Spymaster Edward Allen walked briskly along the cobblestone road while being mindful of his footing. He had wore a thick, brown cloak that hid his entire body from view. He still had his official officer’s uniform underneath, which consisted of a set of thick, dark gray leather armor and a pale blue tabard, but such clothing would not shield him from the cold.
The similarly clothed figure to his right a the black-haired beauty with the callsign ‘Zone.’ She kept a silent vigil on their frozen surroundings with a face so utterly cold and devoid of emotion, that onlookers would find it oddly fitting with the frigid weather. Not that there were any onlookers around to begin with. For even though they were walking through the middle of Bootlick - a lively dwarven town along the imperial highway - their surroundings were completely devoid of life.
The road the two officers were walking on, and indeed most of that neighborhood, had been encased in a thick layer of unbreakable ice quite literally overnight. Nearly 500 of the town’s residents had been caught up in the inexplicable and clearly unnatural event, and several adventurer guilds outside the circular disaster area had also been turned into glaciers. The fact those offices seemed to be targeted was a clear sign that this tragedy was no accident or random quirk of nature, but a targeted, deliberate act of terrorism. One that was carried out without leaving a single witness.
Which is why Edward and his team had been dispatched to investigate. The Spymaster himself didn’t particularly see the need to come out here himself, but a direct order from his Emperor isn’t something he could just ignore. And now that he was actually here, he felt an odd sense of foreboding. It was the same sensation he experienced when he first laid eyes on the Rift that had formed over the smouldering crater that was once Monotal.
For this place was still frozen solid, despite that event taking place 6 days ago. The clearly unnatural ice that permeated this place seemed to melt somewhat in during the day, but grew thick and heavy once the sun went down. The Arcaneum dispatch that came along with the Spymaster had been steadily working on thawing the place out with magic, but it would probably take them weeks before they finished. Even then, the damage had already been done. This disaster would be forever embedded in the memory of the town’s residents.
Again, much like Monotal.
Edward and Zone kept striding along the frozen ground until they made it to their destination - the local branch of the Order of the Black Wand. The Arcaneum boys had already liberated this building from the incredibly persistent ice and were using it as a temporary HQ. The armed guards at the front door gave a silent salute as the two officers entered the water-damaged remnants of the guild’s waiting area. Several people in various robes could be seen milling about, as well as a few civilians that had been brought in for questioning.
“Hey, old man! How’s it hanging!?”
A cheerful voice completely ill-befitting this solemn atmosphere called out to Edward. The Spymaster’s scarred face made a scowl as he turned to face the lightly tanned man who so brazenly called out to him. His short, blonde hair glistened with moisture, although whether it was sweat or water was difficult to tell. His deep, purple eyes were barely visible inside his squinting eyelids, while the youthful, clean-shaven face showed a thoroughly carefree smile. His outfit consisted of a set of light, blue robes that had a pale blue officer’s tabard draped over it.
“How many times do I have to tell you not to address me so casually?” asked Edward.
“Hahaha, sorry old ma- I mean, sir. Force of habit!”
“Drop the antics, Question. Show me what you found.”
“Ah, right. Walk this way.”
Edward and Zone followed the man called Question into the back of the building and onto the second floor. They went into a conference room with a massive table and a number of chairs, although it appears to have been turned into an office of some sort. Dozens of stacks of papers were strewn about the massive table in the middle and long the floor, while a huge map of the surrounding area was pinned to one of the walls.
Question spent half a minute moving some papers around to make room for his compatriots to take a seat and then stood next to the map. He picked up a wooden pointer from the floor and slammed it against the map with a bit of a flourish.
“Right, so,” he began his presentation. “The good news is I believe we’ve identified the root cause of what we’re tentatively calling ‘F-day.’ The bad news is that it’s your fault, old man.”
Edward let out an exasperated sigh.
“For the last time, Question, not every single bad thing that happens is my fault.”
He would have already slapped the upstart into next week if he didn’t know about his problematic personality. Seriously, how come every single youngster under his care was a problem child?
“No, of course not,” chuckled Question before tapping on the map once more. “This one is though. Look, I even made you a diagram!”
He reached into his robe and pulled out a rolled up parchment. He unrolled it to reveal a number of graphs and pie charts he had neatly drawn up, along with the words ‘most likely Edward’s fault’ in large, blocky letters that were circled and underlined in the corner.
“The facts don’t lie, you know,” he said with a carefree smile.
