“Oh come on! Really?!”
Edward Allen, acting Spymaster to Emperor Joseph Frederick von Einhart the Third, was currently engaging in a ritual that a casual observer might consider no different from throwing a tantrum. And this hypothetical person would be quite correct, as it was only yesterday that the Goddess of Truth and Justice herself had indirectly called him out on his deliberate act of misinformation in front of the entire continent. If it was just that, then he might have been able to handle it in a more dignified and composed manner.
“That horrid, bastard box! How dare it do that to me!”
However, having been told that the one most likely responsible for that revelation was the same moronic creature that had slipped from his grasp half a year ago had sent him over the edge.
“Just how much does it plan to get in my way?!” he shouted while kicking over a wooden shelf in an act of futile rage.
The fully stocked piece of furniture fell against the stone floor of the Arcaneum tower’s Alchemy lab with a crash, sending numerous precious materials spilling out of their containers and across the ground. A few of the substances evaporated instantly in puffs of multi-colored smoke upon being exposed to open air, while others began eating their way through the stone floor. A stray Morolian seed even made a failed attempt at taking root, sprouting a patch of black needle-like grass that withered away almost immediately.
Five of the six officers of the Gilded Hand - Edward’s personal guards/lackeys - had bewildered looks on their faces as they witnessed the rare occasion of their leader losing his cool. Well, most of them anyway. The ever-distant Zone kept maintaining her icy expression as she sat at the edge of the room, the Scribe part of her mind already processing the funds needed to replace all those volatile reagents. It was a habit of hers, something she acquired as a result of serving as Edward’s de-facto secretary for the last two decades or so.
Incidentally, the total bill for those damages totaled to precisely 2,952 GP, which could potentially be cut down by roughly 150 GP if they managed to find a local source of mandrake root.
“I don’t get it,” said Hook, the hooded Psionic who was leaning against the nearby wall. “Why is the boss so mad all of a sudden?”
“Because he gets cranky when he doesn’t get enough sleep, you know how old people are,” said Question in a sarcastic tone of voice.
The youthful, lightly tanned brains of the operation rolled his purple eyes at his clueless cohort, although his near-permanent squint made it difficult to tell he was doing so.
“No, of course not!” he exclaimed. “Are you seriously that dense? This is all because of that one Mimic. Y’know, the one you were supposed to interrogate before it got away?”
“Oh yeah, there was a guy like that, wasn’t there?” exclaimed Hook with a sudden look of enlightenment on his face. “Come to think of it, the boss had a bit of a fit back then too, didn’t he?”
“Yeah, well, that ‘guy’ is likely the reason why we lost the war.”
“… For real?”
Question let out a tired sigh.
“Do you even read the briefings I give you?!”
“I, uh, skim over them…” he offered while nervously scratching his stubble.
The documents the resident data analyst was referring to posited that the creature responsible for the Calamity - one Boxxy T. Morningwood - had been present not only at New Whitehall, but also at Fort Yimin. The foreboding figure of this ‘Sandman’ they had been hearing about was an eerily close match to the Mister Morningwood that had been sighted going in and out of the Mercenary Guild branch office in Erosa immediately following the destruction of Monotal.
Not only that, but according to Zone’s eye-witness accounts, the monster had been able to regain its forcibly removed Warlock Job, as evidenced by the impossible to miss four-armed fiend that had been sighted fighting alongside the Sandman during the siege of Fort Yimin. Question also suggested that Boxxy might have somehow been involved in the massacre that brought an abrupt end to that battle. It certainly wouldn’t be surprising considering that walking natural disaster’s track record, but Question lacked the evidence to confidently state whether its presence was anything more than a mere coincidence.
The next section of the report touched upon why and how the monster in question had managed to not only recover, but also surpass its former power in such a short amount of time. This was actually something that Spymaster Allen had already provided the answer for. During the early stages of the war, he had infiltrated a secure Republic facility and captured some very interesting intelligence. It suggested that those twigs had been experimenting with the concept of using artificially engineered monsters as biological weapons for years, possibly decades.
