“Stand back!” Mimi shouted. “Stand back, you fucking freak!”
The foxkin’s voice trembled almost as badly as her limbs did, her thermite shotgun aimed squarely at the thing approaching her. Its formerly white coat had been dyed almost entirely red with blood, its orb-like yellow eyes washing over her as if she were a pest to be exterminated. Its left hand was grasped firmly around the ankle of Sarah, Mimi’s partner and bodyguard, as it dragged her bloodied corpse along the floor.
“Go on then,” it spoke in a growling, menacing voice. “Try to stop me.”
Mimi pulled the trigger with a shout. The metal hallway in front of her was doused in a blinding yellow light as her custom flame-thrower did its thing. The heat was so extreme that the walls and floor began to bend and warp. Smoke and the stench of burnt flesh seared the foxgirl’s nostrils as the draft kicked up by her weapon made her stumble backwards. Yet the thing stepped out of the blazing inferno completely unscathed. It held up the charred remains of Mimi’s friend and willed a pointy-toothed smile to appear on its otherwise featureless face.
Its entire head then split open and took a huge bite out of Sarah’s thigh with a wet crunch.
“Not bad,” it commented while chewing. “Barbeque is alright every now and then, but I prefer my meat raw.”
It then tossed the mutilated carcass aside and drew closer to the blonde, clearly intending to swallow her whole.
“N-no… Please… Don’t…”
She pleaded disjointedly as she backed away, but she didn’t run. Mostly because there was nowhere to run to. Even if this hallway wasn’t a dead end, she knew it would be impossible to outrun, outsmart or out-anything this incomprehensible monstrosity.
“Don’t what?” it drew closer. “Don’t eat your fingers? Slurp up your marrow? Drink your blood? Feast on your flesh? Or do you simply not wish to die?”
Mimi replied by pressing her back up against the wall and whimpering incoherently.
“Which one is it, you pathetic meat-sack?!” the monster yelled at her demandingly.
“I don’t wanna diiieeee!” she managed to respond in a crying voice.
“Oh, that can be arranged.”
The monster loomed over her, its slimy drool splashing onto her exposed skin and making her recoil in terror and disgust.
“I rather like my meals alive and kicking. Keeps the flavor fresh. Of course, I would need to prepare you properly, first. Those limbs would have to go.”
It wasn’t an empty threat, a scare tactic or malicious intent. The creature spoke in a calm and steady tone one would expect from a chef talking about an ingredient. As if all of this was as natural to it as breathing was for Mimi, and that thought alone was terrifying enough to make her heart beat as if it was trying to abandon ship.
The monster then delivered on its words by smashing the foxgirl’s kneecaps in. A shriek erupted from her throat from the sudden pain, followed closely by Boxxy stuffing an open bottle into her gaping mouth. Mimi coughed and gagged as the unknown liquid tumbled down her gullet, though some part of her managed to identify it as a healing potion by its flavor alone. However, she didn’t even get a chance to question what this creature was doing before her consciousness was flooded with mind-numbing agony the likes of which she had never felt before.
Her assailant was holding her shattered legs down at an awkward angle, forcing the bone and sinew to stitch itself together in an unnatural way. Not only would this keep the limbs ‘fresh and juicy’ for longer, but would also ensure that she would never walk again. It was just another method of using healing potions as tools of torture. The pain of it all was so severe that it made Mimi pass out despite technically having full HP.
Boxxy was a bit disappointed by this turn of events, but it was only to be expected. Even if she called herself a part-time adventurer, Mimi Flickerbutton was about as pathetic as the rest of the Artificers around here, both physically and mentally. The upside was that it had several means of waking her back up so they could continue their play-date in earnest.
Drea’s voice echoed inside Boxxy’s head just as it was about to slap the slutty blonde back into reality.
“What?” was its reply.
“We’ve captured the priority targets and terminated the rest.”
“How many dead?”
“I got twenty seven,” the webstalker reported.
“Twelve here,” Xera chimed in.
“Ha! Forty three!” Kora declared proudly.