Edward sighed once again. Regardless of his bad personality, if there’s one thing Question was good at, it was finding answers. The man’s skill at gathering, organizing and analyzing information was top-notch. His ability to spot patterns was also quite extraordinary. His main problem was that although these qualities made him quite good at piecing a puzzle together, they also made him an insufferable know-it-all. Not to mention that he always found a way to blame Edward for every single bad thing that has ever happened. It would actually be rather impressive, if it wasn’t so thoroughly annoying.
Still, if Question had some insight on this particular mystery, then it was Edward’s duty as his superior to hear him out. This sort of thing was why the Spymaster tolerated the young analyst’s borderline insubordination in the first place.
“Alright, let’s hear it,” he said dejectedly. “Show me what you got.”
“Do you want the short version or the long version?” asked the blonde man.
“Is the short version supposed to be ‘this whole Bootlick incident is Edward’s fault?’”
“Then give me the long version.”
“Gladly!” said Question with a wide smile, then began his explanation.
“So let’s begin by establishing the ways in which Edward failed to prevent this catastrophe. First of all, you let your Mimic prisoner escape.”
Zone, who was fittingly zoning out until then, suddenly started paying attention to their conversation. It was readily evident that she had a personal interest in the topic of ‘the one that got away.’ Her mentor, on the other hand was much less enthusiastic, judging by the way he furrowed his brow and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“... So that thing’s involved after all, huh?”
This incident already had way too much in common with the Monotal case, so part of him expected this. The Mimic called Boxxy T. Morningwood had proven to be far more annoying than the Spymaster initially anticipated. First came the inane answers that somehow managed to confuse his Eyes of Truth. Then it somehow managed to escape its bindings mid-flight which, while impressive in its own way, had drastically set back the Spymaster’s attempts at replicating the Calamity.
Based on the information Edward got out of it, it sent Zone along with a few other subordinates and some scholars on an expedition to Redrock Ravine - a weak, out-of-the-way dungeon on the Empire’s eastern fringe. Their task was to extract the dungeon core and find out how to make it go into meltdown. And while conquering the Ravine and locating the core were both easily accomplished with Zone’s absurd strength, the research team’s efforts immediately ground to a halt.
They were completely unable to dislodge the dungeon core from its magically affixed spot. They had arrived at the site with various theories and guesses, but hadn’t made any progress after weeks of poking and prodding at the crystal sphere. There they were, a gathering of the Empire’s foremost ‘experts’ on dungeons, and they were losing to a 2 month old monster that didn’t even know how to tie its hypothetical shoe. Not a single one of them had any idea how they could make that blasted core move a single millimeter from its original position.
Well, that wasn’t entirely true. Zone did have the idea of ‘hitting it really hard.’ A suggestion that was immediately shot down by the scholars at the site. They were adamant that there’s no way brute force could overcome a dungeon’s peculiar brand of magic when their own Spells, potions and magic tools had failed. The eggheads claimed that the most her ‘idea’ would do was damage or rupture the dungeon core, maybe even cause it to explode right on the spot.
Zone merely shrugged her shoulders and kept following her orders of keeping them out of danger. Her orders were to keep them safe, not assist in the actual experiments, so she just quietly fulfilled her duty without sticking her neck out until she was relieved by someone else two weeks ago. And judging from her mentor’s perpetually bad mood, those self-proclaimed experts hadn’t made a single shred of progress ever since.
So in the end Edward was left without the weapon of mass destruction he wanted. At least until he could recapture Boxxy and properly interrogate it. That, however, was easier said than done. The possible places where that monster could’ve escaped to were just too many to launch any sort of coordinated search party. Of course, its name had been added to the country’s list of wanted criminals, but that was only going to pan out if it was stupid enough to try to do Mercenary Guild work again.
As for the gnome that was with it, Edward had pretty much declared her dead. As far as he knew, the monster had merely been using her until she ended up betraying it. So seeing the way her cage had been literally chewed open without a single drop of blood made it abundantly clear she had been swallowed whole.
“Alright Question. Let’s hear it,” said Edward with a tired voice.
“You know damn well what I’m talking about. Just get it out of your system so we can move on with this.”
“Oh, do you mean the fact that I told you so? Because I did tell you that monster was definitely going to come up north! But nooo! My ‘baseless conjecture’ wasn’t enough for you! You didn’t want to waste ‘precious manpower’ to search the Sawblade Mountains and ignored the words of your analyst! Because we were certain to figure out the Calamity method all on our own! Well guess what?! We got done in by a fuckin box! Not once! Not twice! But three fucking times! All because you refuse to listen to me, you senile old geezer!”
