Boxxy’s lid opened slowly as it let out a satisfied yawn. Having woken up from its afternoon nap, it willed a set of arachnid appendages to emerge from its chesty self and propped itself up. It took stock of its surroundings, noting that very little had changed since it had fallen asleep. It was still on the deck of the Pale Pearl, Jen was still circling it from above, and Snack was still lounging around the front of the ship with a thoroughly bored expression on her face. Fizzy was stretched out next to the succubus and staring up at the sky, likely conversing with her inner selves to pass the time. The only thing that suggested anything had happened at all was that the mainland had disappeared somewhere over the horizon.
The shapeshifter checked its internal clock, courtesy of Tick Counter, and determined that only three and a half hours had passed. This meant that, given the ship’s average speed, there were still about twenty hours of sailing to go before the Pale Pearl reached its destination. It was going to be a painfully slow trek compared to what Boxxy was used to, but it was a necessity. Even though the shapeshifter could theoretically travel those three hundred and fifty kilometers in but a few hours through a combination of flight and teleportation, it lacked the ability to accurately navigate at sea. It could use a compass to tell which direction it was headed in, but the total lack of landmarks made it nigh-impossible to determine how much distance it had actually covered.
The Pale Pearl, on the other hand, was perfectly capable of navigating by itself. It being a magical construct of several elements allowed it to ignore things that would normally throw a ship off-course, such as currents or winds. The way it barely even rocked and swayed as it cut through the waves made it abundantly clear this would be as smooth-sailing as it could get. Provided, of course, that its passengers could keep the fragile thing safe. If the thing was destroyed in the middle of the trip, then Boxxy wouldn’t know exactly how much distance it had travelled, potentially forcing it to start the whole thing over from scratch.
It had therefore been a good thing that the shapeshifter had ordered its minions to protect the Pale Pearl before it took that nap, because at present it had entirely forgotten about that potential annoyance. Though the encounter with Arisha had helped the monster burn off much of the incessant giddiness it had carried until then, its mood had shot right back up after that panacea had taken effect. And who could blame it, considering the two superbly tasty things it had gained as a result.
Description: A being whose power of will is the stuff of legends.
Requirements: Reach 750 Mental Fortitude (MNT).
Effects: Spells and Skills that affect the mind can be used on Golems, Demons and Undead at 30% effectiveness.
Reduces the duration of hostile mind control effects by 80%.
Description: Breaking free of a dryad’s enthrallment requires a strength of character that goes beyond mere Attributes.
Requirements: Survive a strong addiction to Hylt Nectar.
Effects: Prevents addiction to Hylt Nectar.
Provides a permanent boost of +5 MNT and +5 AFF.
The first had been an important and long-awaited achievement that was certainly worthy of celebration, but it was that second one that really made Boxxy’s spirit soar. It had given up all hope of ever indulging in one of the most delicious things it had ever tasted for fear of what it might do to its free will. But with this Nectar-Adapted thing, that was no longer a concern. It could now enjoy all of the benefits of Ambrosia’s overflowing bosoms without any of the drawbacks. And even if it somehow developed the habit again, it could probably have Arisha mix up another dose of panacea.
The monster then wondered if the so-called Bloody Baroness would be willing to teach it that secret formula. It then immediately decided that it shouldn’t say anything that might upset a being with nearly fifteen thousand HP. It was a ridiculous number that suggested Arisha had more than just two Level 100 Jobs at her disposal. The thought of studying a dose of the stuff without her knowledge also crossed its mind, but it seriously doubted that panacea was the sort of thing a rookie potion-brewer like itself could actually analyze. Not to mention that synthesizing it was most probably impossible without high-Level Alchemist Skills and a bunch of impossibly rare materials even if it somehow discovered the recipe for it.
In short, if Boxxy wanted another dose of the ultimate cure-all, then it would need to ask nicely. To that end, there was no telling what other interesting goodies Arisha had gathered over the years. Befriending her seemed like a solid investment, and the best way to do that appeared to be by appeasing her boredom. It imagined that the ancient noblewoman would be overjoyed if it introduced her to some of the interesting characters and curious creatures it had met over the years.
Actually, Stain seemed like a really good candidate off the top of its lid. The two of them could probably bond over their respective experiences with mental domination in a way that Boxxy genuinely couldn’t. Not to mention that the warden of bitterhold had a taste for good liquor, and the shapeshifter would earn a lot of points with her if it arranged for her to experience that Ethereal Vintage.