The former fiend had been called out specifically to deal with the metal and stone constructs the base used for security and heavy lifting, so it was only natural she’d have the highest body count. However, those weren’t the bodies that Boxxy was interested in.
“I meant people, not golems,” it clarified.
“Oh. Then, uh, two.”
Adding Boxxy’s own body count brought the total up to fifty eight casualties. Which, excluding the ones that were captured alive, accounted for all of the employees, visitors and guests at the site. It was a good thing the shapeshifter had Claws and Snack scout the place while it was busy taking that stupid test. There was a chance Keira might’ve failed, so it wanted to know the compound’s layout and manpower in case it needed to use more… underhanded means of acquiring a ‘promotion.’ The information had proven quite instrumental during its violent takeover, though that hadn’t been its intention when it gave the order.
Then again, neither was getting its cover blown wide open.
“Good work,” it commended them. “Snack, go help Arms loot the place of anything that looks even remotely valuable. Claws, keep an eye on the prisoners, I’ll be there shortly.”
Seeing as how its fun time was over, the shapeshifter started preparing Mimi for transport. Though it would most assuredly kill and eat her eventually, though not necessarily in that order, it first wanted to interrogate her regarding her secret project. She had requested an impressive list of dangerous materials and the monster was quite curious what she intended to do with them. It bound her mangled limbs with magic-sealing shackles, strapped a rebreather mask to her face so she wouldn’t suffocate, then tossed her unconscious body into Storage.
With its captive safely secured, the monster began making its way back to the test chamber where this disaster began. It was a shame it put all that effort into something that almost literally blew up in its face, but it would make the most of this mess as per usual.
After a few minutes of walking through bloodied hallways and damaged offices, the monster finally returned to the semi-destroyed test chamber. It leaped from the observation deck to the lower floor, where four people were bound, gagged, and stuck to the wall with Drea’s webbing. Three of them were the nephilim sisters that it would need to deal with later, but its more immediate concern was the final captive.
“Apologies for the mess, mister Redbolt,” it said in a calm voice. “That escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand fast.”
The old gnome struggled against his bindings and let out some muffled noises in response.
“Yes, yes, I know. Good help is so hard to find. Even those you think could do no wrong find ways to do something incredibly stupid the moment you take your eye off them.”
Boxxy threw a glance at Fizzy, who was leaning against the wall in the corner of the room with a conflicted expression on her face. On one hand, it was arguably her fault that things turned out like this. Even if her frame had collected some dust and soot after standing in one place for the past two days, she should not have agreed to let that fox-slut clean and polish her. She didn’t think it was a big deal at the time, but apparently that was the trigger for this entire mess. On the other hand, the radiant construct did feel strangely flattered that Boxxy showed what was essentially a jealous response.
The two of them would also likely need to have a talk regarding all of this, though that would have to wait for the trip back.
“Mmmph!” the old gnome struggled yet again.
“Ah, of course. We should probably get this over with. Wouldn’t want any more unfortunate accidents to happen.”
The hylt creeper’s fingers extended outward until they looked like spindly spider legs. It hooked them around the balding midget, pulled him from the wall and pinned him face-down against the floor. The triplets could do little but watch in abject horror as one of those needle-like digits pierced the back of Redbolt’s neck. It was pulled out almost immediately afterward, though not before a tiny part of the monster slithered into the gnome’s body, causing him to convulse violently.
Once he settled down, Boxxy hit the pinned Artificer with a gust of the Fire Breath Skill that it ‘borrowed’ from a salamander. Not a lot though, just enough to burn off the rest of Drea’s binding webs. The gnome stood, clothes and hair seared but otherwise intact. He stiffly turned around to face the now squatting doppelganger and placed his hand upon its head.
“Job Advancement: Artificer.”
A glowing blue mist-like substance flowed forth from Redbolt’s hand, only to be absorbed by the monster’s cranium like water splashed against a sponge.
The Artificer Job has advanced to Flamespitter Artificer.
The maximum Level of your Flamespitter Artificer Job has been increased to 75.
“There we go,” Boxxy commented as it stood up. “Should’ve just done this from the start.”
