Momo only had herself to blame. The carriage driver had thoroughly warned her about Nam’Dal. He even offered her an opportunity to turn around. She could have gone about the bumpy ride home, strolled right up to Valerica and said thank you very much, but hell no.

Instead, she was now being paraded through the Knight’s Hall, her hands and legs grappled by four Con Artists, carried towards certain death.

“Where was all this kidnapping spirit when the goat guy ran off?” Momo complained loudly, wriggling uselessly with all her might. “Why am I the one being taken hostage?”

“Like Nia said, lass,” Teddy said, fronting the team that was carrying Momo. “Shark bait.”

“Radu?” Momo said, craning her neck to stare at the lizard, who was shuffling a few feet ahead. He had only watched as they hauled her up, trying his best to ignore the ordeal. “You’re okay with this? I feel majorly betrayed right now.”

“Betrayal is a hazard of the profession,” he said. Still, he risked a guilty glance back. “But do be easy on her. I’ll have your necks if you sprain one of her tiny ankles. She’ll need all the muscle she can get to outrun Vivienne a second time.”

Momo groaned. Regrettably, he was right. She’d need to conserve energy. She momentarily stopped her wriggling, letting herself enjoy the break from using her own two feet to move. In any other scenario, this would be her personal heaven. She internally cursed them for ruining it for her.

“You know, I could call my Argentavis on all of you,” Momo announced. “How would you like a bird the size of this hallway to deal with?”

The Con Artists stilled. They had heard tales of the infamous giant bird all over town.

“Momo,” Radu turned to her, finally. “I don’t like that it’s come to this, either, but let’s not be… ridiculous.”

“Ridiculous is me being hauled around like a bag of potatoes while I have a giant minion ready to claw you all down,” Momo said, summoning the last of her drunken audacity. “An ostrich, too.”

“Listen, you know Nia’s right. If we can get Vivienne to notice you, she’ll come sprinting after you. We’ll be at the ready to jump her, bag her, and high tail out of here,” Radu explained with all the manners of a politician. “Despite the circumstances, you have the support of all of us. We’ll do our best to make sure you don’t get hurt.”

“You’re quite literally carrying me, unwillingly, to a mildly certain death,” Momo narrowed her eyes, her neck beginning to hurt at the obscene angle. “I don’t feel very comfortable trusting you at the moment.”

Not to mention that I can trust Nia to keep me safe as much as I could trust a dog to babysit a newborn. Momo frowned. The thief was leading the pack, keeping an eye on their surroundings, totally apathetic to Momo’s plight. Actually, apathetic was the wrong word. Nia had been the ringleader of the entire idea, helping to hoist Momo up and into Teddy’s arms.

Momo should have known better – after years at Mallmart, one learns to never trust a pretty woman with shoplifting tendencies.

“I see your point,” Radu sighed. “Teddy, let her down.”

“Let her down? But she’ll make a run for it!”

“This plan won’t work if she doesn’t want to work with us,” Radu pressed. “We need her to sneak into the Banquet Hall alone and drag out Vivienne, otherwise it’ll just turn into an all-out brawl, like you said.”

Teddy hummed, thinking it over.

“Lizard boy’s got a point,” Teddy said, looking towards Nia. “We need the girl’s collaboration.”

“Yeah, you need my collaboration!” Momo emphasized from above. They promptly ignored her, waiting for Nia’s directive.

“Fine, fine,” Nia groaned. She was growing steadily more impatient with her group of followers, her cool, above-it-all persona chipping away with every disturbance to her plan. “Let the girl down.”

Momo yelped, the thieves dropping her at once. She landed in a bruised bundle of limbs, grateful for the small amount of STR points she had gained since coming to Alois. A few months ago, a fall like that would have put her in the emergency room with a few months of physical therapy.

Ever helpful, Radu pulled her back up.

“What do you say, boss,” he said, offering a repentant smile. “One last heist?”