Now that I think about it, I haven’t checked with her in a long time, Boxxy realized. I should see how things are going on her end.
Boxxy: Stain, how are things?
Hookenstein: Oh? Finally remembered I exist, hmm?
Hookenstein: Heh, not surprised you forgot about me since nothing’s been going on.
Boxxy: Nothing? What about the dungeon you’re in, weren’t you going to excavate it?
Hookenstein: I tried, but can’t find anything of value. There’s just common stuff like iron, coal, and copper.
Well, it wasn’t as if every mountain was a mithril repository, but the chest-shaped monster still felt a bit disappointed.
Boxxy: I see. And how are things at Bitterhold? Has the Republic made any moves to dislodge you?
Hookenstein: None at all. It’s been business as usual, actually. Best as I can tell, whatever’s left of the Foundation is doing their best to keep the place running.
Boxxy: Ah. So then, this ‘Hookenstein’ thing isn’t much use to you on Velos, is it?
Hookenstein: Not at the moment, no.
Not one to let important assets go to waste, Boxxy immediately gave its business partner a suggestion it had been idly mulling over for a while now.
Boxxy: How do you feel about bringing it with me to the Dragon Festival, then?
Hookenstein: I’ll pass.
Boxxy: You sure? There’s bound to be lots of tasty subordinates there for you to acquire.
Hookenstein: Don’t care. I am not setting one drop anywhere near that place.
Boxxy got the distinct impression it had hit a nerve, so it decided to let the queen slime be for the moment and focused on figuring out how to kill some time. This proved to be more difficult than initially anticipated. Idiot Toss was out of the question, and the salty air made it unsuitable for any meaningful alchemy or tinkering practice. Diving for some seafood wasn’t an option either since it had to remain aboard the Pale Pearl in order to maintain its existence. It was ultimately forced to accept there was nothing to do but wait and assumed its earlier napping position.
The voyage proceeded in a largely uneventful manner from then on. Drea and Kora were doing an excellent job of keeping sea monsters from even getting close to the ship, with the occasional hand from Xera, Fizzy, and Jen. Nothing major really approached the ship, mostly because it was still relatively near the coast. The only thing of note that happened for the rest of the evening was the appearance of some glowing jellyfish that passed under the ship shortly after sunset. They were not tasty.
It wasn’t until morning of the next day when something truly exciting happened. Drea had spotted what looked to be a galleon ship on an intercept course with the Pale Pearl, most likely a bunch of pirates chasing what looked to be an easy prize. She was the only one who noticed it, as the larger vessel was apparently using some kind of large-scale illusory mirage to hide itself from sight. A webstalker’s eyes could clearly see the magical aura surrounding it though, allowing her master to prepare a counter-ambush.
Though perhaps ‘counter-ambush’ was too fancy a term for what happened next. Once the enemy ship was within three hundred meters of the Pale Pearl, Boxxy launched Kora at it with a well-aimed Idiot Toss with some guidance from Drea. The hoarder seemed to disappear in thin air, but the loud crash that followed shortly afterwards proved it was a direct hit. She must’ve broken something important upon impact, seeing as the magic obscuring the ship dispersed within seconds. Jen, who was still circling overhead and had been warned of the enemy’s presence via Boxxy’s Whisper Wind, dive-bombed the galleon the instant it appeared. She smashed into its deck with such force that the entire ship seemed to tilt dangerously to one side.
Once aboard, the two battle junkies proceeded to tear through the flabbergasted pirates. They somehow managed to fire upon the smaller ship, but Fizzy used her magnetic abilities to intercept their cannonballs and sent them flying right back with even greater speed. The golem remained, but Xera eventually flew over and started setting fire to everything in sight, figuring it was a good chance to alleviate her boredom. Drea insisted that the battle was too loud for her liking and kept diligently doing her thing beneath the waves. Boxxy, on the other hand, wanted to join in on the festivities but couldn’t since it had to remain aboard the Pale Pearl in order to maintain its ongoing existence. It was a bit regrettable, but listening to the screams and various explosions its minions caused was fun in its own way.