This came as something of a surprise to Question, as messing with mother nature’s creations was largely believed to be an unethical practice among the elven population. This belief was reinforced not only by the predominant worship of Nyrie across the Republic, but also by their history. After all, it was Tol-Saroth’s creations that had directly caused the death of the elven royal family and subsequent dissolution of the Elven Dominion over four centuries ago.
Yet those twigs were not only at it again, but seemed to have actually met with reasonable success, if the stolen data was anything to go by. And although the details on what that ‘success’ actually was were still sketchy, the fact they were willing to go down this path meant that they would probably not be opposed to the idea of taking a monster with a colossal capacity for catastrophe under their wing and pointing it at the Empire. Meaning that not only was Edward’s former prisoner alive and well, but was currently thriving under the protection and support of the Republic.
As for why the Gilded Hand’s analyst had been focusing so much on that particular monster, it was because he believed it to be the main catalyst behind the events of Armageddon Day. To begin with, Hook himself had testified Overlord Nagnamor had screamed Morningwood’s name in anger multiple times. And while the enraged Archfiend might have theoretically been chasing another ‘Morningwood,’ the presence of two other key figures on that battlefield said otherwise. Namely that of the Sandman, now believed to be Boxxy in disguise, and that of Liusolra - the same being that served as the creature’s parting gift to the Empire.
The latter’s actions in particular seemed to be quite telling, as even though her Endless Swarm had attacked people on both sides, Liusolra’s overall impact on the battle was arguably beneficial to the Republic. Which, considering her identity as an Overlord, had been nothing short of a resounding success. One that Question readily attributed to none other than one Boxxy T. Morningwood.
And although this seemed like the analyst was giving the Mimic too much credit, it was hard to argue with his judgement when considering the creature’s Demonology Skill. More specifically, the way it had survived Zone’s forced Job Removal, even though the Warlock Job itself had been wiped from the monster’s Status. Question had initially dismissed this anomalous event during his investigation at Bootlick, but has since realized its significance. It hinted that Boxxy had a far more intimate relation with the demons of the Beyond than any Warlock could hope - or want - to achieve.
This realization was quite significant, as it fit in perfectly with Liusolra’s presence and behavior at New Whitehall. Especially since her summoning it seemed to be a spur-of-the-moment decision rather than a pre-planned event. After all, no soldier or adventurer in their right mind would ever consider randomly whipping out a gods-damned Overlord. Not unless said individual was a literal monster who gave no fucks about friendly fire and had the ‘inside scoop’ on the Beyond’s big shots. After all, demons were sentient creatures too, and while they took no sides per-se, they still had the right to play favorites. And in Liusolra’s case, she obviously favored Boxxy more than she favored Nagnamor.
And the Mimic had used this knowledge to bring about the duel between the two Overlords and subsequent Armageddon, which served as a prelude to that damnable Clash of Fate. And while that particular encounter warranted its own investigation, Question was confident beyond the shadow of a doubt that it would have never taken place if Boxxy hadn’t interfered with the Empire’s stratagem. But it had, and in doing so helped bring about Bernard Samson’s defeat, which in turn directly resulted in Teresa’s unprecedented intervention.
A notion that seemed difficult for some of Question’s colleagues to get their heads around.
“I don’t get it, I thought the one that led to all this mess was that puny Hero of theirs?”
“You too, Edge?” asked Question in an exasperated tone of voice. “Honestly, why the hell do I even bother with you people?”
The one he was speaking to was the female agent who had been sitting idly on a nearby table while absentmindedly twirling a throwing knife between her slim fingers. Unlike the rest of her comrades, Edge never wore her blue-and-gray officer’s fatigues. After all, what sort of assassin would openly declare their allegiance like that? Especially considering that her primary occupation until very recently consisted mostly of resolving various… domestic affairs.
