These creatures couldn't be defeated. Not without knowing their abilities. Judging by the Mana I could sense from them even six miles away from them, they were strong enough to make Jabberwock look like an earthworm. The fifteen Armahgellykulls, as I had named the new monsters, were either as slow as Jabberwocks or just weren't in any hurry to come and Godzilla-bitch-slap us. But I could swear they were staring at the city with those green glowing blobs of theirs. It was like they cast a fearful gaze upon all they looked at. I was almost going into panic mode. Perhaps I was already there.
But Blackjack Six was going around like an ADHD kid on Halloween with DUI levels of sugar. First, I sensed the growth of the World Tree seed. Two and a half years. The fucking thing was only now bulging with a very lazy shoot still curled inside of it. Some progress, I guess.
Here goes nothing.
I opened a hole in the walls and drove the Land train out. I left two wagons with everyone who was living on the train so far but the remaining 115 wagons went out of the city and circled it. Or at least parked along the wall at a safe distance. Not bothering to close the hole in the walls, I flew above the seed site and used my Perk.
The damn seed could grow inside a pocket dimension for all I cared. Or whither. I had more than just the world's salvation running on not being here when those Jellyfish decided it was time to bring the Fourth Impact™ upon the earth. I hadn't trusted Shinji and Asuka to repopulate the world after the third, and they weren't around anymore. Spoiler alert, see what Asuka's line, "気持ち 悪い Kimochi warui" meant. I doubt she gave in to the emo kid advances like Eve to his Adam.
The whole city, the full circle twenty-eight miles in diameter went pop and vanished. A portal appeared beside me, a shimmering oval plane of swirling light rays very similar to those in the He-Man cartoon. Which one? The only one that mattered. Fuck the reboots. All of them.
Straight away, I faced the first problem. The DCSC in the dirigibles and the land train lost connection. I was officially outside their range and the ones inside the Demiplane didn't connect to the ones on the outside, though the former still counted as inside my own Domain.
I latched on to the Demiplane portal and dragged it with me as I turned on the jets on Blackjack Six's back and flew to the land train.
There, I started the engines and plotted a course in the direction we managed to kill five Jabberwocks before they could summon the bigger fish. Armahgellykull. What a mouthful but it was an adequate name for a mouthful of a monster. Now with a DCSC in range, I commanded the six dirigibles to follow us. They were to line up and come in this vector while also creating more vacuum inside the balloons and making them rise. When the enemy had two miles of tentacle, anywhere closer than twice as that should be considered in range.
At the same time, I initiated the construction of a balloon on top of each land train wagon. I didn't want to make them float away but if I cut the weight by half, we could go twice as fast. Designing them to just run away from the slow-ass Jabberwock came to bite me in the butt. At least with me at the first wagon helm, my piloting speed bonus applied.
We were on the run for a week. The people inside the Demiplane were pissed but honestly, they were much safer inside and they could dismiss the demiplane as acts of god, which were not insured. Marshall explained what happened and we showed footage of the Armahgellykulls. Anyone who wanted out could go and play with the mind-boggling humongous monsters.
The Demiplane portal was firmly by my side, being moved at all times for 1 DM per second. It was still cheaper than maintaining my transformation even at rank 1. Which I canceled to save on DM. I wasn't gaining any levels on it if I didn't kill Infernali. None to be seen nearby. And no, I wouldn't look behind me.
I used all the surplus to build a ring of DCSC boxes all around the inside of the third 8-mile wall. That would solve one of the issues, the upkeep of the demiplane. I had another problem. My demiplane couldn't grow. It was a disc covering the walls, with 750 feet of height from the ground level with 500 feet of earth underneath. The damn World Seed planter box. That used up 96% of the 157 cubic miles of volume I could claim in my Dungeon Domain. The remainder was almost entirely split between the dirigibles and the land train.