By the time the group was done with the pirates, their ship had been so thoroughly wrecked that it looked like an elder dragon had stepped on it, and was slowly sinking beneath the waves. With everyone dead, Kora took this opportunity to stuff all the treasure they were carrying into her extra-dimensional Vault. Xera, on the other hand, merely giggled to herself as she reveled in the nostalgic feeling of setting things on fire. Meanwhile, Jen delivered the mangled body of the pirate captain to Boxxy as a sort of gift.
The shapeshifter was pleasantly surprised to find out that, based on the seven mithril teeth inside the dead man’s mouth, the harpy had killed none other than Eobard ‘Whitetooth’ Quincy. Boxxy had never met the guy, but it knew he was a wanted criminal with an outstanding bounty of 80,000 GP on his head, which it had every intention of collecting on. It praised the harpy for her contribution to its hoard and requested she bring over a few relatively intact human corpses for it to snack on. Jen happily did so while sporting a slight blush of embarrassment on her cheeks.
Overall, the pirate ‘attack’ had served to bolster everyone’s mood. Even Drea felt great after being allowed to gorge herself on all the leftover dead pirates. The monstrous troupe were still in high spirits several hours later when the Pale Pearl stopped, furled up its entirely decorative sails and dropped its nonexistent anchor. Everyone already had their diving gear ready and were more or less ready to descend to the bottom to start searching for this secret weapon mentioned in Tol-Saroth’s journal.
Well, almost everyone. Since being a harpy-griffin hybrid made it difficult for Jen to move freely underwater even with the standard issue diving gear, Boxxy had prepared a special Artifact just for her. It hadn’t actually shown it to her yet, though, nor had it even mentioned anything about it other than its name. The winged Monk was therefore both skeptical and excited when the shapeshifter finally handed her the promised Hide of the Great Yellow Beast.
“… This is it?” she asked warily.
“That’s it,” the Sandman nodded.
“It… doesn’t look like much.”
It would be difficult to call the item in her hands the ‘hide’ of anything, let alone a ‘great beast.’ It looked more like a circular poofy hat that was much too big for a regular person. It was most definitely yellow, though. Aggressively so, actually. It was a bright and vibrant color one would expect from a ripe lemon, not some fearsome aquatic creature. It had an equally eye-catching orange brim jutting out of one side of it, seemingly some kind of visor to shield one’s eyes from the sun.
“Just put it on,” Boxxy insisted.
Jen made the world’s tiniest shrug, figuring it was silly of her to judge an Artifact by its appearance, especially considering the nature of the fake ghost ship she was standing on. She placed the weird-looking headwear upon her noggin, making sure the orange part was over her face. Nothing seemed to happen though, so she looked questioningly at the shapeshifter.
“… Oh, right,” it suddenly remembered. “You need to speak the code word to activate or deactivate it. Just remember to stand still until it’s done doing its thing.”
“Understood,” she nodded. “What’s the code word?”
Jen felt some of her Ki being drained away, followed shortly by her being coated head-to-toe in some weird yellow goo. It felt smooth and cool to the touch while remaining strangely semi-solid, almost like some kind of liquified rubber. She remained perfectly still as instructed for several seconds as it hardened around her, sealing her body in a brightly colored yellow suit with orange feet. It was extremely roomy on the inside, and only left her face and wings exposed.
“How do you like it?” Boxxy asked jovially.
The harpy looked down at herself curiously and took a few exploratory steps, noting that it didn’t impede her movement in any way. She questioned how she was supposed to hold anything with these clumsy-looking mitten-things on her hands, but she could still make a fist and hit with it, so she figured it wasn’t an issue. Jen then realized that all of the other girls were falling over themselves, laughing at her. The harpy blinked a few times at them, then once more looked down at her outfit, then finally checked her reflection in a nearby window. Having confirmed her suspicions, she turned back towards Boxxy.
“It’s a ducky suit,” she stated bluntly. “Why is it a ducky suit?”
Indeed, though the harpy herself couldn’t see it at first, it would be obvious to any bystander that she looked like a giant stuffed duckling. It even had a pair of adorably beady eyes, a pointy little tail, thoroughly rounded features, and a pudgy pear-shaped silhouette. It looked so goofy that it was no wonder why the others were having trouble keeping a straight face.
“Don’t ask me,” Boxxy shrugged. “I don’t make the Artifacts, I just hoard them.”
“Why didn’t you tell me it looked like a ducky suit?” she pressed the issue.
“You didn’t ask. Not like it matters anyway, right?”