Question took a few deep breaths to calm himself down somewhat. He had gotten a bit over-excited from that rant just now.
“Are you done?” asked Edward.
“Yeah. Yeah, I’m done.”
“So once this monster escaped from the gryphon,” continued Question after regaining consciousness, “it most likely landed somewhere in the Sawblade mountains, then moved steadily northward while avoiding civilization for the most part.”
Zone made a mental note of the blonde analyst’s toughness and dedication. It took a special kind of mental fortitude to speak and act in such a calm manner after having just been kicked through a wall. Especially since Edward’s bootprint on his face didn’t seem like it would go away anytime soon.
“Given Zone’s Appraisal of the creature and the average Level of monsters in those mountains, then it’s highly likely it has already Ranked Up.”
Edward cursed under his breath, because he agreed with Question’s words. Not only was that thing a shapeshifting monster, which was difficult enough to track down on its own, but it was also bound to have become a completely different and unknown species. The chances his agents were going to find this beast had gone drastically down.
“We then received a report that the mountain village of Carran due south from here was completely deserted, with not a single soul in sight. After sending some scouts to investigate, we’ve been able to determine that the village wasn’t deserted, but eaten.”
“Come again? A whole village was eaten?!”
“Indeed. There were no signs of combat and no bodies to be found, just empty house after empty house where the only thing of notice was bloodied bedding. Except for what appeared to be a bunch of guards or militia that were protecting the wall. Those had been turned into piles of black ash.”
“I see… That’s definitely our monster’s M.O.”
Boxxy had left behind a similar trail at the site of a certain caravan that had been ambushed on its way from Erosa to Monotal. The remnants left behind by Cadaver Absorption were a dead giveaway. However, Edward and his colleagues knew not what exactly caused this odd cremation, only that the Mimic in question was the only creature confirmed to leave behind such odd leftovers.
“How many casualties?”
“285. Well, assumed anyway. Couldn’t confirm the exact count, but given the circumstances…”
“... So it must have spent several days feasting on them, huh?”
The Spymaster’s human perspective had severely underestimated Boxxy’s appetite at the time. He wasn’t the only one, as his analyst seemed to mirror that statement.
“Then it continued going north,” he added, “meaning it arrived here, didn’t it?”
“Yup,” nodded Question.
“And that’s when it somehow caused ‘F-day,’ huh?”
“... What do you mean ‘nope?’ This sort of disaster is clearly right up its alley!”
“That may be so, but I believe the perpetrator in this case is someone else. Although this Mimic is likely an accomplice. Ah, just a sec!”
The young analyst stepped away from the map for a second to rummage through his notes for a moment. He brought out a large rolled up parchment, which he unfurled and stuck roughly to the wall with a couple of small knives. Generally speaking, pinning things up in a borrowed space was quite rude and slightly unnecessary. However, these people had already put a Question-shaped hole in the wooden wall, so nobody was going to notice a few knife marks in it. Besides, the intelligence organization that called itself The Gilded Hand was hardly one to hesitate when it came to property damage.
“Now then,” said Question while standing next to the newly put up map of the Empire’s northern territory. He pointed towards the country’s imperial capital visible towards the south end of the map. “I spoke briefly with Master Shinji in the capital, before we were dispatched to this place.”
“Your old teacher, huh?”
That name rang a bell in Edward’s mind. The two of them had only met in passing, but the Spymaster still knew about him. Arakawa Shinji was a Level 100 Warlock who lived in this northern province, not too far from the town of Bootlick. He was an odd man with a dubious background, but one whose services and loyalty to the Empire could not be denied. Although not quite a meritocracy, the Lordak Empire had a long-standing tradition of lifting those who proved capable to power. Shinji was one of them, as his position of viscount was earned through his blood, sweat and tears, and not simply handed to him because of a noble birth.
“Indeed,” said Question. “That old geezer told me he saw a most intriguing ginger-haired elf on his way to the capital. He very rarely notices people around him, so this struck me as unusual. Although he admitted the elf himself looked plain and unassuming, his entourage was anything but. He had been accompanied by a small steel golem and two demons that appeared to be his familiars. Namely a succubus that was extremely voluptuous even by her species’ standards, and a female four-armed fiend with huge knockers of her own.”
“Huh,” remarked Edward. “Sounds like their owner is quite the-”
He froze mid sentence as a crazy idea leapt into his mind. He pulled out his booklet and quickly leafed through it until he reached his notes on a certain interview from over a month ago. He quickly skimmed over the page that had the words ‘perverted box’ circled and underlined at the top.
