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A note from Exterminatus
Opia and Jen, fan art by Lion Mask
Mira/Kaede getting bullied, fan art by Lion Mask

The door to the Happy Fox swung open as two middle-aged men made their way inside the pub. The place had a very traditional and rustic style, clearly a place for the everyman to drink away their problems rather than some high-class venue. It was also well lit and had a Bard playing a cheerful tune on his lute in the corner, giving it a welcoming atmosphere. The newcomers exchanged greetings and joking jabs with the other regulars on their way to their usual table. They sat on the wooden benches on either side of it and were quite eager to unwind after a hard day’s work.

“Well, look what the goblin dragged in. Surprised you two can show your faces here after how you were behaving yesterday.”

A smarmy brunette in a white and orange waitress uniform approached the two. Though her words were a bit rude and her tone rather harsh, that was mostly because of her strict personality rather than any sort of malice.

“You know me, Bernadette,” the taller gentleman replied. “I can’t go a day without seeing your charming smile. I’d love for it to be the first thing I see every day, if you catch my meaning.”

“Knock it off, Kurt,” his companion complained. “You’re old enough to be her father.”

“So? I hear some girls love being spanked by ‘daddy.’”

“Do I need to get Bruno again?”

Bernadette tilted her head towards the nearby wall, or more specifically towards the stone-faced dwarf leaning against it. His job was mostly to look mean and discourage the patrons from acting up. One would think a dwarf lacked the necessary stature to be an effective bouncer at a human establishment, but his log-like arms and legs made it abundantly clear he was not one to mess with. Someone that ripped was bound to have an absurd amount of STR and END.

“Yeesh, I was only kidding,” Kurt said defensively. “No need to get physical.”

“Your ‘getting physical’ is the problem here,” she said sternly. “Just because you know the owner doesn’t give you free reign to do as you please. So keep your hands to yourself, or Bruno will break them so bad you’ll have to have Hans here wipe your ass.”

“Ugh… Thanks for that mental image,” the other man groaned. “Really does wonders for my appetite.”

“Speaking of which, are you going to order anything?”

The black haired duo ordered a bottle of Frostbite Brandy each along with a large plate of assorted cheeses, fruits and meats. The waitress took their order and went to attend to the other patrons, leaving Kurt and Hans to talk amongst themselves.

“Hehe, Bernadette was splendidly harsh today as well,” the former said jokingly.

“Haaah. I don’t get why you keep talking to her like that to be honest,” his friend said with a tired sigh. “You were always a bit of a womanizer but you’ve been going at it a lot more lately. What gives?”

“I just figure if Alex can chase after some sweet young thing then so can I.”

“What? Oh, you mean that proposal incident? I heard the Soggy Princess shot him down right away though. Was pretty harsh about it, too.”

“Sure, but at least he had the balls to try.”

“Or the desperation,” Hans rolled his eyes. “He’s still a bachelor that’s about to hit his forties, he should’ve known he stood no chance with someone like her.”

“That’s just it though. If he was actually desperate for companionship he would go for one of the old maids around town. Instead he aimed for the unapproachable beauty who stalks the night like a fleeting dream. Er, or so they tell me.”

The woman they were talking about was someone who arrived in town about a month ago. A gorgeous young thing with flawless white skin like porcelain and bright red eyes like rubies. She clearly wasn’t human given her pigmentation and the shape of her ears, but that wasn’t enough to dissuade potential suitors. The cold glares and her tendency to sneer and turn her nose up at people though, that was another story entirely. The rumors of her castrating a guy for trying to get too grabby with her also added to her unapproachable atmosphere.

“Say what you will, but Alex’s courage hasn’t waned at all,” Kurt added.

“Yeah… Not when it comes to women at least. He’s still useless in a fight.”

“… And there goes my mood. Way to go, Hans.”

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to.”

Alex, Kurt and Hans were a trio of war buddies, veteran foot soldiers that retired from service after the Empire lost to the Republic last year. One could argue that, even if they were getting on in years, the trio could still be of use to the Imperial army. Their bodies were fit and their wits sharp, both of them honed through many years of fighting against monsters, bandits and soldiers alike.

