One thing about having several tiny legs spitting out of you in all directions: it is very difficult to maintain speed.
Momo had broken into a sprint as soon as she saw the zombified mass limp towards her, but she quickly slowed to a halt when she noticed that it had barely moved a yard from the doorway. It was as if someone had attached doll legs to a lump of dough. The limbs failed to integrate, and impeded motion more than aided it.
Momo watched as it rolled one of its many ankles with each step, groaning as it tried to right itself. It wasn’t going anywhere fast.
Still, she wasn’t going to take any chances. She quickly cast [Bone Dance] again, black magic shooting from her palm and piercing the flesh of the gelatinous monster. Its rolls of ghoulish skin and fat undulated, the bones inside it starting to spin.
There we go, she thought proudly. Thank God, because she was already out of Mana. [Bone Dance] seemed to be a higher level spell than the rest of her grimoire, and it sapped the entirety of her reserves in just two castings.
To Momo’s horror, the beast was completely undisturbed by the bones stirring like tornadoes within. The flesh glob seemed to be more gelatin than man, so its own bones moved through it like a chef’s hand through a bowl of dough.
Momo inhaled sharply, considering her options. Her mana was regenerating slowly, and even then she lacked any offensive skills outside of [Bone Dance]. She could task Dusk with attacking it, but she wouldn’t risk putting the cat in harm’s way.
She could just leave, and hope someone else would take care of the beast when they discovered it limping towards town.
Just as she was about to pack up her things and make it someone else’s problem, she saw a man’s head frantically pop out of one of the high bay windows.
“Kill it! Kill it with fire!” he screamed, “use every spell you know!”
Great. Momo sighed. A whole entire damsel in distress, just what she needed. He looked the part, too - fine clothes, a princely crown atop his head. Jewels lining his blouse and sleeves.
She cleared her throat, “I’m sorry sir, but I’m not powerful enough!”
“I can’t hear you!” he yelled. The glob of flesh turned its metaphorical head towards him, cringing as if listening to the squawk of a dying bird.
Momo cleared her throat again. She wasn’t used to speaking at a volume higher than an ‘I don’t actually want you to hear me’’ whisper. The last time she screamed was probably the day she was born, and even then her Mom had told her to be quiet - a hospital was no place for yelling.
She took a deep breath in, summoning the audacity she had as an infant.
“I cannot kill the blob!” she enunciated with all of her might.
Momo’s voice felt immediately hoarse. No more talking for two days, she decided.
|Despite finding yourself in variety of uncomfortable social situations, you have faced your fears and talked your way through them. Your [Burgeoning Confidence] skill has been upgraded to [Burgeoning Confidence II]. You have gained +3 CHA.|
Momo smiled proudly down at the parchment. Well, that felt nice. Her moment was quickly interrupted by another screech.
“Well, you must! Or else it will devour you too!”
Momo ventured a look at the glob, which was currently having an internal argument on which direction to move in.
“Yeah, I think I’m okay,” Momo yelled back, “I’m going to go get someone else to help!”
“No! Don’t leave me here to die!” he cried out, putting on a show to rival Shakespeare.
Momo sighed. On the off chance that the blob gained supersonic speed, it would be the moral thing to do to save the man before that happened. Not that she was very practiced in morality recently. Her most recently acquired skill was quite literally called [Con Artist].
If nothing else, she could probably find some more enchanted clothing in the haunted manor. Or ask for some jewelry from the man as a reward for being his hero in shining blue robes. God - did she hear herself? She was becoming so unempathetic, so transactional. She could already feel her parents giving her a mouthful from a universe away.
“Fine,” she yelled back at him, “I’m on my way!”
She paced around the blob, giving it a wide berth. Its many mouths moaned at her as she passed, swiping at her uselessly with dislodged hands and knees.
Successfully avoiding the mass, she crossed through the crashed doorway. She stepped carefully over splintered wood and into the main hall. The interior of the manor was as decadent as she expected - marble stairs leading in several directions, oak tables, chairs decorated in loud patterns, a gigantic rug depicting the fierce, roaring maw of a lion.
She heard the screams of the man coming from the west wing of the house. As she walked towards them, the eyes of the tufted lion seemed to follow her. Textile shifted magically beneath her feet, tracking her every moment.
She stopped in her tracks, properly creeped out. Was the rug undead?
“Rug, curl into a ball,” she commanded.