“This elf was our Mimic?!”
“Good try, old timer, but no cigar! He is, however, our main suspect!”
Question pointed back to the smaller scale map of Bootlick, more specifically its southern gate.
“An elf whose description matched the one Master Shinji saw was recorded entering the town on the next day. This was the morning of F-day.”
The blonde haired man’s carefree expression became uncharacteristically serious.
“The Basic Appraisal had him tagged as a 17 year old male elf who was a Level 25 Warlock. His name was Chester Underwood.”
Edward nearly leapt from his seat.
“An Underwood? Here?!”
The elves of the Underwood clan were notorious within the world of international espionage. Theirs was a long line of spies and sleeper agents with strong ties to the Ishigar Republic’s Foreign Intelligence Bureau. They had a strong reputation for being meticulous, efficient and highly adaptive, one that Edward had been able to confirm with his own body during his years of service. Just thinking about those people made the deep scars on his left cheek and forehead ache.
“And you’re certain of this?” he asked with a slightly dubious expression. It was said that one would never know an Underwood was in their midst until well after they were gone, if they even noticed at all.
“Those twigs would never leave an obvious trail like this,” he added.
“Normally I would agree. However, I believe that this was a deliberate act rather than an oversight.”
“... So they wanted us to know they’ve been through here?”
Question replied with a nod.
“To what purpose though?”
“I’m getting to that.”
Question once again went through the stacks of papers and pulled one that had the Order of the Black Wand’s official stamp on it.
“These here are the ‘confidential’ results of the Full Appraisal of one Chester Underwood. He visited this guild in order to have his Warlock Job advanced and have a magic item Appraised. His Warlock Skill set is… Well, it’s exactly the same as the ones the Mimic had, based on Zone’s report from back then.”
Edward took the documented Appraisal results and mulled them over.
“Hmm, so he had the Demonology Skill… No Mentor Skill, so he wasn’t the one who gave that monster its Warlock Job. Perhaps they had the same teacher? Wait, who was the trainer that this elf met with it?”
“One Joshua Grimebeard. Someone who was reported missing ever since F-day.”
“Missing, huh? So he’s not one of the frozen dwarfcicles littered about the place?”
The people of Bootlick who died that day had been encased in the same magical ice that dominated this part of town. If the freezing temperature didn’t kill them outright, then they suffocated shortly after. If there was one good thing about this disaster, it was that the surrounding scenery had been perfectly preserved.
“Nope. Although several of the corpses matched his description, none of them wore anything linking them to this guild. His place of residence also appeared to have been picked clean.”
It was quite obvious that this dwarf had split town immediately after meeting with this Underwood. He might have been the one who shared the knowledge of the Warlock Job with the monster in the first place. The link was there, after all.
Wait, was it?”
“How are the Mimic and this elf related?”
“Ah! Well, it’s a bit circumstantial, but the ledger at the south gate said he wore a robe that bore the insignia of the Brotherhood of the Third Eye, a small-time caster-oriented guild. One that had an office in Carran.”
Question twacked the marked village’s position on the map with a bit of a flourish.
“Based on that, and the sighting my Master Shinji, I have concluded that this elf was most likely hiding out in that village.”
“And you’re sure they’re working together?”
“I honestly don’t see how else that elf survived otherwise. A Level 25 Warlock would be no match for a monster that was over Level 50.”
“Hmm, I see. It’s definitely possible.”
This assumption was, as Question had stated, based on rather circumstantial evidence. Still, there were simply way too things that pointed to this outcome. Not to mention that this Boxxy T. Morningwood had proven capable of cooperating with enlightened rather than killing them outright. The question then became, what sort of deal could be made that was worth it for both sides? Well, the answer to that question was painfully obvious.
“Heh. Those F.I.B. bastards got us good, didn’t they?” said Edward with a small, dry chuckle.
That elf must have promised it asylum across the border in exchange for information on the Calamity. That way he gets to keep his life and would bring a nice present for his superiors, while the monster would receive their protection in return.
“Oh? Could it be that this old geezer has not gone completely senile?!”
“What about this F-day though? Have you found the cause?”
“Indeed we have! According to our investigation of the area, the epicenter is an establishment called the Broken Flagon.”
He pointed towards a particular spot on the town map on the wall, marked with a small red X and directly in the middle of a large red circle, presumably the frozen disaster zone.
“That sounds familiar,” noted Edward.