I hadn't received a Quest failed message yet. The World Tree seed was still alive and... growing. If I got the hint correctly, I should go around and grab as many people as I could. Four million hostages, I mean victims. Sacrifices. Prisoners? No, darn it. Refugees. Yes, refugees. Get people on board, get people to safety, and get those sweet, sweet levels.
Things might get a bit too crowded, like big city levels of crowded. Apartment buildings and living amenities were a must. A gladiator arena, a sports arena (though sports where people with wildly varying physical abilities were impossible), an academy, a university, a learning place, and training grounds for people.
The results the ten prospective power armor pilots were showing on their physical tests were amazing. I wanted to use the two outer rings of walls for myself and then we would need farmland. Lots of farmland. That meant we would need to pack perhaps fifteen people per square mile. Maybe more.
One solution was to cut the above-ground area into floors. The crop fields didn't need lots of room above them, they needed light and water, which I could provide even with only one foot of clearance above the expected crop growth height. I was glad I had pushed for hydroponics early on. With unlimited water and nutrients, it was the best solution to save space.
I sliced the 750 feet of height clearance into four levels 180 feet tall. 7.5 feet were used for flooring and dirt layers. Using five Dungeon Automation rules, I made the roof look like an animated sky with clouds, stars, a moon, a sun, and a day-night cycle. Another two rules made sure there was a breeze of fresh cool air going on at all times, changing directions in the morning and in the late afternoon. Trams went up and down the levels, with enough grass and trees around the tram lines that it would make people feel like they were going up a hill instead of up a floor. Running water, streams, and rivers going down the floors, using the water speed to run around between the sections of the future city. Bridges over these streams, paved roads. Lots of small animals. Squirrels, birds, chipmunks, some raccoons, dogs, and, yes, mice.
At the end of the second week on the road (no road though), I found one of the Boboyotes. It had laid waste to a village and was chewing on some... meat it found lying around. I'm not gonna lie to you, I won't tell you what kind of meat it found in the now-deserted village. Don't use your imagination either. I felt my blood boiling and detached the main railgun from my Bricks Windows.
I put Railgun shells into the monster's crystal body until it became crystal dust. Then I cast a beacon and devoured its Core before it could explode, turning it into more DCSC inside the demiplane. Every 10 DCSCs meant another day the Demiplane could survive without me nearby to pay the upkeep. Though the portal never left my vicinity. I wanted that peace of mind. Hopping inside and going to personally charge the servers only delayed the convoy because the portal wouldn't move without me there to pull it.
At least I gained 50 Points to dump in Willpower. And some deferred Exp that was really irritating me. The new points pushed my Willpower above 20k.
I also found no tracks going out of the village. With a heavy sigh, I erased the whole village, crystal, cottages, and... meat alike. I was sad. Larry was sad. Yet we kept moving, kept putting some distance between us and the world-ending monsters behind us.
I had a notification telling me I needed to review my gains. I opened the window.
> Your knowledge and training improved your Demiplane Control Skill to rank V
— The Portal may be enlarged up to rank times for multiplicative 25% growth each time. Doing so costs 1 DM per minute per 25% expansion.
— The Demiplane is considered (5*Rank)% smaller when counting how much Domain volume it consumes.
You gained 8 Magical Dungeon Gunslinger Perks.
- Doki-Doki Shot: When delivering a finishing blow to a wounded enemy, you can instead fire a Doki-Doki bullet for 1,000 MP. Apply 10x of the damage to the enemy's Willpower instead of health. If the enemy's Willpower drops to zero, its alignment is converted to good. The lost Willpower heals 10% per minute but the alignment change is permanent.
- RoboMascot Gun: Your mascot may change into an animal-themed robotic gun. This weapon scales with your level.
- Smoking Wand: For 100MP and a five-second ritual, you can conjure your smoking wand. This is a flute-shaped, heart-topped, M2 Browning that has unlimited magical ammo. Each ammo crate costs 75 MP to conjure. If you use RoboMascot Gun with this Perk, your mascot turns into an animal-theme heavy gun instead.
- Garter Belt guns: You can pull and fire unlimited small arms from your garter belt. Where do the guns come from? The same place as the garter belt.