That was why her outfit of choice wasn’t some flashy uniform, but instead consisted of a baggy gray shirt and loose-fitting brown work pants. A pair of thick leather boots poked out from beneath the hems of her slightly-too-long trousers, completing the image of a common laborer. Not only was this get-up meant to help hide her identity, but the baggy clothing also allowed her to conceal a large number of blades on her person without limiting her movement.
Her face, although as attractive as one would expect from an elven woman in her mid-20s, was almost always twisted in a scowl. Even if she was ‘a filthy twig,’ however, she actively rejected her elven heritage. Something she demonstrated by dying her blue-green hair a chestnut color, and cutting off most of her pointed ears. Admittedly, this act of self-mutilation had only served to make her conspicuous in a different way, so she usually wore a voluminous work cap to cover them up. One part she couldn’t hide, however, was the piercing hawk-like stare in her emerald green eyes. Hers was not the glare of an ordinary human, which was why she actively avoided eye contact with strangers.
“Yeah, well, you’ll forgive me if I haven’t had the time to pour through 20 damn pages of drivel,” said Edge in a haughty manner. “I doubt anyone here does, actually. You need to be more concise and to the point!”
“Zone read it,” pointed out the blond strategist. “Several times, in fact. She even pointed out a few spelling errors. Why can’t you be more like her, huh? Y’know, especially in the area that really counts.”
Question made some rather obscene hand gestures, as if he was groping a pair of invisible breasts. The flat-chested Edge took offense to that, as she was actually quite self conscious about that part of her anatomy. In fact, her figure was so androgynous, that she could easily pass herself off as a slightly effeminate man if she tried. This was something Question was well aware of, and his taunts were just another of his attempts to get a rise out of her. And it worked, judging from her immediate response, which was to throw the knife in her hand straight at Question’s crotch. Luckily for him, his imminent castration was averted by a clipboard that had been thrown into the projectile’s path. The small blade sunk into the thin wooden slab, losing its momentum and falling harmlessly to the floor.
“You stay out of this!” snarled Edge towards Zone, the one who had interfered.
“You possess neither the right nor authority to assault your superior officer,” said the Monk in her typical deadpan tone of voice.
“Ohh! Zone!” exclaimed Question. “I knew you cared!”
“If anyone’s going to neuter that horndog, it’s me,” she added.
“Ah! As harsh as ever! But that’s the part I love about you the most, my considerably chested comrade!” exclaimed the ‘horndog’ in question with an overly theatrical bow.
As for Edge, she merely pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration, got off the table and moved to the other end of the room. Normally she wouldn’t have given that clown the satisfaction of responding to his provocations, but having been openly compared to Zone like that really stung. It was something of a public secret within the Gilded Hand that, even though she kept them bound and wrapped up tight, the resident ice queen’s rack was actually quite impressive. The black-haired beauty probably didn’t mean anything by it, but the way she treated those jugs as if they were a bother really got on Edge’s nerves.
The elf sat her small butt down at a nearby table, right next to a broad-shouldered, rugged-looking man with black hair and eyes like Zone’s. Unlike that emotionally deficient Monk, however, he had a soft look in his eye and sported a winning smile that would immediately warm people up to him. Indeed, a passing glance at him gave off the impression of a soft-hearted, gentle giant who could do no harm. Which, considering his line of work, was probably his deadliest weapon. Well, it was either that or the near-permanent stench of alcohol about him, but he was still the only person Edge felt safe around.
“What an asshole,” she grumbled while pouting.
“C’mon, Lyra, don’t be like that,” he said an understanding tone. “You know he’s just going to tease you even more if you keep reacting to him.”
“I can’t help it, Jack!” she responded while throwing Question a sour look from across the room. “He’s just so infuriating. I don’t care how good he is at his job, he needs to manage his interpersonal relationships better! It’s like he wants us to hate him! I swear, one of these days he’s going to wake up with a few less testicles.”