“It should! It serves- well, served as a front for the Honeydew Cartel. You know, the one we occasionally hired to- *Ahem* I mean, this Cartel that we have absolutely no connection to sometimes came up in our reports since they smuggled weapons and drugs in and out of the elven Republic.”
“Right, those small-timers. What about them?”
“Well, their entire outfit had been dismantled, likely prior to the town being frozen solid. Their underground hideout was mostly untouched by the ice, so we were able to confirm signs of a battle, not to mention the complete lack of corpses aside from a dozen or so piles of ash.”
“Meaning our monster single-handedly wiped them out.”
“Exactly. Also, judging from the scene, it would appear that the fighting broke out around the innermost chamber, near what is probably the boss’s room.”
“So the Mimic didn’t fight its way in, but started at the head. It’s not a bad approach to dealing with punks like this, but why would it even bother?”
“Well, a large portion of their warehouses appeared to have been rummaged through and a looted. We have no idea of what exactly was taken, but were able to confirm that a large number of weapons, armor and provisions were taken.”
“Any signs of our elven Warlock at the scene?”
“Indeed, on the rooftop of the Broken Flagon. Not to mention traces of what Arcaneum boys confirmed to be a Warlock’s shadow-attuned magic.”
“So the elf and the box walked into the bar, tried to strike a deal that went bad and took the things they wanted with them.”
It was a bit of a cliche scenario, but that’s what made it more likely.
“I’m lacking information to make a concrete call on that front,” pointed out Question, “but it seems likely. Especially since our investigation of that Warlock trainer’s residence and office showed he had dealing with them.”
“That Grimbeard fellow?”
“Grimebeard. But yes, him. He was probably the elf’s ‘in’ on that Cartel.”
“I don’t like this,” said Edward with a scowl. “Too many if-s, likely-s and probably-s. It’s not like you, Question.”
“Hey, I’m not omniscient,” shrugged the analyst.
At least I have the decency to admit it, unlike you! he added in his mind.
“You’re thinking something rude, aren’t you?”
“No such thing, sir.”
“... What was that about the roof?”
“Oh, right! We found this formation drawn on that rooftop. It was visible under the ice so the scouts were able to copy it easily.”
He reached into his robes and took out a small piece of paper, which he showed to Edward. Nearly drawn on it was a diagram that consisted of a circle inside a triangle inside a second, bigger circle. Three strange symbols were scribbled in the gaps between the concentric shapes.
“Arcaneum confirmed this was a formation related to a demonic ritual linked with the Demonology Skill,” explained Question, “and judging from the entombed skeletal remains they were able to complete it successfully. The ritual in question was identified as the Offering to Lulu- Luso-”
He took a brief pause to double check what was written next to the diagram.
“Liusolra?” offered Zone.
“Ah, yeah. What she said.”
“Hmm, so there exist fools in this day and age who would perform one of those?”
Edward knew about these Offerings since he made a point to educate himself on such matters during his investigation of the Monotal incident. He swiftly came to the conclusion that those rituals were nothing but a grand form of suicide. Summoning some big-shot demonic Overlord sounded intriguing at first, but being unable to control those beings meant that their summoner would definitely get caught up in their rampage. Although, in the Spymaster’s honest opinion, anyone willing to sacrifice his fellow man to curry a demon’s favor deserved everything that happened to them afterwards.
“You’re certain this ritual was the cause of this F-day?”
“That’s right,” said Question. “Although Arcaneum couldn’t tell me much about the demon in question, they identified this peculiar ice as the effects of an Ancient Spell called Ice Age. Definitely the work of an Overlord.”
‘Ancient Spells’ referred to a phantasmal school of magic that could not be learned through Jobs or Skills. Knowledge of it had to be obtained the hard way - by seeking it out, studying it and practicing it diligently. However, that was easier said than done. The actual incantations and magical formulas needed to cast a lot of these Ancient Spells had been lost to the unceasing march of time. Even the organization called Arcaneum only knew of them thanks to records and eyewitness accounts of powerful magic users of ages past unleashing them on their enemies during times of war.
“Well, that answers the ‘how’ of things,” noted Edward, “but not the ‘why.’ I really can’t see a reason why this elven spy would sacrifice his life for something like this?”
“Ah, the summoner most definitely survived,” said Question, completely derailing Edward’s train of thought.
“... He did?”