With the benefit of hindsight, it was able to recognize just how pointlessly silly this entire endeavor had been. The monster had been so busy putting up its Facade that it neglected to consider how much time and effort it would’ve saved if it just used Puppet Parasite to force the trainer into giving it what it wanted. It knew it was possible, but refrained from doing so until now since the victim would be aware they were being controlled. This created a possible security leak that Boxxy wanted to avoid, especially with high-profile targets like Redbolt.
Which, in light of recent events, was no longer a reason to hold back.
Actually, now that it thought about it, cutting loose and indulging in some recreational sadism made it feel significantly calmer and more level-headed than it had been in weeks. It normally avoided doing so since it was both inefficient and risky, especially since it still carried that fiendish corruption upon its psyche. However, now that it had blown so much steam, it no longer felt its temper rising at the slightest annoyance. The irritation and nervousness that stemmed from its withdrawal were still there, of course, but they had been reduced to little more than background noise that could easily be ignored.
That said, Boxxy worried whether scratching its raging itch was a good or bad thing. Yes, it felt better, but was that because it burned through some of the corruption or because its personality had been permanently twisted by it? Well, that was a conundrum for later, not to mention that it was impossible to take back what was already done. At the very least it seemed to have its temper under complete control for the moment. Just like it had control over Redbolt for the next few minutes. It gave the meat-puppet some mental directions, prompting him to waddle off towards one of the base’s basement levels. It then finally turned its attention towards the triplets.
Those were the only words it said before invoking a Gate Spell. Redbolt’s compound naturally had anti-teleportation wards, but it had Drea dismantle those while she was cleaning up the place. The shapeshifter tossed the bound and gagged nephilim through the open portal before passing through alongside Fizzy, all of them exiting to a small clearing a few kilometers up the main road. The Gate then closed, leaving Boxxy’s familiars behind to ensure this next part went off without a hitch.
It would be a short while before that happened though, so it took this opportunity to put its Facade back up.
“Ah crap, I forgot about the carriage,” Keira slapped her forehead.
While the vehicle and the horses pulling it were utterly inconsequential now that it no longer needed to keep up appearances, the luggage inside the wagon was not. It wasn’t critical or anything, but losing it would be wasteful and inconvenient. Thankfully Boxxy had the perfect gopher to handle retrieving that stuff.
“Arms, how’s the looting going?”
“Almost done, boss. These assholes didn’t have a lot of shiny stuff, though. My Sense Treasure isn’t picking up jack shit.”
“We’re still taking what we can, Master,” Xera chimed in. “Schematics, research notes, raw materials, prototypes and the like.”
There was also a matter of the dead Artificers’ bodies, which were a resource in and of themselves. Each of them could yield free Skill and Job Levels through Cadaver Absorption, so it was only natural that Boxxy had already stuffed those inside its Storage. It would have to wait a bit before actually doing so, though. Keira’s routine Full Appraisal was coming up in a few weeks and it wanted to avoid having to explain how she got a bunch of Artificer Levels so quickly. It was much simpler to put the bodies in cold storage until after that bothersome examination had passed.
Admittedly that was assuming it lucked out with Cadaver Absorption, but that was besides the point.
“Claws, go find the carriage we arrived in and bring all of the luggage on it to Arms so she can stick it in her Vault with the rest of the loot.”
“Okay, leave it to me!” Drea answered in high spirits.
“The rest of you, hurry it up in the labs. We don’t have a lot of time before I erase the evidence.”
“As you wish, Master.”
“Whatever you say, boss.”
Now that this particular matter had been dealt with, the shapeshifter turned its attention back to the cocooned girls still on the ground.
“Now then,” Keira sat cross-legged in front of them. “What am I going to do with you?”
Madeline and Lydia flinched when their eyes met the not-a-catgirl’s sweeping gaze while Robin’s look was one of stubborn defiance. All three of them struggled against their bindings, but Drea’s webs were just as strong as they were a few minutes ago. The only thing they could do was writhe around like horned worms. At least until Robin somehow managed to drag her face across a stone poking out of the dirt road and pull away the webbing covering her mouth.
“You’re not getting away with this!” she yelled. “Scum like you don’t deserve to live!”