However, war was a filthy, horrible endeavor that chipped away at one’s psyche, and the horrific things these three saw during the Calamity Conflict finally proved to be too much. The Empire had no need for soldiers who had lost the will to fight, as they were liabilities on the battlefield. The three were therefore discharged from service with a lump sum of gold to serve as their pension, though money did little to help any of them sleep better at night.

That was what the booze was for, and why Kurt and Hans were quite happy when Bernadette brought them their drinks and snacks. Granted, it wasn’t easy for ex-soldiers with Levels in the high sixties to get drunk, but that was why the owner always made sure to reserve some dwarven liquor especially for them. It was a bit on the expensive side, but some things were more important than money. Like good company, crude jokes, and gossip, which was what these two started sharing once the ice-imbued liquor started flowing.

“That Soggy Princess though, think she’s one of them nosferatu folks?” Hans asked at some point.

“Nah, no way,” Kurt said dismissively.

“I mean she only goes out at night and has those pointy ears and everything. And this town isn’t all that far from the Alliance border.”

“Those guys are all ugly as sin though. It’s like they’re not even human.”

“Well no, they’re not. They’re nosferatu.”

“You know what I mean! They look like a hobgoblin’s ballsack!”

“And you’d know a lot about those, wouldn’t you, Kurt?” a third voice from the side chimed in.

“Who in the-?! Oh, hey Alex.”

The missing member of the unofficial local veterans’ club had just arrived, joining his two mates as they shared a light chuckle at Kurt’s expense. Unlike the other two with their short black hair, Alex was a shaggy and unkempt redhead. He was also the meanest looking of the bunch, with a lean face that was more than a little rough around the edges. He also hadn’t bothered shaving in a while, giving him a scruffy-looking stubble, yet another way he differed from his clean-shaven companions. His outfit consisted of a white undershirt, a brown tunic and a clean-looking apron, which was what he wore whenever he tended the bar.

He was on break right now though, so he came over to see how his friends were doing.

“Might I ask what you two idiots were talking about that led you to the topic of monster testicles?”

“Just wondering what the new girl’s deal is mostly,” Hans said while munching on some jerky. “I figure she’s a nosferatu, but mister ball expert here claims she’s too pretty for that.”

“Oh, you mean Kaede?”

“If that’s the Soggy Princess, then yes.”

Incidentally, the girl had been given that slightly embarrassing nickname due to three publicly known facts - she was beautiful, a member of the Wet Bandits, and she frequently used those 'Shower in a Bottle' things.

“Talk some sense into this guy, Alex,” Kurt butted in. “He’s only heard about them nosferatu so he has no idea.”

“You’re both right, actually,” the bearded ginger revealed. “She is a nosferatu, just an uncharacteristically gorgeous one.”

“Oh. Aren’t we technically at war with those guys?”

“Come on, Kurt. You know better than to equate governments with the people under them. She’s still figuring out her place in the world and was treated harshly in her homeland. She just might decide the Empire’s a better place to live.”

“You sure seem to know a lot about her,” Hans noted. “How come?”

“Oh, that’s because of the guild she joined - those Wet Bandit fellows? They didn’t have a Level 50 Ranger instructor on hand so they had me advance her Job. Showed me her Appraisal results and some background info she provided.”

They technically weren’t supposed to do that, but they owed Alex for the favor and the nosferata herself didn’t seem to mind.

“So you had a bit of one-on-one face time with her, huh? I’d probably fancy her too if I was in your shoes,” Kurt commented. “How you handling the whole rejection thing by the way?”

“Not too bad. I kind of expected it to be honest.”

Truthfully speaking, Alex had an inkling about the nosferatu people’s warped sense of beauty. Though human standards painted her as someone way out of his league, it should have been the opposite from Kaede’s point of view, so he thought he stood a chance. Going straight to a marriage proposal was a stupid idea in retrospect, so he deserved all those mean comments she made about his various body odors.