Jen stared blankly at the masked monster’s smiling eyes before concluding that it had a point. She’d always been a function-over-form kind of person, so she didn’t care so long as this thing did what it needed to do. Besides, this was given to her by the Hero she had sworn herself to, so in some way it was her duty to accept it gracefully. Just thinking about that made a tiny smile slip past her stone-faced mask and float onto her lips.
“AAHAHAHAHAHA!” Kora roared with laughter. “Look at her fucking face! She’s actually fucking happy about that lame-ass shit! What a fucking loser!”
There was a blur of bright yellow as Jen rushed at the infuriating demon and drop-kicked her in the chest, all within the blink of an eye. Kora’s mocking tone cut out abruptly as she was flung off the boat with a pair of weirdly-shaped dents in her breastplate. This caused Fizzy and the other two demons to laugh even harder. Seeing the giant yellow ducky move with the speed, strength, and ferocity of a ticked-off griffin-harpy hybrid was one of the most ridiculous things any of them had seen. Even Boxxy looked to be on the verge of busting a gut.
“Hek-hem!” it loudly cleared its throat. “Glad to see you like it, Jen. Why don’t you take it for a spin, see how it feels?”
“I think I will.”
The harpy then promptly jumped into the ocean. The suit seemed to react to being submerged and sealed her face-hole with a transparent layer of that rubbery stuff it was made out of. Jen then discovered that swimming around in this thing was a lot easier than she expected. Thankfully the Artifact’s magical effects also extended to the wings poking out of the back of it, including making them far less vulnerable to water drag than they would normally be. The harpy even found out she could give herself a little burst of speed if she flapped them just right. It still felt mildly uncomfortable to have them fully submerged, but it was nothing she couldn’t handle.
Once everyone had stopped snickering at Jen’s new look, the group departed the Pale Pearl and made their way straight down. They mostly did this by just hanging onto Fizzy and Kora, both of whom sank like anvils so long as they stood perfectly still. Incidentally, the golem had foregone using any of the enchanted diving equipment, stating that her frame could handle a little water pressure. She had been right in that assertion, but eventually agreed to put on the anti-pressure belt since it became harder and harder to move her limbs the more she sank.
Not much else happened during the descent. Most of the residents of the deep seemed content to ignore the group, and the ones that didn’t were cut to pieces by Boxxy’s Reality Slash or boiled alive with Xera’s Scorching Ray. Of course, Fizzy did not fail to point out the paradox of fire magic working underwater. The djinn then smugly explained that, as far as the arcane arts were concerned, the elemental opposite of water was wind, not heat. Though she couldn’t use Spells that had a wind component to them, like Fireball or Inferno, things like Scorching Ray and Magma Missile were ‘fair game.’
Distractions aside, it took a total of twenty-three minutes to reach the bottom, some two thousand meters below sea level. Fizzy’s feet sank into the ocean floor, making her curse under her non-existent breath when she realized it was covered with sand. The others swam around in a small circle, trying to get their bearings while the Sandman-shaped monster just sort of floated in place with its arms and legs crossed.
“Something the matter, Master?” Xera asked.
“No, no,” it reassured her. “I was just thinking about something.”
“I hope it’s got something to do with finding our way around,” Fizzy chimed in. “How are we supposed to find this secret weapon in a place like this?”
“Oh, that? We’re looking for a place with strong volcanic activity. Shouldn’t be too hard to find a bunch of lava,” Boxxy brushed her concerns aside. “What I’m wondering about is something else entirely.”
“Which is?” the golem asked, against her better judgement.
The shapeshifter looked down at the sandy floor, then up towards the the surface, then back down.
“What would happen if I opened a Gate down here?”
Boxxy’s entourage had only a few seconds to comprehend the full depth of that innocent-sounding question before they realized the answer to it was forthcoming.
It all happened in an instant. One moment the magical portal appeared on the ocean floor. In the next, the three demons, the golem, the hylt creeper, and the ducky-suited harpy found themselves falling out of the sky amidst a deluge of seawater.
“Seriously, Boxxy?!” Fizzy shrieked.
“What?!” the shapeshifter threw its arms up. “I wanted to know what would happen!”
“Well I didn’t!”
“You should’ve said something!”
“Where in Alvin’s holy chipmunk did you even teleport us to?!”
“About three kilometers straight upwards!”