“Scum like me?” the redhead raised an eyebrow. “Do you even know who you’re dealing with?”
“Yeah! A murderer!”
“Ah, but aren’t you a murderer yourself? Or do you not count the bandits that attacked us as living things?”
The band of thieves in question were tricked into attacking the defenseless-looking carriage with the aim of forcing one or more of the nephilim to take an enlightened life. It was an important part of ‘growing up’ in Boxxy’s book, and Robin had taken that lesson to heart without a single sliver of hesitation.
“That’s different!” she argued. “We were defending ourselves! You just slaughtered those people for no good reason!”
“I was defending myself too, you know. I hadn’t shown a single sign of aggression, yet their first reaction was to run for the guards and have me killed. What choice did I have but to fight back?”
Robin scowled fiercely since she couldn’t argue that point, but it was a moot one in the grand scheme of things.
“You’re still an evil, sadistic freak!” she began protesting anew. “Just wait until the real Keira finds you, she’ll put you in the ground!”
“The… the real Keira?” the monster nearly laughed. “You do realize there’s no such thing, right?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?!”
“This thing called ‘Keira’ is nothing but a figment of my imagination,” the shapeshifter gloated in a jovial tone. “What you saw as an actual person was nothing more than a lie I made up. She’s fake. False. Fictional. Fictitious. Fabricated. Fraudulent. Huh. It’s kind of amazing how many words there are to describe something that isn’t real, now that I think about it.”
“Bullshit!” Robin protested. “Mother would’ve never approved of-”
“Oh, she knew,” Boxxy interrupted her. “She was well aware that I’m a deceitful shapeshifter with the blood of thousands on its hands. Yet she still sent you to me while hiding the truth from both her daughters and her Hero. Some ‘Goddess of Truth and Justice,’ eh?”
“Yeah, right! If she actually knew about you, she would’ve already let the world know you’re a fraud!”
The nephilim kept spewing her self-righteous nonsense, likely because she had figured out Boxxy intended to keep them alive. It was hardly difficult to deduce considering it would have already killed them if that was its intent. Though she clearly didn’t have all the facts, that thought alone was enough to make her feel braver than she had any right to be.
“And do you think revealing me would actually be for the best?” it questioned her.
“What’s that supposed to mean?!”
“You’ve seen what happened to our gnomish friends. Now imagine that, but in the middle of a densely populated city.”
Robin’s face grew pale while Keira’s casual smile widened into a toothy grin utterly saturated with malice.
“Sure, Teresa can reveal my identity and send all kinds of dangerous people to hunt me down. But how many people do you think it will take to actually kill me? How many more will I slaughter just because I felt like it? And for that matter, what makes you think they’ll even find me? I’m the best damn shapeshifter there is! I can just walk away and there would be nothing that any god or mortal could do to find me!”
Though they sounded like the ravings of a madwoman, the unshakable confidence in those words made it clear that this was no mere bluff. There was no doubt that trying to capture or kill the monster would result in nothing less than a total massacre, even if the attempt were somehow successful. That was just how spiteful of a bastard this creature was. The only realistic way for Boxxy’s life to be terminated was for a deity to drag its soul into the Aether and then erase it from existence.
It was a very legitimate worry, actually. Even if the gods were not supposed to do that sort of thing, there was no telling what might happen if they were pushed far enough. Just the knowledge that they were capable of snuffing its existence out with a mere thought was enough to deter the shapeshifter from actively raising the pantheon’s ire. However, the triplets didn’t know that, so it was only natural they’d feel their hearts sink to new levels of despair.
“It’s just not worth it,” Keira stated calmly. “Sure, I rob, kill and eat people, but I don’t seek mindless destruction. Do you know why?”
Robin wordlessly shook her head.
“Because I want the same thing everyone else does - to live a quiet, fulfilling life.”
Admittedly said ‘fulfillment’ always seemed to come at the expense of others, but that was besides the point.
“Which brings me back to my current problem - what will I do with you three?”
The catgirl rose from her seated position and crossed her arms, seemingly pondering the situation.