“There’s hope yet though,” he continued. “I think she’s warmed up to me since then. Just last week I got her to giggle at a terrible bear pun I made.”

“Well! Good for you, man. I hope that works out.”

“Thanks, Hans.”

“I dunno, she seems like a high-maintenance girl,” Kurt said while scratching his cheek. “The inn lady said she bathes so much she practically installed a water heater in her room.”

“As if I care about that. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I run a pretty successful bar here.”

The man called Alex wasn’t always a soldier. He actually used to work for his family-run tavern business when he was young, so he knew a thing or two about serving customers. It was the only trade he knew besides living by the bow, so he bought this place with his retirement stipend, refurbished it and has been doing rather well for himself since then. The fact that this place was close to full almost every single night was testament enough to that.

“I still say Bernadette would make for a much better wife,” the other man insisted. “Okay, she’s not as pretty as a princess, but did you see those wide hips? Her strict attitude is the best, too!”

“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that. I seriously need you to stop harassing her, even if it’s as a joke.”

“I’m quite serious though.”

“That’s even worse! Look, I need to hire more waitresses, but your ongoing stupidity is giving this place a bad reputation. It’s a small town, and people talk. Bad publicity is terrible for employee retention.”

“Look at you! Since when did you become such an enterp… entrep… enterep… a businessman?”

“Kurt, I think you should slow it down with the drinking,” Hans said, grabbing the alcohol-filled cup out of his hands. “You don’t wanna cause problems for Alex after all the trouble he went through to get this place up and running, right?”

“No… I s’pose not…” he slurred in response.

“By the way, Alex? Have you tried asking this Kaede girl to work for you? Even if it’s only once in a while it should be a good excuse to spend time with her.”

“Hmmmm… I haven’t really thought about that. I doubt she’d agree but I suppose it’s worth a shot. Actually, I think I’ll go ask her right now.”

It was around this time she usually got ready to leave on Quests, so it was as good a chance as any.

“Good luck. I’ll make sure Kurt here doesn’t go overboard.”

“Thanks again Hans, I owe you one.”

Alex threw off his apron and told the rest of his staff he’d be stepping out for a bit. He was the boss so doing this sort of thing once in a while was no big deal. He walked out of the Happy Fox and into the pleasant spring evening. The sun had already set, but the sky still carried some of its light. There was also a refreshing breeze completely devoid of any sort of wintry chill. The man walked briskly down the street, towards the inn he knew Kaede was staying at. On the way he realized him knowing so much about a girl that was technically only six years old was kind of creepy, but that was only if-

“No… It can’t be…”

The man’s confident stride and train of thought came to a screeching halt. His entire body froze, his hair stood on end, cold sweat began to pour out of his face and palms, and his heart was beating so fast one would think it was trying to chant a ‘Get Me The Fuck Out Of Here’ Spell. Forget moving, the man could barely even breathe. Yet when those yellow eyes swung his way, his instincts as an army scout took command of his body and hid him in a nearby alley before he could be seen.

The man’s chest heaved rapidly, his Stealth Skill putting in some serious overtime to mask the sound of his heavy breathing while his mind struggled to process what his eyes had told him. Did he really just see that? No, he definitely did. Or at least he thought he did. Part of him hoped dearly that was just a hallucination, as even going crazy would be preferable to meeting that monster here and now. He was so paralyzed by fear that he couldn’t even do a double take to confirm the situation.

Yet for better or for worse, he didn’t need to. The exceedingly tall and heavily cloaked stranger that sent him into this panic attack casually strode past the alley he was in without paying him any attention. He could do nothing but watch as the source of his nightmares ever since the war strode idly by as if he owned the place. And worst of all, none of the other pedestrians - though there weren’t many - were paying this mass-murderer any heed. Alex was so confused about this situation that his facial expression would make his friend Kurt say something outrageous like ‘you look like you’ve seen a banshee with a hard-on’ if he were to see it.