“Yeesh, remind me never to get on your bad side,” remarked the man while taking a swig of his mithril-plated hip flask.
“Keep using my birth name, and you just might,” she shot back with a piercing glare.
“Hahaha! Sorry, sorry, my bad. Old habits die hard, y’know. Besides, you used mine too, so let’s call it even, okay?”
Jack’s designation within the group was Bandit, and his official post was that of requisitions officer and quartermaster to the Gilded Hand. Which was a nice way of saying he was a conman, thief, smuggler, and, on several occasions, human trafficker. Whenever Edward or one of his inner circle needed to get their hands on something ‘off the books,’ he was the man that made it happen. In fact, over half of those questionable substances that his boss had knocked over earlier had been procured through his network. Not only that, but he was the only Monster Tamer in the Empire, and indeed the world, to have as many as six griffins under his command.
Admittedly, that wasn’t so much because he was an exceptional individual or anything like that. Griffins were surprisingly docile and fiercely loyal towards the individual they were imprinted on at birth - they were bred to be that way. A person didn’t even strictly need to be a Monster Tamer to raise and train one of these half-lions half-eagles, but having the Job definitely made it easier.
However, even though it was technically possible for a commoner to rear a griffin, the law did not allow just anyone to do so. While these massive creatures were without question an important strategic asset and a fearsome addition to any army, they were also considered a symbol of power and authority. Something that was glaringly obvious with a simple glance at the Empire’s blue-and-white flag, which has had a griffin’s image on it for as long as anyone could remember. As such, due to purely political reasons, the only ones legally allowed to raise and own the majestic beasts were members of the Imperial Court, and even then the law limited ownership to only one or two per noble house.
Except that Bandit, much like his codename implied, and similarly to the rest of the Gilded Hand’s top brass, didn’t pay too much heed to bothersome things like laws.
Which was probably why they found themselves in their current predicament in the first place.
“For real though, how does the monster that escaped factor into this?” asked Edge. “I thought the whole reason Her Truthiness sent out that divine revelation yesterday was a result of her Hero’s death.”
“Well, Question over there explains it was mainly that Mimic’s doing,” said Bandit while leaning forward slightly. “Gods are not omnipotent, you know. If she found out about what really happened with the Calamity, then someone must’ve told her. And since none of us are in the habit of going to church, the only one left would be the culprit.”
“That’s idiotic. Since when are monsters religious? Even if they were, I seriously see no way some idiotic chest would pray to the Goddess of Truth and Justice, of all things.”
“Maybe not, but that’s not to account for anyone else it might have told. A secret that is shared by more than one person is no longer a secret, you know.”
“Yeah, I guess,” said Edge as she idly began playing with one of her knives. “So what does that mean for us?”
“Dunno,” said the dashing swindler with a shrug. “That sort of stuff is well beyond my pay grade. The boss’ll have to say how we handle this.”
“I don’t mean ‘us’ as in the Gilded Hand,” said Edge. “I mean ‘us’ as in ‘me and you.’”
Bandit was actually her uncle on her father’s side. It was only natural for her to be more concerned with her sole remaining family member rather than the shady organization they both belonged to. The fact that he repeatedly vouched for her was why a halfbreed elf like her was allowed into it in the first place.
“… Dunno,” he repeated after a brief pause. “Whatever happens, I’ll make sure you get out safe. You can count on that.”
“Me?! But what about-”
“Already speaking of dissention are we?”
The crass voice that interrupted the young assassin’s objection was loud enough to grip the entire room. Zone, Question, Hook, Edge and Bandit all turned towards the laboratory’s entrance, where the sixth and final member of Edward’s inner circle was standing. He was a tall, wrinkled old man that looked like a dessicated bag of skin and bones. He had a hooked nose, a pointed chin, a bald head, and a pair of tired-looking gray eyes that made him look like he hadn’t slept in years. A single glance at his frail body and the way he was leaning heavily against his staff as if it were a walking stick was enough to confirm the rumors that he was well over 130 years old.