The textile lion licked its lips disturbingly, but did not do as she said.
She sighed - her science experiment failing. Either it was simply an enchanted rug, or it was an undead [Mimic] of a higher level than Momo's. That is what she had gathered from Valerica's teachings, at least.
Ignoring the lion, she surveyed the room for something she could use as a weapon. [Bone Dance] was on cooldown, and she had very little else at her disposal. There had to be an armory somewhere in the building - she knew how attached rich people were to their weapons.
“Can you point me in the direction of the pointy things?” she asked the lion, thinking it couldn’t hurt.
After a moment of consideration, the lion’s synthetic pupils pointed upwards, towards the north wing. She thanked it and walked in the direction of its gaze. She passed through an archway and was greeted by a manhandled steel door. It was thrown wide open by some greater force, dented and sliced at the corners.
Her skin crawled. She might need a weapon to get a weapon, it seemed.
She peered around the doorway and into the room. As the lion’s eyes had suggested, it was littered with weapon racks. It was also littered with limbs - seemingly the limbs that failed to join the Mother Blob on its way out of the Manor door. Luckily, the limbs, unattached to anything, lay dormant.
From her place around Momo’s shoulders, Dusk meowed. Something was amiss. It was too quiet.
At the sound of her mewling, the limbs began to move. A dismembered arm rolled across the floor, flinging its fingers in every which direction. A knee hobbled into a wall, smashing mindlessly into brick.
Momo eyed a thin sword hanging from a rack in the center of the room. All of the weapons closer to the door’s entrance were much heavier - greataxes, scythes. Momo had gained some muscle mass, but mostly in her legs, not her arms. Anything heavier than a sword would flatten her.
“Dusk,” she whispered to the cat, getting its attention, “I want you to go into the room and distract the - um, limbs. As soon as they get sight of you, run the opposite direction and lead them out of there.”
Dusk meowed in understanding, her skeletal tail pointing upwards.
The cat sauntered into the room and let out a yowl. All at once, the limbs turned to her. Identifying the source of the sound, they began to surge in her direction. Hands dragged themselves across the carpet, feet hopped like bunnies. Dusk rapidly turned on her heel and skidded out of the room, the defunct limbs scrambling in tow behind her.
Taking the opportunity, Momo ran into the armory, heading right for the sword. As she reached for it, she felt something grab her ankle, tugging her down to the floor. She smacked into the tile, the sword clattering onto the ground.
Her ears ringing, she frantically reached for the hilt. She grabbed it and turned towards her ankle, where a muscled forearm had wrapped its fingers around it. Momo yelled in pain as the arm dug its fingers into her shin with unexpected strength.
She swung the sword desperately at it, trying her best not to cut off her own leg. Having no idea what she was doing, she missed. The movement only spurred the hand on more, digging its nails into her.
“Stupid piece of metal!”
She tried a different tactic. This time, she took the sword in two hands and used it like a lance - poking the hand straight on. The piercing blow landed, and the hand released its grasp, shuttering backwards in pain. Blood spilt out of it, and it keeled over.
Gritting her teeth as she stood, Momo steadied herself. She could already see the bruise forming near her ankle. At least it hadn’t drawn blood.
Limping out of the armory, she found Dusk perched on a tall beam, the limbs clamoring like drunk ants below her. She gave a motion for Dusk to come back, and the cat stealthily hopped from beam to beam, escaping the limbs limited senses.
As Dusk rejoined her by her side, several pieces of parchment fell to the floor in front of Momo. She grabbed them and hid behind the steel door. She wanted to make sure she was out of view before she looked at the correspondence.
Congratulations! For teaming up with your companion to outsmart a horde of undead, you have gained a level in [Beast Tamer].
Your companion has gained a level in [Companion].
Your undead companion, Dusk, has reached level five in [Companion]. You can now select a Speciality for her. This special class will replace Companion and all related skills. The available specialities are:
* This hidden Speciality is available because of your class [Necromage Initiate].
A ghostly quill, pre-inked, appeared in her hand. She supposed she had to mark whichever class she chose. Momo groaned internally. Why did she have to make her first actual class decision now, of all times?
Immediately ready to outsource this task, she looked at Dusk.
“What do you think?”
Dusk looked at her as if to say I can’t read.
Momo grimaced. That was fair enough.