So when he finally noticed Kaede was walking side by side with that psychopath, he ended up blanking out completely. Next thing he knew, it was two hours later, and he was standing in a ditch several kilometers north of town. He had used his Ranger Job to track the towering terror that was the Sandman to this area. Hunter’s Mark came in especially handy, as it was a Skill that could be used silently and stealthily to track a target over long distances.

As for why he had done so, he had no idea. All he knew was that he could not forgive that man for what he’d done.

The reason why Alex and his two ex-squadmates had retired from the Imperial army was not due to combat fatigue wearing them down. That was probably part of it, but what ultimately broke their spirit could be attributed to a singular event. The three of them were part of the 8th Imperial Expeditionary Force, the vanguard that was supposed to secure the route to Fort Yimin in preparation for the main force. The same people that were ambushed by the 3rd Republic Legion’s forces under the leadership of one Milo Faehorn. The Empire’s side suffered heavy losses in both manpower and supplies while inflicting almost none in return before the elven forces retreated.

That was not what Alex and the others had problems with though. Underhanded strategies like those were the only natural response the elves could make when they were being invaded by a superior military force. The fact that the Republic was able to pull that off despite the Imperials being wary of an ambush was simply a testament to their prowess when using such tactics. However, what happened later that night was completely removed from anything that could be called ‘strategies’ or ‘tactics.’ For it was the first time the vigilante known as ‘The Sandman’ appeared in the war.

And it was a massacre. Even if the damage this stranger inflicted upon the Empire’s forces was relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, it was impossible for Alex to think of the casualties as just a statistic. He had seen men and women who were basically like family get slaughtered for seemingly no reason other than ‘they were there.’ The horrors he witnessed as his comrades were torn limb from limb by that incarnation of terror had traumatized him deeply. It was so bad that his hands would shake uncontrollably whenever he gripped a bow, making him incapable of firing an arrow with any degree of accuracy. He also suffered from night terrors for several months. Focusing on his new pub and that pretty stranger had allowed him to take his mind off things as of late, but any progress he’d made towards a full recovery was lost in an instant.

Yet here he was, chasing after the very thing that caused him and his comrades so much suffering. It was definitely idiotic, but at the same time it was not something he could just walk away from. Indeed, looking down at his hands he realized that they were perfectly still for the first time in almost a year. Putting his palm over his chest to feel his heartbeat, he confirmed that he was no longer scared, merely excited.

In other words, while his mind hid in fear, his body had moved on its own. Gripping his fist and gritting his teeth, he peeked out of his hiding spot. His target had separated from Kaede almost immediately after they left town and he followed him here, to the outskirts of an unremarkable patch of trees too small to be called a forest. Alex had seen Sandman disappear down a hole at the base of some great oak about forty minutes ago and had been inside since. Or so his Hunter’s Mark told him.

Figuring he had located some sort of hideout or lair, Alex began considering what to do with this information. Should he get Hans and Kurt and enlist their help? Those guys had just as many grievances with that psychopath as he did, and was absolutely certain they would lend him their strength. The three of them knew full well this Sandman was no warrior or soldier, just a sick bastard that used war as an excuse to satiate his bloodlust. Letting such a man roam free on their home soil would only lead to tragedy.

The problem was that three old war dogs could not stand up to a killer as proficient as that. While they were no pushovers, their abilities were painfully average for someone of their Level. Realistically looking at it, they stood no chance against Sandman. But Alex knew of someone that did. A man named Sigmund Law, who had recently become the new Hero of the Hammer and subsequently claimed the title of Grand Inquisitor. The former soldier did not know this man personally, but he had heard the news of his exploits. According to them, Law was a hard-liner who accepted no compromise when it came to bringing evildoers to justice, even if it meant making enemies of the nobility or other elements within the church. And this Sandman? He was an evil a bastard as one could get, and no amount of political maneuvering would save him from the new Hero of the Hammer.