Momo stared at him, his cute, beady eyes boring into hers. The urge to make a break for it remained, but without Teddy’s assistance, she would have to get through a sea of knights to get her missing letter.

“Will you promise not to kidnap me again?” Momo murmured.

“I don’t know,” he joked. “I think I can manage it. That is if you toss in a bit of coin for Thieves’ Insurance.”

“You’re the worst,” she mumbled, but she could sense the implicit yes in his words. They had forged a bond, whether Radu (or Momo) liked it. Even if she couldn’t trust a single soul in the room but him, sometimes it’s good enough to have one ally in a sea of idiots.

She’d see this plan through, for all its inevitable terribleness.

“I’ll pay you with the gold from the vaults we break into, how about that?”

Radu smiled brightly at her, and took her hand in both of his.

“You’ve got a deal, Ripper.”

They reached the Banquet Hall within minutes. Momo knew it was the right place by the way Nia visibly reacted to it – her face broke out in a broad smile, her hands turned to fists. Momo still couldn’t put a finger on exactly what she was planning. There was a chance she read the whole thing wrong, and Nia wasn’t playing some grand grift. After all, she stood to profit, too, even if she played the plan straight. Millions of coins in a vault? What thief wouldn’t want in?

Momo didn’t consider herself a thief – Con Artist class aside – and even she was titillated by the thought of it. So titilated that she accidentally roped herself into the plot, even knowing better.

“So, Momo,” Nia turned on her heel, looking eagerly towards her. She was back to bubbly smiles and friendly first-name greetings, as if she hadn’t just half-kidnapped her here. “Do you see that grate up there? It leads to the vents above the Banquet Hall. From the blueprints, Vivienne should be in the northern section of the room, high on her own isolated platform.”

“And you want me to… drop on her all ninja style?” Momo interjected, karate chopping the air to the best of her ability. To her right, Radu put his face in his hands.

This is our last hope…” he muttered.

No,” Nia quickly countered. “We want you to lure her out in a way that turns the least amount of heads. You’ll want to get her near the exit, and then at the last moment, reveal yourself. By that time, she’ll be out of view of everyone else, and she’ll chase you out and right into our hands.”

Momo nodded. That sounded pretty insane and impossible, but insane and impossible were the type of conditions she was used to working with. Bless Valerica’s leadership.

“Which exit is she going to be chasing me out of?”

“That platform she’ll be on connects back to the Judgment Room. That’s where we’ll all wait for you, body bag in hand.”

“Got it,” Momo saluted. She gave a final glance to Radu, who gave her a smirk.

“You can rely on us,” he said.

“That better be true,” Momo squinted. “Also, I want two times my original cut of the gold – the gold that the runaway goat thief would have gotten.”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, lassie,” Teddy laughed.

Momo glared. “No one else is shark bait.”

That line shut them up.

“True enough,” Teddy said, after a moment of consideration. “All in favor of giving the tiny Ripper an extra cut if she succeeds, say aye.”

A chorus of ayes rang out, and Momo grinned. A part of her was grateful for her new Con Artist class. She felt much more equipped now to swindle swindlers.

“There you go, then,” Teddy clapped her on the back. “You’ll be richer than rich, should you succeed. All you need to do is scramble up there, then.”

She followed his gaze towards the grate. It was very high up on the wall, roughly the height of six Momo’s. She could summon some sort of creature to help her up, but she didn’t want to waste her one summoning chance this early on.

“There’s just one problem,” Momo mumbled. “I can’t climb a flat wall.”

“Sure you can,” Nia shrugged, and pointed a finger towards the wall. “[Shroud Ladder].”

Black smoke snaked from her finger to the wall, forming a first rung of a ladder, then a second, then a third. The ladder looked immaterial, but as she approached it, the texture was firm and tangible. It stuck out a few inches from the wall, providing a stable footing.

“Amazing,” Momo whispered. [Dark Thieves] had a pretty incredible skill set. Momo hadn’t considered it before, but she wouldn’t mind being able to climb on clouds out of any tricky situation.