“I can’t kill you since I made a deal that I would look after you, but at the same time I can’t have you walking around while knowing of my true identity. I put a lot of work into this persona, you see, so I would absolutely hate to have to give it up on account of three whelps. Quite the pickle, isn’t it?”
“… What does it matter?” Robin found her words again. “Even if you didn’t leave any witnesses, someone’s bound to figure out you’re the one responsible for wiping out that compound.”
It was at that moment that the mind-controlled Redbolt activated his factory’s failsafe device. This last resort was intended to ensure that none of his designs, ideas or weapons were to ever fall into the wrong hands, and it manifested itself as a bright flash of yellow light on the horizon. The nephilim stared aghast as a column of smoke and fire rose above the rolling green hills.
“What compound could you be speaking of?” ‘Keira’ smirked.
Several tense seconds passed in total silence before the sky roared with the ear-splitting thunder from the blast. It really didn’t take much to deduce that the only thing left of that metal dome and the people within it was a massive hole in the ground and countless tons of scattered scrap.
“Now then,” the shapeshifter leaned in menacingly. “I do believe I know juuuust the thing to keep your mouths shut. I won’t even need to rip your throats out. Isn’t that nice?”
Robin’s vision went dark in the next instant. When she returned to consciousness she found herself laying in a strangely familiar bed and staring at an equally recognizable ceiling. She hurriedly sat up and looked around, but was relieved to see that both of her sisters were safe and sound in the neighboring beds. It still didn’t explain where they were or how they got there, though.
The nephilim turned towards the source of the voice to see a certain redhead sitting in a chair by the door.
“Keira? What… Where am I?”
“You’re at my house, back in Azurvale.”
“Huh? But… wasn’t that still under construction? And weren’t we just at Redbolt’s place? And for that matter why does it feel like it’s been forever since I last saw you?”
“Maybe because you’ve been in a coma for the past six days,” Keira answered bluntly.
The redhead proceeded to explain that the triplets had fallen victim to demonic possession. Apparently some demons found a way to use the nephilim’s inborn ability to reach out to the Beyond while they slept and used that to invade their minds and take over their bodies. Keira was able to somehow restrain them and bring them back here, where the Sandman used his expertise to exorcise the otherworldly presence from them. This left them weakened, unconscious, and vulnerable, forcing the catgirl to watch over them until they woke up.
“I… don’t remember any of that…” Robin said gloomily.
“What’s the last thing you can recall before waking up?”
“I’m not sure, the whole thing is a haze. I think I was arguing with Maddie? Something about a weird massager that Mimi showed her?”
“When was this?”
“I don’t remember the details, but I’m certain it was while you were still doing your Artificer test. Everything since then is a blank aside from this… weird sense of dread. It’s like my brain is telling me I don’t want to remember.”
“No, you really don’t.”
“Oh, gods,” Robin gasped. “I hurt people, didn’t I?”
“Don’t go blaming yourself, now. Whatever happened, it was the demons’ doing. You were just an innocent bystander.”
“If that’s true, then why won’t you tell me what happened?”
“Because what’s done is done. Just be glad you don’t have to live with that sort of stuff,” the redhead said in a pained tone. “Some things are best left forgotten. Believe me, I know.”
That last statement was perhaps the only thing even remotely true in the shapeshifter’s story. This entire conversation was just its way of concealing the fact that it had the triplets’ memory of the past several days completely wiped from their minds. Actually, it was far more accurate to say it ordered Stain to take a figurative sledgehammer to their brains. The troublesome memories weren’t altered or hidden like with Snack’s Dreamweaver Skill, but forcibly removed in their entirety. The slime’s method was far more foolproof, but it also left the subject keenly aware that something was missing in addition to knocking them out for a few days.
Which was why this ‘demonic possession’ cover story was needed. Nobody could state with absolute certainty that such a thing was impossible, which automatically made it at least a little plausible. The claim was also substantiated by the fact that short-term memory loss was a common complaint for actual possession victims. And even if the nephilim somehow regained those fractured memories, it would also remind them of Boxxy’s speech, and how much of a terrible idea it was to out its true identity.
As an added bonus, this sequence of events also provided the shapeshifter with an opportunity to plug a potential security leak.
