet. It appeared I was not just faster, but my suction was more powerful as well. Interesting, that would explain why my pathing was so much more efficient. I wasn’t just finding a better path or going faster. No, it seemed that area of effect of my suction had actually increased. That was new, and I was happy with it. It confirmed that I was sent here by humans to train. There wasn’t any other explanation.

All this ran through my mind while the two minor demons floated through the air toward my undercarriage. “Floated” might be too gentle of a term for it. The better description was “rocketed”. Both demons screamed in fear, a sound that rivaled all the others they had previously made. I felt no need to reply as they joined the other 12 still in my dustbin.

Safe for the first time in what seemed like hours, I took stock of my situation. All around were demon remains. The lubrication oil they had in their bodies had spread everywhere when they collided with my counterweight. It shone black all over the floor and walls of the large room. I was lucky it was mostly splatter and not out of my mop’s reach. Still, this would be a real pain to clean.

I looked to see what the demons had been drawing, studying it to ensure I could pass it along. I considered the odds that I would see a mess maker that would let me draw the picture. Just about when I had memorized the circle pattern, it began to glow. Now that was less than ideal. I did not know why this was happening. I sure hope it wouldn't damage his magnificent floor more than it already has. It would take me forever to get this stuff out. The glowing grew brighter. I think I saw the glow from under the liquid. Worried that the floor would be affected, I began to act in a bit of a frenzy. I pulled my mop out and started wiping away the circle. The glow ceased immediately. The black liquid was easily absorbed, more quickly than I had expected. When I wrung it out inside of me, I could feel it had a certain weight to it; as it settled in my dustbin, along with its previous owners. I could tell that when I transmuted it, it would contain more energy than most dust particles I collected.

Speaking of my dustbin. I took stock of what was inside as well. To my relief, the fuzzy minor mess maker was still there, very much alive and unhappy about sharing the space with 14 partially broken and leaking demons. I don't think the demon seemed any happier, either. I considered how much better I might become at cleaning if I transmuted them all right now. But eventually, my good sense overcame my greed. I needed to make sure that I had enough battery. It didn't make sense to transmute this whole mass of energy at once, where most of it would just be wasted and thrown into the floor. Even using a part of it would spill it on the floor as I was topped off. Though, it was nice to have made the connection between transmuting matter and this annoying voice yelling at me. Though after the last few times, the booming voice has been less annoying. It has given me good practical stuff. I only wished it wasn't so forceful.

I considered the room as it was. After I had dealt with the glowing patch on the floor, I could still see the lines where it had been drawn. I hope that wasn't permanent damage. The rest of the large room I would have to deal with later. I had weighed the alternative of stopping to clean up this mess now, but even with my newfound abilities, it would still take hours. Plus, the small human was still sleeping and would potentially suffer damage without me bringing her the pillow. As much of a mess as this was, I had to place the needs of my humans first.

Doing my best to avoid as much black viscous liquid as I could. I made my way toward the door. I did my best, but little bits of the goopy liquid still stuck to my wheels. I managed to traverse the puddles slowly and avoid coating my undercarriage. However, I was worried it would stain if I went on clean ground or carpet. Eventually, I have to convince my human to clean me. I don't know if she would know how, though. Honestly, she didn't seem very familiar with my kind.

In a sudden burst of worry. Why had I never once improved at home? I had worked diligently for years, doing as I was told, but never once did I see any improvement. Was that the reason? Did I need to take the initiative to grow? Thinking about it, maybe that was it. Making my own decisions was much more taxing than following orders.

When I found the small human here, I was ecstatic because I could have a human take care of me. However, it was that attitude that was holding me back. Or maybe not. When I stopped to think it through logically, I realized that if I were to stop listening to humans, I would lose the purpose for which I sought to get stronger. Clearly, the human here needed my help. But so did my humans at home. Since they sent me here, they must have been convinced they could take care of themselves for a little while. But I didn’t want to disappoint them and be gone longer than I expected. What if I was gone for too long, and they replaced me? No, they wouldn’t do that. I would learn what I needed to and when they saw I was ready, they would come for me.

This paradox threw me for a loop. I needed to listen to humans to have a purpose. However, I needed to do my own thing to improve to be more valuable to humans. What a conundrum! I didn’t think there existed a correct solution on either end. I would have to settle for something in the middle. I would need to listen when told something. Waiting for orders before doing any little thing was likely not the best use of my time. To improve efficiency when not actively instructed to do something, I would take it upon myself to do things I deemed most necessary. I would need to practice predicting what humans would need before they knew they could ask me for it. Yes, that would be a good balance. While a fine line to walk, I believed I could make it.

I set out to go and find that pillow so my human may rest safely.

---

Bee hesitantly bowed in greeting. Void beeped again and moved the knife up and down slightly. She began to regret her decision to try interpreting Void’s actions better. This time it meant having to get near it when it had a knife, and she had no idea if she was correct in thinking it was being friendly. She had hoped to start slow. Just deciding to trust it didn't wipe away a week of hair-raising fear. Slowly she reached her hand out, thinking it seemed like Void was offering her the handle. Indeed her open palm was soon full of the smooth wood of the cleaver’s handle. Was it giving her a weapon? Was she going to need one soon?

At no point did it seem that Void needed her assistance in a fight. Perhaps it had learned something while it was away? If there are more powerful demons that Void couldn't... No, of course, it couldn't be possible. This must be a test. Or perhaps Void was just tired of doing all the work? Either way, she would do her best and hope that when she was too far over her head, Void would come in and save her. She hated to rely on its mercy and charity, but she had no other option now. The only thing in the castle that was free was likely these minor demons, which were significantly higher level than she was. There were captive beasts with assorted magical abilities held in either stables, dungeons, or rookeries. However, none of those were on this floor, and Void didn't seem eager to leave it. Besides, they were valuable, and she doubted it wanted her to kill them. So that meant either the standard ones they had been dealing with recently or more powerful demons were beginning to wake. By her vague understanding from the reading she had done, they would likely be another couple more days before that would happen. But that really depended on when Void had decided to release them.

Now she had a better understanding of Void and its motives. With that understanding in mind, the decision to release all these monsters from the castle made no sense. If Void wasn't going to command them, what was the point? Void didn't typically seem to like the messes they made or the destruction they caused. Especially it seemed to hate the shedding of their demonic forms, as they climatized to the human world and left debris everywhere. In fact, Void went out of its way to clean it up. Was it harvesting their filth?

Brought out of her thoughts by another beep, Void made to go outside. Quickly she gathered herself, with the cleaver in hand, and exited the room on Void's heels.

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A note from zaifyr

Hey you know where Chapter 19 is... Of course you do! (one of these days it's going to be more than 1 ahead)

Also 12/15, making progress!


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