However, actually meeting the man in person would make it immediately apparent that the source of his longevity was quite the opposite of a ‘miracle,’ as he positively reeked of Taboo. And while nobody in the room was a saint by any stretch of the imagination, he was the only one who had allowed himself to openly violate the will of the Gods. As such, it was only natural that his very presence made their skin crawl, but they were more or less used to the unpleasant sensation by this point.
For this was Mist, one of the greatest magic users not only within the Empire, but arguably within the entire civilized world. Even though his vitality had suffered greatly as a result of his old age, his mind was a literal library of knowledge, and his expertise spanned every known field of magic. This also included the practices of both Necromancy and Hexcraft, which was why he was branded with the Gods’ stigma in the first place.
“I see you got your eyes and ears all over the place as usual, ya old fart,” replied Edge with a sneer.
“Of course,” he responded while limping closer to her. “This is my house, after all.”
Even if he had turned his back on the Gods, Mist’s real identity was still that of Wyndam Clinton, former High Magus of the organization known as the Arcaneum. While he may not technically hold that seat anymore, a man of his influence still had a firm grasp over their current leadership. As such, he practically owned not only the tower he and the rest of the Gilded Hand members were currently holed up in, but also the facility surrounding it.
Which, in turn, meant that this place truly was ‘his house,’ in every sense of the word.
“So what’s all this I been hearing about His Majesty’s ire?” he asked while glancing over at Edward.
The Spymaster had been quietly seething ever since his earlier outburst, pacing around the room in small circles as he pondered his predicament.
“Have you been living under a rock?” he shot back without even trying to hide the irritation in his voice.
“Yes, actually,” responded Mist. “This place is literally under a mountain. You should know that.”
“… Right. Sorry for barging in on you like this, by the way. Question will fill you in on the details later, but bottom line is an Inquisition is going to come down on the Emperor’s head, and he won’t hesitate to sell me out to save his own hide.”
“Ah, I see. He caught onto your ‘white lie,’ did he? You know, I did-”
“Don’t you dare fucking say ‘I told you so!’ I’m not in the mood!” growled Edward.
“I wouldn’t need to say it if you actually listened, you stupid boy!” hissed Mist in response.
Indeed, even though he was technically the Spymaster’s subordinate, the former High Magus was still one of his mentors. And while his wisdom may not have helped Edward much when it came to the world international espionage, the walking fossil had been his guide through the political clusterfuck that was the Imperial Royal court. He was also the one to repeatedly warn him of the fickleness of the Gods, something he was somewhat of an expert on.
“Whatever the case, the current Gilded Hand’s days are numbered,” butted in Question. “It’s only a matter of time before the public finds out we tricked the Emperor and he throws us to the wolves. Which, I might add, is entirely Edward’s fault.”
Edge and Hook rolled their eyes as the blond man once again went out of his way to blame an unfortunate event on their boss. Indeed, at least half of his 20-page report might as well be its own scientific paper, which would naturally be titled ‘Why Edward Allen is responsible for all the bad things in life.’ That was part of the reason they couldn’t stand reading through the whole thing. Even if it seemed full of factually and logically sound deductive reasoning, anyone who personally knew the author could not help but see the bias in his words.
But while those two dismissed those accusations as just more of Question’s odd fixation on blaming his own employer for everything, Mist and Bandit seemed to silently agree with him. The latter had committed the analyst’s findings to memory and could not argue against any of the points he raised, particularly regarding Boxxy’s treatment. Edward had severely underestimated a monster’s will to survive and had paid dearly for it. Mist, on the other hand, had no idea there was an actual report to read. But even then, he didn’t need some whipper-snapper’s imagination to confirm something his wealth of experience had foreseen months ago.