“What’s important is that we learn from this,” Keira stated sternly. “You three need to stop using this Beyond-based ability of yours, at least until it’s better understood. Not only for your sake, but for the sake of all future nephilim.”
“I wish it were that simple,” Robin twiddled her fingers nervously. “We don’t always do it consciously. Sometimes… it just happens.”
“I know. It won’t be easy, and I’m not going to pretend I can help you with this stuff. That’s why I’ve sent for someone else to take care of you in my stead.”
“Does… does this person know what we really are?”
“He does. I’ve already told him everything about you and your situation.”
“You trust him that much?”
“With my life.”
“R-right. Okay. I guess that’s good enough for me. I’ll explain what you told me to Maddie and Lydia when they wake up.”
The flows of chaos have returned to their default, causal state.
Boxxy was momentarily taken aback by this message. While it was aware that Agent of Chaos had triggered when its true nature was exposed, it had no idea why it would conclude here and now. Nor did it have the faintest clue what sort of effect it had on the world. But, given the lack of immediate change, it was safe to assume it was one of those things that would only become apparent in due time. A change that, given the context of the preceding conversation, would affect either Robin, the triplets, or whatever future descendants they might have.
None of which was a problem for Boxxy though, as those three were about to cease being its problem. Sadly, this didn’t happen before they asked a whole bunch of questions. Madeline seemed especially insistent on asking after Mimi’s well-being regardless of how many times the shapeshifter lied about it. It was almost as if she knew she wasn’t being told the truth, like a supernatural lie detector that rivaled the late Spymaster’s Ultimate Skill. She was eventually forced to accept that Mimi and her friend Sarah simply stayed behind at Redbolt’s base.
The entirely unexploded base that Keira left behind after earning her Flamespitter promotion.
Or at least, that was the alibi Boxxy was intending to use should anyone question it regarding the incident. Feigning ignorance and non-involvement was, unfortunately, not the most convincing excuse. A Hero of Chaos was the last visitor to a high-tech compound that just so happened to turn into a smoldering crater just after she left? It would be difficult to believe that these events were not somehow linked.
On the other hand, though there was a paper trail suggesting Keira visited the place around the time of its destruction, it was circumstantial evidence at best. Not to mention that she had a near-spotless track record and was known to be a kind, responsible, and reliable person despite being a little eccentric and rough around the edges. It simply wasn’t in her nature to commit such an atrocity. By far the biggest threat to Boxxy’s cover story was those three blondes’ testimony. Even if their memories of the event were obliterated, it would be rather problematic if someone got the exact dates of the shapeshifter’s visit out of them.
It was therefore rather fortuitous that they’d be leaving Azurvale quite soon. In fact, it was the very next morning that the freshly brainwashed sisters met their new caretaker in Keira’s newly restored living room.
“Good morning, ladies. My name is Nao Shoki, the current Hero of Magic,” the boyish wolfkin introduced himself. “The big scary guy behind me is Kuro, my trusty bodyguard.”
“‘Sup?” the soldier in question greeted them curtly.
“Hello. I’m Lydia,” the eldest sister bowed her head. “This is Robin and Madeline.”
However, though the girls tried to hide their disappointment, their subdued reactions made it fairly obvious that Lunar’s chosen hadn’t made a stellar first impression. Not through any fault of his own, though. Between Sigmund Law’s smoldering intensity and Keira’s harsh pragmatism, the triplets had expected something more from the Hero of Magic than a meek-looking scholar. It was rather rude of them, of course, but the wolfkin in question didn’t seem the least bit bothered by this turn of events.
“A pleasure to finally meet all of you in person,” he said while positively beaming. “I’ve been looking forward to this moment for weeks!”
Indeed, though the timing of this visit was a bit convenient, Keira had sent for her fellow Hero quite a while ago. The intention was to have him handle the girls’ education when it came to matters of the arcane arts, but recent events had caused him to be promoted from teacher to guardian. Needless to say, Teresa no longer felt confident about leaving her daughters in Boxxy’s care after witnessing the way it ‘handled’ that gnome situation. Unfortunately her own Hero was still busy handling matters on Velos, so Nao just happened to be the most appropriate candidate to take over the shapeshifter’s duties.