She gripped the first rung of the ladder, hoisting herself up. She could feel the light pressure around her neck, meaning Dusk was still acting as an invisible cat-scarf. Good. She’d need all the help she could get once she was in there.

“I swore I wouldn’t climb any more ladders,” she muttered, beginning the ascent. “Yet here I am.”

Luckily, the Shroud Ladder made the climb easy, and she was at the grate in seconds. It looked just big enough for Momo to crawl through, and she was suddenly thankful for her small frame. If only climbing through grates had been a grade in school.

The one remaining problem: the grate was tightly shut. There was a small screw holding it in place, and she didn’t carry a handy screwdriver. Actually, she did.

“Dusk, can you claw this thing off?”

After a light, affirmative meow, an invisible cat claw whacked at the screw until it was loose enough to tug. Momo twisted it with her bare hands, the metal tearing into her fingers. After a few strained breaths, it popped off. The grate clattered to the ground, echoing through the long hall.

Momo winced. “Do you think they heard that?”

“Nah,” Nia said, knocking on the wall. “These are as thick as boulders.”

“Alright,” Momo blew out a breath. She risked a look down, and her stomach curled at the height. This would not be a pleasant fall. The ladder ran out about three feet from the vent opening, so she’d need to stand on the last rung of the ladder to properly climb into it. Her arm strength wasn't good enough to just pull herself up from her current position.

“Can this ladder not go any higher?” she whimpered.

“High as it can, I’m afraid.”

Wonderful. Momo did a silent prayer to her new dexterity points.

“If I fall, I can just become a tree stump,” she said, attempting to comfort herself. “I’ll be alright.”

With the tree stump insurance policy in mind, she cleared her mind, and steadied her hands. To her surprise, her body didn’t shake. She found that she could position her limbs like well-tuned tools, not flimsy, cooked pasta. She had gained a plethora of Dexterity from [Corrupted Druid], and she hadn’t yet put it to the test. This was the first one.

With all the force in her body, she pressed herself to the wall. It was a technique she remembered from the one semester of college she tried Rock Climbing. Not that she ever used the technique – she stuck to doing the same first level climb every day of the semester – but she remembered how some of the better climbers would walk across the wall with ease, using their body as a counterweight to gravity.

Firmly pressed to the wall, she snaked her knee upwards towards the final rung of the ladder. Finding that she was stable enough, she got her foot all the way up towards the last rung, and pressed upwards. Her body slid up the surface, and she could feel every jagged edge of the cobbled wall. It was like getting a hundred little paper cuts.

But that didn’t matter. She was doing it – standing on the last rung. Her body was pressed like a pancake to the wall, completely starfished. The grate sat directly in front of her. Now all she had to do was get in.

One problem: the cat around her shoulders. She wouldn’t be able to fit with Dusk’s head in the way.

“Dusk, can you climb into the grate from here?”


She felt the pressure around her shoulders shift, and her body wobbled slightly as the cat used her head as a jumping off point. Her entire stomach flipped, her knee bobbing on the last rung. Cat feet leapt over her, and she heard the clamor of paws on metal as it entered the crate.

“Oh god,” Momo said, as she got her knee under control. “Oh god, I’m still alive.”

“You sure are!” Nia said, helpfully. “Now, hurry up, please!”

At Nia’s words, Momo used the last of her adrenaline to barrel inwards.

A note from villa1ny

How cute is pixel art Momo? Now I really want to play a classic Gameboy version of this story.

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About the author


Bio: A globetrotting word wizard.

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Golnor ago

There's a little voice in my head saying that Nia and Viv are the same person.

LordGeek ago

Thanks for the chapter! For some reason I think that Nia is going to try and fuck everybody over yet, Momo will cower victorious in the end.

Evren ago

Thank you for the chapter

CILinkzSpre3 ago

or Nia and Vivienne are the same person

DCCD ago

Thank you for the chapter!

ChristopherCraven ago

Thank you for the chapter and have a nice weekend!

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