When deciding where to teleport to, either with or without opening a Gate, a Wizard had two options. They either used specific coordinates they already knew, provided they were within range of them, or they picked a direction and a distance, also known as a vector. Boxxy almost exclusively used the latter, which had also been the case with this little experiment. It had figured that, if it was going to try this, it might as well pick a spot with nothing nasty at the other end of it.
However, the shapeshifter had failed to consider what would happen to water that was under so much pressure when given an ‘out.’ The result had been that its entire posse had been swept through the portal before they’d even had a chance to react. The sheer volume of water that went through it alongside them had surpassed the Gate’s weight limit in less than a second, causing it to collapse and close almost immediately.
“Yeah, but why, though?!” Fizzy kept shouting angrily.
“It just seemed like a good idea at the time!”
As the two continued their argument, the rest of the group seemed to have already come to grips with the situation with a silent yet unanimous agreement of ‘Eh, could be worse.’ It wasn’t as if something as mundane as a high-altitude drop was a threat to any of them, anyway. They could either fly, slow their descent by gliding, or were hardy enough to splashdown at terminal velocity with just minor scratches.
After descending back to sea level with varying degrees of grace, the group began sinking to the bottom for the second time. Boxxy had tried opening another Gate closer to the ocean floor, but the only thing that had resulted in was a rather terrifying explosion of saltwater. Whether this ‘technique’ was actually useful for anything was debatable, but for the most part it seemed impossible to take a shortcut into the depths.
Once back to the bottom, they began searching for the underwater volcanoes Boxxy had mentioned in earnest. This had proven to be much more difficult than it seemed, however. Mostly because the group couldn’t really split up too much or else they’d lose track of one another. Even the familiars weren’t allowed to stray too far. Yes, they could simply be re-summoned if they got lost or something, but doing so would result in the loss of their aquatic exploration equipment, and Boxxy only had a limited number of those items.
They were all stubborn and persistent creatures, though, and kept either scouring the ocean floor for almost an entire day without rest or, in Boxxy and Jen’s case, food. The breakthrough seemed to come at the twenty hour mark, just as the shapeshifter had Reality Slashed some kind of giant clam-thing in order to steal its watermelon-sized pearl.
Chaotic energies swirl around you.
You can communicate with fish for the next five minutes.
A special action has been performed. LCK +1.
“… Huh, nearly forgot that was a thing,” the shapeshifter mused.
Though the random magical effects of Chaotic Disposition had been quite the nuisance at first, Boxxy had learned to live with them over the years. One trick it had discovered was that wearing an Amulet of Muting, a powerful trinket that prevented the casting of Spells, would also keep its lesser Hero Skill from acting up. It wasn’t a hundred percent sure why it worked this way, but it did, and Boxxy took advantage of it during downtime, even as Keira. It obviously wasn’t wearing it under these circumstances, and it was damn glad that it hadn’t.
The shapeshifter altered its body into a more eel-like shape and slithered around for about a minute until it found some weird-looking fish that didn’t seem to be too hostile to it.
“Hey there,” it spoke to it.
“‘Sup, bruh?” the animal responded in a disturbingly human-sounding voice.
Boxxy took a moment to mentally address the fact that it was, in fact, talking to a fish, then focused on trying to get some information out of it.
“Would you happen to know if there’s any active volcanoes in the area?”
“The fuck’s an active volcano, bruh?”
“It’s, uh, this really hot red stuff that comes out of the floor.”
“Oh, that shit? Yeah, me and my buddy saw something like that a while back. Let me tell ya, you don’t wanna taste the weird mud that comes out of it, ya feel me, homie? Like, it smells really good, but it made me trip balls for, like, five days or sumthin’. Shieeeet, I’m prolly still tripping, talking to a stank-ass eel motherfucker like you. No hate though, ya dig?”
“Uh… right. So, I just need to keep swimming that-a-way?”
“Yeeyaah!” the fish exclaimed. “Just look for the big egg-shaped boulder, then head right through the coral reef, hang a left once you’re clear of it, and just look for the glowy shit. Can’t miss it. Try not to piss off the tenticrablodon on the way though, that motherfucker ain’t got no chill, know what I’m sayin’?”
“Alright, great. Thanks for the help.”
“Ey, no problem, dawg. Peace out.”