And judging by the wolfkin’s attitude, Boxxy wasn’t the only one happy about the arrangement.
“I am really looking forward to learning more about each of you,” Nao added.
“Uh, Nao?” Keira butted in. “You do remember you promised not to experiment on them, right?”
“Of course I do, don’t be silly,” he brushed her off. “That said, there’s nothing wrong with a few examinations and health checkups, yes?”
“I guess not…”
The triplets couldn’t help but feel just a tiny bit uneasy at that exchange, especially with the way Nao’s lip seemed to twitch when the word ‘experiment’ was mentioned.
“What about our tutors?” Lydia forcibly changed the topic. “We may have had to take a short break recently, but there’s a lot we can still learn from them.”
“Ah, yes, of course,” Nao leafed through a notebook. “Yoshin Amidori, Dahmon Greymane and Cereb Abadin. No worries, I’ve already reached out to them and made the necessary arrangements. They’ll be joining us aboard the Endeavor.”
“What’s the Endeavor?” Madeline asked.
“A flying ship I helped design.”
“Woah, woah, woah!” Robin waved her hands around. “A literal flying ship?”
“Yup,” Nao answered triumphantly. “A luxurious one at that. It’ll be doing a cruise of the continent over the next few months so I figured it would be the perfect way to get you three acquainted with all of its wonderful cultures.”
“Yeeees! This is gonna be awesome!” the youngest threw her fists into the air.
“I hope we get to visit the Bakanas Islands!” Madeline bounced around happily. “I hear their beaches are lovely this time of year!”
“I suspect we’ll meet plenty of strong, virile men too,” Lydia said with a dangerous glint in her eye.
It legitimately warmed Nao’s heart to see the girls so excited. Something about their unrestrained childlike glee almost made him forget they were allegedly under threat of demonic possession. ‘Almost’ and ‘allegedly’ being the operative words in that statement. He wasn’t sure why Keira was so adamant that he needed to find a way to suppress their connection to the Beyond rather than harness it, but he ultimately agreed with her judgement. Merely talking to unbound demons was risky enough on its own, but giving them a chance to take over a mortal body was just plain stupid.
“Alright, alright, calm down ya brats,” Kuro growled at them. “It’s just a boat, don’t get your panties in a bunch over it. Now go get your luggage ready, we have a Forest Gate to catch.”
He followed the bubbling triplets up the stairs, leaving the two Heroes alone.
“Keira?” Nao spoke after a moment of silence.
“What did Lydia mean when she spoke about meeting ‘strong, virile men’ on the trip?”
“Ah. That. She’s a bit… obsessed with propagating the nephilim species.”
“That’s only natural, isn’t it?”
“Well, yes, but the way she goes about it is too forceful. She even asked her tutor to, and I quote, ‘mate’ with her after having only spent a few days with him. He… didn’t take it well.”
“Are the other two also like that?”
“Not really. Maddie flirts with everyone, but that’s just for the fun of it. As for Robin, she’s more focused on honing her martial and military skills to even think about that sort of stuff. I imagine neither of them would hold back if someone strikes their fancy, though.”
“Hmm. That’s good to know.”
Hearing all that had indeed been enlightening, as it opened Nao’s eyes to a possibility that he hadn’t really considered until just now. One that he would not have had the confidence to even entertain if he hadn’t met Keira over two years ago. That said, this was not an idea he felt comfortable discussing with her. Or saying aloud for that matter.