Given Momo’s lack of offensive skills, it would be beneficial if Dusk could aid her with [Fighter] or [Spellcaster]. [Spellcaster] in specific sounded interesting, as Dusk could attack from a ranged distance, which comforted Momo. She would rather die than see the cat get hurt.
Then there was [Phantom], apparently a class that paired uniquely to [Necromage Initiate].
“What does Phantom do?” she whispered at the parchment. The parchment flipped around to the backside, revealing new text.
[Phantom]: The Necromancer’s perfect assistant. A companion creature with the [Phantom] class can make use of the schools of Black and Nether magic. This class synergizes well with a master who specializes in INT and CHA. Upon activation of the [Phantom] class, the companion creature receives the skill [Invisibility].
[Invisibility]: You can turn invisible on demand.
A cat that could go invisible? Momo was sold. She was sure that she’d find a use for that.
She drew a line with her quill around [Phantom]. The parchment reacted, rolling up before disappearing into the air.
Momo just had to try it, “Dusk, go invisible.”
Where there was a cat, there was a cat no more. Dusk meowed, the sound seeming to come from nowhere.
“That’s so cool,” Momo whispered with a giddy grin. Unfortunately, the meow had once again attracted attention, and she could hear the limbs stir from behind the door. Shit.
“Dusk, shoulder,” Momo commanded, feeling as the cat pawed its way up her back. Putting those dexterity points to use, Momo creeped away slowly from the door, quickly rounding the perimeter of the room to reach the west staircase.
Successfully evading the attention of the limb crusade, she tiptoed up the west staircase. The stairs led into a long hallway, where light streamed in from the windows. Looking through them at the open field below, Momo could see that the giant glob of flesh had progressed slowly but steadily towards the path to Bruda. It was only a matter of time before the guard caught on, Momo hoped.
At the end of the hallway, Momo could hear the sound of a figure rapping fervently at a closed door. As she stepped towards it, the figure’s shadow moved into the light. What she thought was human was in fact just another loose assortment of limbs.
This fiend was constructed of sewn-together arms, forming a morbid pinwheel. It was thankfully much smaller than the hunk of flesh outside, but it seemed quicker. In absence of feet, the fiend walked on its bloodied knuckles. It crawled briskly along the floor, surging towards Momo.
Momo held the sword above her shoulder, bracing to swing. The monster reached for her ankles to bring her down - but this time Momo was prepared. She swung the sword through the middle of them, slashing the pinwheel in two. The top half went flying while the bottom half remained glued to her legs.
Momo felt a pain radiate through her calf, the remaining hand going for the same weak spot. As Momo cried out in pain, the air shimmered. Invisible paws shot through the air, Dusk materializing behind the monstrosity. The undead cat clawed at their wrists desperately.
Shocked by the surprise attack, the hands let go, giving Momo the opportunity to swing again. She played whack a mole with them, slamming the sword down until they collapsed.
“Gods,” Momo sighed, “I never want to see a limb that’s not attached to a person ever again.”
With the hands unmoving in a pile to her right, Momo sped past them towards the door.
“You can open up!” Momo said hoarsely, her whole body sagging. She had used up what little physical conditioning she had gained. Even Dusk seemed exhausted - the cat's weight doubly heavy on Momo’s shoulders.
“No! I know you’re just a beast trying to trick me!”
Momo grimaced, “If you don’t let me in, I’m leaving you here.”
“Ah - no, no! I’m coming!”
The door swung open to reveal a fuller picture of the man that Momo had seen hanging out of the manor window. He was tall and regal, the jewels lining his person sparkling in the light. In great contrast to his clothes, his face was the definition of unsettled. He was terrified, his cheeks wet with tears.
“Oh, my great savior,” he immediately tackled her in an embrace.
“Please let go of me,” Momo mumbled.
“Not in a million years,” he said, his voice trembling, “I will never again leave your side, my knight.”
Momo sighed, but her eyes lit up as she looked past him into the room he had barricaded himself in. It was a large study, cluttered with hundreds of books and scripts. It seemed to also function as a bedroom, with two bunk beds hammered into the wall.
What caught Momo’s attention wasn’t the books - but the top bunk’s occupant. It was a woman, sitting cross-legged with an open book in her lap and a notebook balanced on her forearm. She had her eyes fixed out of the window, presumably staring at the field.
“Oh pipe down, Leo,” she called out from her perch, “I’m trying to monitor the experiment.”