Of course, whether the Grand Inquisitor would even answer his plea was debatable, but the odds were good. Rumors said the man recently adopted three little girls to look after, and that he was firm but kind when administering his duties. Someone who put the well-being of humanity as a whole above all else, exalting the righteous and pure of spirit while punishing the guilty. Surely a man of such noble qualities would not stand for a war criminal to walk free within the Empire. It wasn’t clear how Kaede fit into all of this since Alex didn’t think of her as a bad person, just a troubled kid from a different culture. Was she being tricked or manipulated somehow? Or was that her true nature?

Regardless of her circumstances it was probably best not to approach her with this idea. As for how Alex would get his message to the Hero himself, he remembered he had some old war buddies that signed up with the Inquisition. Men and women that had seen what he, Hans and Kurt had witnessed yet kept fighting the good fight. People who were undoubtedly stronger than the three of them and would not hesitate to get their superiors to act. It still wasn’t clear whether they’d arrive fast enough to catch the Sandman, or if they would come at all for that matter, but it was the best thing Alex could do in this situation.

So he slowly but surely slithered away from the hiding spot of his nemesis and slinked off back to town. Whatever was about to happen, time was of the essence, and Alexander Thorpe was someone who would make the most out of what he had. Something he demonstrated by focusing on the thought of finally being able to avenge his fallen comrades and fully devote himself to running the friendliest neighborhood pub in the province. It was a happy thought. Which was a good thing, considering it was to be his last.

*SPLORCH*

An invisible blade made out of ethereal ice pierced into his skull from above with a disgusting sound, freeing his tortured soul from his body without even giving him the chance to feel pain. The murder weapon was removed and the gaping head wound was webbed up before the body hit the ground. Wouldn’t want all that nutritious blood and mushy brain bits from escaping, after all.

“Master! I caught some dinner for you!” Drea eagerly reported as she webbed up the corpse for transport.

“Is it fresh?”

“Yup. Looks like a good one too.”

“Good, then bring it to me.”

The stalker was feeling quite pleased with herself. This particular specimen looked like he had some reasonably well developed muscles, probably an adventurer or something. He was sure to be tasty, even if a bit on the skinny side. She even waited until he had calmed down before she claimed his life. Boxxy claimed a human’s taste would deteriorate if they struggled before they died, so she did everything she could to score some points with the man-eating monster.

And yes, that was rather important. The arachnid demon actually felt she was falling behind the others when it came to currying Boxxy’s favor. Xera had helped deliver that alraune that was now acting as dungeon master, and Kora was doing her best collecting shinies from the Atlas of Dreams. Ambrosia had her nectar, and Fizzy had… well, herself. The only thing Drea could do was secure fresh human meat, so it was only natural she’d do the best job she could.

That wasn’t entirely true though. That golem Artificer had recently finished the Silk Weaver machine she had been working on for the longest while. The room-sized contraption could produce high-quality Demon Silk from the special spider thread that Drea made from all her food intake. The rare material was both useful and expensive, so Boxxy was naturally glad to have it. The only problem there was that the spinnerets that produced said webbing were located in Drea’s butt, so it looked like she was pooping whenever she was strapped into that thing. It was so deeply embarrassing that the webstalker had to try extra hard not to think about it, which she accomplished by focusing on the other things she could do.

Such as keeping her Master’s secrets safe and presenting it with tasty treats.

“Oh! This one does look good!”

And judging from the way said Master happily devoured the freshly slaughtered corpse with a delighted burp, she had done that part splendidly.

“That was good timing too,” Boxxy continued. “I was just about to head back.”

The hole-in-the-tree the shapeshifter was inhabiting was actually a node in its dungeon network, which it had established across Atica to help facilitate fast travel to certain areas of importance. This one would only stay here temporarily since it needed easy access to check on Kaede’s progress. It technically didn’t have to do that since the ring it gave her gave Mortimer the ability to spy on her all he wanted, but it felt it was important to make sure she was taking her ‘audition’ seriously. And once that was over with, it would reclaim the dungeon core and ‘plant’ it somewhere else.