Suffice it to say, he’d be more than happy to step up if the opportunity to aid the nephilim with their population problem presented itself.
|General Information||Attributes||Job Information|
|Name||Boxxy T. Morningwood||Name||Value||Name||Value||Name||Level||Progress||Name||Level||Progress|
|Guild||Hidden Arrow||END||1650||PER||636||Flamespitter Artificer||50||8%|
|MP||7940/7940 (+12.8/sec)||WIS||803||AFF||273||Blade Dancer||75||MAX|
|Skill List (Page 1)|
|Mirror Image||10.MAX||Assassination||10.MAX||Summon Familiar||10.MAX||Clockwork Expertise||10.MAX|
|Pheromone Control||10.MAX||Storage||10.MAX||Power Overwhelming||10.MAX||Explosives Handling||10.MAX|
|Broken Reflection||10.MAX||Cadaver Absorption||10.MAX||Demonology||10.MAX||Deconstruction||10.MAX|
|Puppet Parasite||10.MAX||Biomass||15.MAX||Crystallize Magic||10.MAX||Optics Expertise||10.MAX|
|Spirit Echo||10.MAX||Natural Armor||10.MAX||Chant Reduction||10.MAX||Physics||7.53|
|Hylt Metabolism||10.MAX||Metal Mimicry||10.MAX||Demonic Insight||10.MAX||Component Forging||5.16|
|Mystic Camouflage||10.MAX||Mend Flesh||10.MAX||Despair Aura||10.MAX||Tick Counter||7.52|
|Corporal Stability||10.MAX||Adaptive Defense||10.MAX||Soul Link||10.MAX||Upgrade||6.34|
|Skill List (Page 2)|
|Tracking||10.MAX||Hornet Style||10.MAX||Arcane Stability||10.MAX||Herbalism||10.MAX|
|Marksman||10.MAX||Adagio Variation||10.MAX||Mana Shield||10.MAX||Mixology||10.MAX|
|Whisper Wind||10.MAX||Winterlich Waltz||10.MAX||Residual Feedback||10.MAX||Potion Expertise||9.06|
|Fleet Footed||10.MAX||Evasion||10.MAX||Disruptive Barrage||10.MAX||Poison Expertise||10.MAX|
|Hunter's Mark||10.MAX||Rapid Riposte||10.MAX||Glyphcraft||10.MAX||Alchemical Fortitude||10.MAX|
|Eagle Eye||10.MAX||Flamenco de Fuego||10.MAX||Synchronous Chanting||10.MAX|
|Razor Volley||10.MAX||Presto Variation||10.MAX||Mental Alacrity||8.78|
|Throwing Arm||10.MAX||Blade Finesse||10.MAX||Expansive Mind||5.66|
|Mobile Fire||9.15||Knife Juggler||10.MAX|
|Masked Passage||10.MAX||Sanguine Spray||8.84|
|Water Traversal||7.11||Tornado Twist||7.75|
|Skill List (Page 3)|
|Acid Spray||10.MAX||Padded Skin||10.MAX||Fire Affinity||8.75|
|Divine Attunement||4.10||Path of the Dragon||7.51||Earth Affinity||2.10|
|Ruinous Reach||10.MAX||Sense Danger||8.73||Petrifying Gaze||10.MAX|
|Aerial Strikes||10.MAX||Web Throw||10.MAX||Darkness Affinity||10.MAX|
|Vile Blades||10.MAX||Disrupting Wave||10.MAX||Darkflight||10.MAX|
|Monocular Rage||1.15||Feline Mobility||10.MAX||Cold Snap||10.MAX|
|Dustoff||1.83||Fire Breath||10.MAX||Charged Strikes||6.12|
|Skill List (Page 4)|
|General||Special||Martial Masteries||Magic Masteries|
|Stealth||15.MAX||Chaotic Disposition||1.MAX||Sword Mastery||20.MAX||Ruin Mastery||22.74|
|Lockpick||10.MAX||Agent of Chaos||1.MAX||Projectile Mastery||15.MAX||Domination Mastery||17.42|
|Pickpocket||5.15||Essence Concealment||1.MAX||Dagger Mastery||20.MAX||Primal Mastery||6.23|
|Meditation||6.39||Vengeance||1.MAX||Shield Mastery||10.MAX||Basic Mastery||9.25|
|Mentor||4.68||Eyes of the Dead God||1.MAX||Staff Mastery||10.MAX||Arcane Mastery||14.79|
|Shapeshift||15.MAX||Bow Mastery||20.MAX||Necrosis Mastery||9.03|
|Phytokinesis||10.MAX||Axe Mastery||8.42||Spatial Mastery||8.53|