As for Zone, she was off in her own world as per usual, too involved in filling out a requisition form to replace the damaged alchemical reagents to take sides in this petty squabble. While practicing the Scribe Job was widely considered a dull and mind-numbingly repetitive undertaking, she never saw it as such. Which wasn’t to say she found it particularly fun or entertaining, either. To her, filling out forms, writing letters, and balancing budgets was little more than a form of dynamic meditation. An activity she performed to center herself and maintain the serene state of mind a Monk required to perform to the best of their abilities.
“I hate to admit it, but Question is right,” said Edward in a moment of clarity. “About everything.”
“I… I am?”
“You are. I’m about to be branded an outlaw by my own country, and it was my own greed that led to this outcome.”
Edward stood with his back held straight, with his arms behind his waist and slowly looked over the rest of his compatriots as he openly admitted his own faults.
“I’m not going to belittle Edge and Bandit for making plans to secure their lives. I’d expect nothing less of them. Or from any of you, for that matter. In the end, we’re all nothing but a bunch of backstabbing brigands who put their own lives first. Otherwise you wouldn’t be in this organization to begin with.”
A humorless smile spread on his lips, while the others in the room, sans Zone, shared a few bemused looks and dry chuckles.
“Which is why I’m asking all of you to make a choice, right here and right now. Will you stay behind and condemn my actions to save your own skin? Or will you follow me once more into the unknown? I won’t fault you, no matter your decision.”
Bandit slapped the table with both hands as he stood up. He walked with wide, deliberate steps until he stood directly in front of Edward, then saluted.
“You’ve always had my back, old friend, and I wouldn’t be able to call myself a man if I didn’t have yours. So long as it's profitable, of course.”
Edge followed suit and stood right by her uncle.
“I go where my uncle goes. I don’t care where my journey takes me, just so long as I can be by his side.”
Hook lined up next to Edge and also paid respects to his commanding officer.
“You gave me purpose, direction, and the means through which I may exact my revenge. I may have fucked it up last time, but I have faith I will get another shot at that bitch Imyril, so long as I have your support.”
Next up was Question, who followed suit and saluted Edward in the first genuine gesture of respect he’d shown the Spymaster in years.
“Even though I say and do the things I do, you’re still the best damn leader I’ve ever had. This institution was- is the ideal place for someone like me to hone my gifts, and you’re the only officer who has put up with my shit for so long. And I look forward not only towards the day when that choice comes back to bite you in the ass, but also the chance to study the insightful ways in which it did.”
Zone stood from her seat, lined up next to Question, and said her piece.
“Because I want to get stronger.”
“You’ll forgive me if I don’t join the sideshow,” said Mist from the side while leaning heavily on his staff, “but that doesn’t mean I’m not behind you. Though I don’t know how much life I have left in these old bones, I still want to bear witness to the heights your ambition will take you to.”
This show of loyalty made Edward feel satisfied as a leader. Hearing these men and women openly state their respective convictions like this was so reassuring, that he felt as if he didn’t need his Ultimate Skill to believe in their words. Even Zone’s rather questionable motive was strangely comforting, for those were the same words she spoke when he recruited her in the first place.
Well, that wasn’t to say their convictions wouldn’t change further down the line, but their current feelings were good enough.
“Very good,” declared the soon-to-be-former Spymaster. “Mist - I want you, your disciples and those dungeon cores ready to move out by morning. You’ll be continuing your research at a blacksite outside the Empire. I don’t care if you have to break a few eggs, I want results!”
“Heee heee heee,” he chuckled in a dry, sinister manner. “I was hoping you’d say that! Though I suspect we might need a few… extra samples.”
“Don’t you worry, Bandit will provide any equipment or materials you require.”
“Same shit, different day, I suppose,” said the smuggler with a smile and a shrug. “But are you sure my people can do something like stealing dungeon cores? They’re not exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer.”
“It’s, uh, easier than you might think,” stammered Edward.