- 21-cannon salvo: After a 10-second invocation and magical words, you conjure 21 magical cannons of your choice to fire a joint salvo at your target. This is a finisher move. You can only use it if you feel sure it will kill the enemy.
- Stem Ribbon: When you transform, a cute red ribbon with gold trim appears and ties itself into a bow on your stem. When you wear your Stem Ribbon, the upkeep cost of your transformation drops by half.
- Appleseed Cyberbullets: All bullets you fire are transmuted into Appleseed Cyberbullets. Upon impact, part of the bullet converts into nanites that consume the target to feed the other half, which sprouts and grows into a cyber apple sapling. Each point of damage caused by the bullet instantly grows the sapling by 7 days and then the nanites fuel its growth by another month every 5 seconds. The cyber sapling has the same Hardness as you do and may sprout guns to attack the target if it grows large enough.
- "Bloom! Apple Blossom Princess Mode!": Once per day, If you front-load 5 hours of transformation upkeep and perform a ritual, you go into Apple Blossom Princess mode for one hour. When this hour is over, your transformation turns off and you go into cooldown for 23 hours. In this mode, add ten times your level to all Attributes. You must kill at least as many (10x level) Infernali levels during this hour, or this ability remains locked for a week. your stem elongates by one foot and apple blossoms bloom across it. 21-cannon salvo now conjures one cannon per level. This is an ultimate move.
Can I have the power without the stupid theme? And how the fuck will an apple wear a garter belt? Is someone having a laugh at my expense? Are you, Gray Alien? Bloody hell. Let me run through these Perks. The first one, whose name I refuse to repeat, seems nice. But how much damage is dealt and am I fine with brainwashing bullets? Also, how does it synergize with the other one? The second one, let's not refer to any of them by name, is too situational. Will the gun be a good one? A game-changing one? And is this platypus secretly a robot?
"Larry, are you a robot?"
"Then how does this Perk work?"
"Magic!" It grinned. "A wizard did it!"
I tested it. Larry started to shift and transform, then he sucked in his limbs, folded his tail, and split in half, the tail became the gun grip and each side of his head became the barrel of a pair of weird platypus-themed pistols. I checked the middle and it was all metallic gunmetal panels. No blood was involved. I think I saw something similar to it on TV, which must be where the aliens drew their inspiration from.
"Are you fine there, buddy?"
"Perfectly fine!" The guns replied through the barrels.
I dismissed the transformation.
Then the third one. I tested it, then tossed it away. Why would I want a Ma Deuce? When I have 100 feet long railguns? I didn't try the option of turning Larry into a heavy gun. Seeing his head split in half was already enough nightmare fuel.
Now, the fourth Perk on the list. Hard. Pass. No. I was not testing that dumb shit. Go away. Fifth Perk. I could conjure 21 magical Main Gauss Cannon Railguns. The 150-foot long type I had mounted on the back of Bricks Windows. But they didn't fire because it was a finisher. Okay. A decent one. The sixth one was a keeper. I didn't care a thing about the ribbon. I cared about saving 192,000 MP per day.
Now, the seventh one. I equipped it and started shooting with the main Railgun in the wilderness. Apple saplings around nine to eleven years old started to appear everywhere the bullets landed. The age was a guesstimate. But without an enemy to feed on, they stopped there. Lasers didn't grow trees. It needed a bullet. I was sure this would be devastating to large Infernali. I tried to combine it with the Perks that gave me biodiversity for free and I could see how bombarding the wasteland could turn it into an orchard or even restore some of it. But it was a single variety of trees and I doubt these apple trees would thrive without me around.
Finally, the last Perk. The magnum opus is the one I received at level 160. The one marked as "very good". Pay five hours of upkeep. Not a problem. Conjure 180 cannons. Must kill lots of stuff. Doable Grow flowers on my stem. I don't think why I would be troubled by that. 1,800 points to all Attributes. Too good to be true. There's a time limit, the cooldown. What they didn't say in the description was that the transformation sequence took 5 minutes. And it involved... Well, anyone that knew what this Class was inspired by could imagine.