“There’s no sign of a body anywhere on or near that rooftop,” explained the analyst, “Or at least, not a mortal one. The scouts did report two hollowed out ice statues that were on that rooftop, though. They were both had horns and were mostly humanoid in appearance, except that one was well over 2 meters high and the other had wings and rather… outrageous curves. They were undoubtedly left behind by the two demons Master Shinji told me about.”
“So the Warlock’s familiars got caught up in the Overlord’s rampage, but the actual Warlock is nowhere to be seen. Meaning he and that stupid box are probably already across the border, aren’t they?”
“Yep,” nodded the blonde man.
“And we have no way of tracking them.”
Edward cupped his chin in thought. The painfully obvious and deliberate trail, the extremely conspicuous attack and the way those elves normally did things all pointed to a single conclusion.
“So this whole incident… was to send a message, wasn’t it?”
And the contents of that message were quite clear. If the Empire officially declared war on the Republic, then the F.I.B. would retaliate with terrible consequences.
“Those fucking twigs!” growled Edward. “They really got us good! Zone!”
The woman who had been quietly listening in the corner responded with a quiet, monotone voice.
“Send word to our agents across the border! Tell them to keep a close eye on the Republic’s dungeons and make sure nobody brings out anything suspicious out of them. That goes double for the dungeons on our own territory. I want to be notified the instant someone even so much as sees a dungeon core!”
“Question, give me projections for suitable targets those twigs might hit! I also want a threat assessment on whether they can launch an attack on the capital!”
“So we’re still going ahead with this war thing?” asked Question.
“Of course we are! You think those F.I.B. bastards are just going to let bygones be bygones? We have to hit them before they get a chance to use that Calamity against us! Actually, where’s Sparky?”
“I think he’s out back helping Arcaneum-”
“-with... the… thawing…”
The Spymaster had left the room and slammed the door behind him before Question could finish his sentence.
“Crazy old bastard has no chill,” he mumbled under his breath.
“Hmm? What is it, Zone? Finally fallen for my natural good looks, superior intellect and charming attitude? It’s okay if you want to leap into my arms and embrace me at any time.”
The sheer amount of bloodlust flooding out of those two simple words made Question break out in a cold sweat. The Spymaster was hardly the only one who had a deficiency in the ‘chill’ department.
“... N-no, I’m good… So, uh, what do you need?”
“Have you considered the likelihood that this elf and our Mimic are one and the same?”
“Of course I have.”
“And what? It’s impossible.”
“Completely, absolutely, 100% impossible? There’s no conceivable way they’re the same person?”
“... This is unlike you, Zone.”
“Just answer the question, Question.”
‘It’s all you’re good for anyway’ were the words she bit back.
“Haaah,” he sighed. “Well no. It’s theoretically possible if this monster obtained the Essence Concealment Skill. Nothing else could possibly confuse an Appraisal to this extent. Even if the guy in the guild was in cahoots with them, the gate guard would have noticed. However, I don’t know of any God that’s crazy enough to make that chaotic creature into its Hero.”
“And if one did?” asked Zone.
“Even if that miracle were to somehow happen, Essence Concealment can only make one appear weaker, not stronger. Meaning that if it was indeed this elf in disguise, then it would have had to find a way to reclaim its Warlock Job and raise it back up to Level 25. And train its related Skills to this high a degree. And Rank Up into a species capable of disguising itself so completely.”
The blonde man gave an exaggerated shrug.
“I just don’t see a way anything could accomplish all that in under a month. Especially considering the average monster Level in that mountain. I mean, the reports even said our elf had a personal steel golem of the highest quality! Where the hell would a moronic box even find the opportunity and resources to obtain such a thing?!”
Question finished his explanation with another sigh.
“Honestly, the odds that Chester Underwood and Boxxy T. Morningwood are one and the same are so astronomically low that they might as well be negative.”
“I see,” replied Zone after a brief pause. “Thanks, Question.”
She gave the analyst a small nod and calmly walked out of the room. She proceeded along the hallway and went down the steps towards the first floor. But there was something different about her. The corners of her mouth were ever so slightly turned upwards. In other words, her normally emotionless, doll-like face was showing a small smile.
She unintentionally tightened her grip around a piece of parchment under her cloak. This was something she found yesterday, something she assumed to be just a soggy piece of litter, but turned out to be some sort of letter or message. And although the ink had smudged a bit due to water damage, the parchment’s contents were still largely legible. Zone’s first thought was to give this to her colleagues for analysis, and she would have done so under normal circumstances.
But that responsible decision was rapidly overturned when she saw that the first two words of that message were ‘Dear Boxxy.’