“Is it, now?”
“Just need to hit it really hard,” said Zone with one of her extremely rare smiles.
Her crude, brutish attitude towards those incredibly advanced magical tools made Mist shake his head dismissively as he limped off towards the exit. Zone heard the unflattering complaints he let out under his breath, which immediately ruined her mood and made her smile disappear as if it was never there. True, her approach might not be the fanciest, but it got the job done, didn’t it? So how come that old fart kept belittling her all the time? She honestly felt she would’ve punched his head clean off his shoulders by now if she didn’t keep herself busy with her Scribe work.
Truth be told, the two of them never really got along well on a personal level. This mostly due to the old sage being branded by Taboo, which the Monk showed a more averse reaction to than other people due to the quasi-divine nature of her Rank Up. The Taboos he violated had nothing to do with her God, so she was able to look past the old man’s sins and work with him whenever necessary, but it was impossible to ignore the friction that naturally occurred between the two of them.
“… Riiiight,” said Bandit after a moment of awkward silence. “I’ll just go prepare my pets for the trip, shall I?”
“Guess I’ll go pack up my knives,” offered Edge as she chased after her uncle.
“We going back to the southern continent, boss?” asked Hook with a somewhat hopeful voice. He probably wanted to return to his Psionic mentor for further instruction after the embarrassing defeat he suffered at New Whitehall.
“Maybe,” answered Edward. “I’ll need to see what sort of support I can drum up elsewhere before I make a final decision. Whatever the case, the rest of you should get ready to move out as well. We’re about to get very busy.”
The others immediately began dispersing to see to their own affairs while Edward was already thinking up ways to keep both the Emperor and this Inquisition off his back long enough to move as many assets as possible across the border. To that end, he would require a manifesto of his personal holdings, as well as any and all items and equipment currently in possession of the Gilded Hand. Luckily, he knew just the person for the job.
“Zone, I want you to-!”
Edward took a small step forward as he was informing his de-facto secretary of her duties, but was rudely interrupted when he tried to lift his left leg.
Apparently, one of the vials he knocked over earlier contained a batch of extra-strength adhesive, one that had been made with Queen Slime mucus as its base. He had stepped in it without realizing and had allowed it to harden while he was delivering his little speech. So when he unwittingly went to lift his foot, his absurd leg strength had ended up dislodging a stone brick from the floor.
It would appear that the mortar binding the brick to its compatriots was far weaker than both his dragonhide boot and the dried up slime snot stuck to his heel.
“Hahahaha! Way to start your revolution, old man!”
Hooked stifled a laugh, while Question let his own joy flow out freely. Zone merely stared at Edward with her trademark blank expression, although the corners of her mouth twitched for a moment. Surprisingly, even though it took Edward’s superhuman sight to see it, it was somehow Zone’s miniscule reaction that hurt his pride the most.
“That fucking box!” he bellowed. “I swear, I will never know peace until I squeeze the life out of its putrid corpse!”
Indeed, if it wasn’t for one Boxxy T. Morningwood’s actions causing him so much grief, then there was no way he would’ve found himself with a piece of pavement glued to his foot. If anyone was to blame for this embarrassing event, it was surely that fucking thing.
“Uhm, Edward?” spoke up Question. “You do realize that this is entirely your own fault, right?”
“You do realize I have a piece of stone glued to my foot, right?”
“… Oh, shi-”
In the next instant, the snarky analyst found himself halfway buried in the nearby wall, while the brick stuck to Edward’s foot had already crumbled to pieces.
“Right, as I was saying,” continued the Spymaster, “Zone, compile a list of everything that we own, I want it on my desk right away.”
“Yes, sir,” came the immediately reply.
“And when Question wakes up, I want you to let him know my tolerance for his antics is at an all time low,” he said while scraping the remaining adhesive off his sole, “and that next time he pushes me I’ll do more than use his face as a doormat.”