You gained 13 God Dungeon Perks
- Sacred Ground: Your Domain hurts Demons and Heretics. Unless they fail a Willpower contest, they take sqrt(Willpower+Clarity) damage every minute.
- Demiplane Sanctum: When inside your demiplane, you have an extra 100% combat bonus.
- The Chosen Ones: Worshipers inside your demiplanes give an extra 8 DM per day.
- Heavenly Choir: Worshipers inside your demiplane lower the Demiplane daily upkeep cost by 0.1 DM per day, to a minimum of 1,000 DM per day per demiplane.
- Matryoshka Realms: You can create a demiplane inside a demiplane. The inner demiplane must be at least 5% smaller than the one outside.
- Demiplane growth: Every year, each of your demiplanes grow 1% in size. This growth does not count against your Domain space.
- Smite Evil/Good: You can spend 100 DM and 1 second to infuse one attack with extra divine power. Creatures of opposite alignment suffer 50% more damage.
- Inner Realm (Trait): You can designate one Demiplane portal as your inner Realm. You can move creatures and objects to and fro between your Inner Realm and the outer world. An inner realm cannot be destroyed or go unpaid. Every day, resources equivalent to the demiplane regeneration are taken from you to pay for the upkeep. If you do not generate enough resources, the upkeep is taken from your health.
- Divine Invulnerability (Trait): When struck by an attack, you may choose to immediately spend 110% of the resources required to heal the wound. Doing so will give the enemy the impression you are invulnerable to that attack.
- Divine Domain Aura: Increase the range of your Personal Domain by 50%. This affects all calculations based on your Personal Domain.
- Infinity Fractal Demiplanes: Matryoshka Demiplanes count as 5% smaller against your Domain volume allocation. This is multiplicative for every degree of separation.
- Dimensional Portal Lock: Trespassers attempting to use your Demiplane portals need to defeat an extra difficulty equal to sqrt ( Clarity ).
- Eternal Realms: You may pay a Demiplane's upkeep from afar, up to a distance of sqrt(Wisdom) miles from the portal. Your Inner Realm's upkeep is halved.
See? This is how a Class' Perks should be. Straightforward updates, not mixed thematic blessings.
To say I was pissed was to put it lightly. "Larry, do you like to become robot guns?"
"I don't mind!" He said but his voice trembled.
"That settles it. I'm dropping this dumb shit. I'll keep the damn ribbon and the Skill. Boom."
> You dropped the Sub-Class, Magical Dungeon Gunslinger (Legendary, Warrior/Dungeon/Spellcaster). All Traits related to the Class are lost. You will suffer a 50% Experience penalty to train the replacement. You keep your Class Skill but lose one rank. You may choose one Perk to keep.
Yadda yadda. Bye. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.
> You can never again pick that Class.
Yeah. Thanks. And don't come back. I kept the ribbon Perk and the Skill "Astral Transformation" downgraded to rank VII. Hey, 21% to all Attributes for 192,000 MP per day. That was about two-thirds of my daily MP regeneration. I can live with that. Now, I vowed to never again pick Classes that screamed as me as dumb shit.
As far as I was concerned, I traded 240,000 future Experience points and a permanent loss of 192,000 points of my daily MP regeneration for a 21% boost in all Attributes and seven combat boosts in the Skill. I wouldn't turn the transformation off, ever. And now I was a full ripe apple with a ribbon on the stem. I was no longer the half-eaten apple core.
Bio: The author would like to reinforce for the umpteenth time that the characters' opinions are their own, may be intentionally wrong, do not reflect my (MDW's) personal viewpoints neither are included in this work to further any political agenda (I don't even live in the same hemisphere or country as you, whichever those are. I'm writing from the Earth-Sun L3 point for all I care). My works serve no purpose other than to tell stories with conflicting viewpoints. Use of the reader's critical sense is highly advised.