However, that was not the primary reason it came here this time around. It was actually just ‘dropping in’ after completing its primary objective in this part of the world. The shapeshifter used Nexus Access to fling itself all the way over to Republic territory. More specifically, at the bottom of the ravine that was home to Bitterhold. It left the not-so-creatively named Bitterhole mini-dungeon and started climbing upwards as a spider-chest.

Stain’s guards, or to be more precise the guards that were Stain, greeted it with a wave of their hands as the monster made its way over to the warden’s office. It of course made sure to switch back to its Sandman disguise first, just in case there were any unexpected visitors. Thankfully this didn’t seem to be the case, so it could easily enter the overmind slime’s private quarters.

“Well! *Slurp* Back so soon?” she exclaimed with an obscene tongue movement. “I was not expecting you for another- *Slurp* -few days.”

“I have my ways. What matters is that I got more of that stuff you wanted.”

Boxxy took out a large burlap sack from its Storage and handed it over to Stain. The sentient pile of pink goo eagerly accepted it and opened it, revealing that it was filled to the brim with countless tiny pieces of blue, purple and red crystals. She dropped a goopy hand into the coarse and sparkling sand as if to sample it.

“Oh, how wonderful! *Slurp!* With this I’ll have enough to last me a year!”

The material in question was a mostly useless mineral called almarite or archasite or something. Boxxy didn’t know much about it, other than what it looked like and that Stain needed lots of the stuff for something. That was why it had Mortimer’s protege check on the huge deposit it found in nosferatu territory. It wasn’t sure whether the strange crystals would be harmful at first, but once she had confirmed them safe, the shapeshifter wasted no time in employing some… aggressive excavation methods.

“Might I ask why you asked me to be on the lookout for that stuff?” it inquired.

“Hm? Oh, it just makes for an amazing additive to Hylt wine. Toxic to most living things but- *Slurp!* -absolutely delicious to me!”

“Could’ve had those Foundation guys do it for you if it was something of such… importance.”

In truth consuming this mineral also greatly accelerated the recovery rate of Stain’s lost or damaged slime cores, but that was her little secret.

“I’d rather not ask those guys any favors. *Slurp!* At least the stuff you want as payment is simple to deliver.”

The first batch of powderized mystery-quartz Boxxy delivered was rewarded with the knowledge of how to obtain an Ultimate Skill as a monster. According to Stain, it still required one hundred Levels, but not in a singular Job. For instance, the pink puddle herself was a Level 50 Slime and Level 50 Queen Slime, for a total of 100 Levels as a slime-based monster. Meaning that if Boxxy got Level 50 Doppelganger to go along with its Level 50 Mimic, it would have 100 ‘flesh-shifter’ Levels, and would likely earn itself an Ultimate Skill.

That would still be a long way off though, as the Doppelganger Job was seriously dragging its feet once it pushed past Level 40. Those last ten Levels would take a long while, but it wasn’t in a particular hurry. Well, at least not since that Edward matter was settled.

“Then are you going to pay up or what?” the shapeshifter insisted.

“Of course,” Stain said. “I’ve already prepared your payment. *Slurp!* It’s waiting for you outside this office.”

“Okay, good. By the way, is he supposed to be doing that?”

Sandman pointed towards the naked bald man covered in slime in the corner, the individual that had once been the Gilded Hand operative called Hook. His eyes were wide open and darting all over the place and he seemed to be trying to scream, but the transparent pink goo was preventing the rest of his body from moving. It was also silencing any noise he might have been making.

“Don’t mind him, he’s just really stubborn so I had to- *Slurp!* -intensify his treatment. I’ll definitely break him though. *Slurp!* Eventually.”

“I see. I’ll be going now. Goodbye, warden Stain.”

“Goodbye. Feel free to drop in if you have more of the good stuff!”

“We’ll see.”

When Boxxy left the office it was greeted with a small pile of white rocks. More specifically, five kilograms of unrefined mithril, fresh from the mines. It wasn’t particularly shiny, but Fizzy needed this stuff for her projects. She’d recently taken up the Blacksmith Job and was currently tackling mithril processing with some human golem-maker she met in the dwarven capital of Gun Tarum. Luckily the shapeshifter had another Nexus Access node nearby so it could go visit its partner whenever it wanted.

Which, incidentally, was right now, so it wasted no time pocketing its ‘earnings’ and leaving Bitterhold behind. As the massive cloaked figure of the Sandman departed, however, an elven prisoner kept a close eye on its back. The man abruptly dropped the load he was pretending to carry around and went over to the warden’s quarters. He opened the door, only to find her draining six bottles of elven liquor into her goopy head at once. The way those upside-down glass containers were stuck in her looked almost like the world’s booziest crown.

A strangely fitting symbol of power for world’s goopiest sovereign.

“Ugh, I really wish you’d learn to knock,” the slime groaned.

“Yeah, sorry,” the elf said. “I just thought I saw a familiar face, so to speak. Was that Boxxy T. Morningwood?”

“Hm? Oh yeah. *Slurp!* It had a name like that, didn’t it?”

“Huh. So it really is working for the Foundation?”

“Yep. Just like I told you. *Slurp!* Even has a codename. ‘Agent Sandbox’ or something.”

“Unbelievable. I never thought that thing would do something like that. Then again, I suppose I can’t really blame it.”

There was a reason the old saying that went ‘If you can’t beat ‘em - join ‘em!’ was coined by a doppelganger. Which, incidentally, was this elf’s true identity. An old, sour and experienced one that used to go by many names, such as Reginald Namhel, Reggie, or ‘Project Lighthouse,’ but a doppelganger nonetheless. He currently had something of an agreement with Stain to hide him from the Foundation, though the slime had no idea she was harboring someone plotting on bringing down her employer. Or maybe she did and didn’t care. Reggie wasn’t about to complain either way, so long as she maintained her end of the bargain.

“I am surprised you know that- *Slurp!* -exceptional specimen,” Stain commented.

“You shouldn’t be, though I would prefer it not find out that I am here. Things might get… ugly.”

“Worry not. I don’t have a reason to spill a secret. *Slurp!* Not for free anyway.”

Reggie could respect that. Though he was ‘under the influence’ back then, he had worked with Stain before, so he knew she was not one to back out of a deal without a very good reason. His main concern was what Boxxy would do if it found out he was here, as there was a chance that youngling would just sell him out to its new bosses. At the very least Reggie had something of a contingency plan should it come to that, though it was only to be used as a last resort.

After all, there was no telling how Boxxy would react if he revealed that the Foundation already knew the true identity of the Hero of Chaos. Would it rebel against them and try to eliminate them first because it felt threatened? Or maybe it would hide itself away and start its charade over from scratch? It might just let bygones be bygones and maintain the status quo. That last one was the best case scenario, but given that thing’s track record, it was just as likely to unleash a Calamity upon Azurvale for shits and giggles. In the end, neither Reggie nor the Foundation knew what would happen if this information were to leak out, which was why both parties had elected to keep quiet about it.

However, unlike that bunch of shady elves, a doppelganger would not hesitate to roll that chest-shaped die should push come to shove.

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About the author

Exterminatus

  • Chestiest Chest That Ever Chested

Bio: I'm a programmer, a mythical creature that survives completely on beer and cynicism. We skulk in the dark, secretly cursing and despising everyone else. Especially other programmers.

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Fab-sama @Fab-sama ago

The new art is awesome. #downwiththestraightnoses

Radon @Radon ago

Good chapter, also really liked the Mira fanart.

 

HyugaisJester @HyugaisJester ago

Holy crap. Literally rereading and then bam! A new chapter. Thanks for the snack.

Zedred @Zedred ago

Thanks for the chap Sect Leader Exterminatus!

Fred @Fred ago

That revelation at the end really surprised me. I was so sure its secret had stayed safe

    Un pwasson volant @Un pwasson volant ago

    When you think logically, it is quite possible, between the disparances in narrow back alleys, how Boxxy acted out the thing, well many factors, and the more there are factors, the more the are chances to find out, like how Fizzy saw the discrepancies and deducted things out of them

    Hales @Hales ago

    The Foundation has the results of Boxxy's appraisal from when it was temporarily dead, Silus remarks on this at some point in his reappearance, and the exactly matching Range, Bladedancer, and Artificer jobs are a dead giveaway.

    Grimmas @Grimmas ago

    I actually seriously thought that Boxxy already knew that they knew, so this "revelation" really threw me for a loop.

    djeruknipis @djeruknipis ago

    I had to read it twice, but my comprehension of that passage is; Reggie was afraid what would happen should he told the Foundation that Boxxy and Keira is one and the same. That's why, although that knowledge is potent hedge against Boxxy, he reserved it as the last resort.

    As always, there is a possibility that foundation already know through Boxxy's dead stat (low chance since the lab is exploded soon after he's awake and the Box especially target their documents) or Reggie's handler (low to mid chance). But even with Silus under their employ, the way the world recognize Keira as separate entity might dump any wild connection he made into the garbage bin.

      xvan @xvan ago

      my interpretation is that Reggie sold Boxy, probably to save his own ass.

      Otherwise the mutual agreement makes no sense.

      Un pwasson volant @Un pwasson volant ago

      Nope, not yet, it was very clear he didn't

      Or at least not as a Hero of Chaos

      Fred @Fred ago

      No, it clearly says the Foundation already knows. What Reggie is reserving is telling this to Boxxy, because he doesn't know how it'd react.

      Un pwasson volant @Un pwasson volant ago

      No, he has not told them, it is some sort of last card : he told the Foundation knows and he knows they know, but he hasn't told them, or at least it isn't implied in his thoughts, re-read that part to confirm please, I'm reading something else very passionately and attentively and it is 04:35AM at my home

      Fred @Fred ago

      "how Boxxy would react if he revealed that the Foundation already knew the true identity of the Hero of Chaos"

      The Foundation already knows. Boxxy doesn't know that they know. Reggie knows that they know.

      Reggie is keeping that information from Boxxy as a last case scenario, since there is a good chance it would result in a Calamity in Azurvale.

      Un pwasson volant @Un pwasson volant ago

      And it totally isn't implied into, before and after that Reggie was the one to supply thzt information, they just know Boxxy and Fizzy are monsters and are assuming Boxxy and Keira are different entities, even the LIAR based on his investigation and deduction skills thinks of Keira as a separate entity....

      ... re-read the last arc is my suggestion ?

      Fred @Fred ago

      I never said it was Reggie who supplied the information. As of right now, we still don't know how they discovered its secret. That was why I was so surprised by the revelation.

      Un pwasson volant @Un pwasson volant ago

      Ah, and read the comments a bit more thoroughly as well, there are explanations from readers and the author as well !

      Fred @Fred ago

      I understand it quite well. I think you're the one who misread it.

      Un pwasson volant @Un pwasson volant ago

      Not too surprised myself, as I said in the beginning there are still quite many things fishy about Keira, if we don't even count the Hero of Magic that knows at least a bit that Keira isn't what she shows, if I'm still determined I'll re-read about that later and see the comments about it...

      Granitefish @Granitefish ago

      If I read the chain correctly the misunderstanding comes from both of you replying to Xvan but then Un thought Fred was replying to them.

      Un pwasson volant @Un pwasson volant ago

      Yeah, I thouht there was some qui pro quo there, it's the fault with all of us with our common avatars... sigh

      PS : if someone could help me with setting an avatar, as I think about it now (details around in PMs, so as to not flood the comments even more, please...)

Ink Deity @Ink Deity ago

Thanks For The Meal~!

xtremeloldude @xtremeloldude ago

hmmmm so getting pregnant from a three-armed demoness futanari gives you triplets?

fascinating

thanks for the chapter