Well, that was productive. Admittedly the fish seemed like a rather rude fellow, but this was the first time Boxxy had ever tried this ‘talk to fish’ thing, so it had no way of knowing whether they were all like that. It tried to interview a few more of them while it had the chance and was able to confirm that yes, fish were in fact quite rude. Regardless, the ones it had questioned pointed it in the exact same direction as the first one. Apparently this volcano was a sort of local tourist attraction or something. A few of them also warned the monster that it needed to watch out for ‘them five-finned tall-fish’ since they were ‘whack-ass nibblers,’ whatever that meant.
As for Boxxy’s entourage, the girls hadn’t even batted an eye when their leader started talking to fish. On the list of weird things the ex-mimic had done, this wasn’t even in the top ten. It wasn’t funny like the ducky thing either, just a bit unusual. Besides, nobody was going to complain about getting some actual directions to go on, even if their source seemed rather dubious. The group also encountered the ‘tenticrablodon’ that ‘ain’t got no chill.’ It looked like a weird crustacean with octopus tentacles for legs and a shark head poking out of the front. Boxxy found it to be uniquely palatable as far as seafood went, so its carcass was summarily tossed in its Storage for later consumption.
It still took almost an hour to cross that coral field, but the group finally began to see what appeared to be the glowing embers of active submarine volcanoes off in the distance. Or at least that’s what it looked like. Though their special goggles allowed them to peer through the pitch blackness of the ocean’s depths as if it were a cloudy day, that only extended to a range of about fifty meters. Everything beyond that was just a wad of blurry shadows.
It was therefore entirely understandable that Boxxy had mistaken those distant lights for volcanic activity. It wasn’t until it had tracked those glows down that it realized it had actually been heading towards a sprawling underwater city, built right on the ocean floor. Stone domes of various sizes, blocky buildings as big as palaces, and fields upon fields of cultivated seaweed stretched out before it. The whole thing was dotted with countless yellow, red, and white lamps that bathed the ocean’s depths in a warm light.
As for the residents of this submerged metropolis, they were undoubtedly the aquatic race of enlightened known as the krymer, two of whom were approaching the monstrous party. They were humanoids with smooth gray skin, pitch black sclera, hollow blue irises, and webbed hands and feet. They had colorful fins on every limb, including their otherwise bald heads and the long and powerful tails dangling from their lower backs.
The pair that were openly and calmly slithering towards Boxxy’s group were clearly a female and a male of the species. The krymer woman on the left had distinctly softer and curvier features than her companion, including a pair of small and compact breasts that made it clear her kind were aquatic mammals. Additionally, her fins had a vibrant red color at their base that shifted to a bright blue towards their tip, while the male’s were a far more subdued shade of solid blue. He was also very well built with positively ripped abs that were easily visible due to the fact that the green-and-blue skin-tight bodysuit he was wearing left his chest exposed, along with his hands, biceps, feet, and tail. The woman’s matching wine-red garment was quite similar, with the exceptions that, unlike the male, her nipples were covered while her inner thighs were not.
“What do you wanna do, boss?” Kora asked telepathically. “Wanna smash them now, or later?”
“Neither,” her master shot her down. “They might have information on the secret weapon cache we’re looking for, so play nice until I say otherwise.”
The shapeshifter had Xera whisper its orders to both Jen and Fizzy, who already looked ready to rumble. Boxxy would’ve told them directly, but Whisper Wind wasn’t usable in an environment without air. After confirming that both the harpy and the golem had relaxed from a combat stance into a neutral one, it turned to greet the krymer welcoming party. It also silently praised itself for having the foresight to shift into its Sandman disguise on the way here, as it imagined they wouldn’t be willing to talk to a monstrous eel-thing in a cloak.
The two krymer slowed their approach once they were within thirty meters and floated forward for a few more as they straightened themselves out.
“Hail, surface dwellers,” the woman greeted them with a soft clap of her hands. “We have been sent to you as envoys on behalf of the Council of Saphrina. My name is Amona, and this is Wyatt.”
The man also clapped his hands. That seemed to be a sort of greeting among their kind, so Boxxy decided to mimic it while introducing itself.
“Hello. I am Hugh Mungus.”
It had also decided against using its ‘Sandman’ alias, as it was highly unlikely anyone here actually knew of it. One could argue that using the joke name on its fake Status was a bit much, but it didn’t have time to come up with a new identity right now.
“These are my companions, Jennifer Jackson and Fizzy Rustblood, and the other three are my demonic familiars,” it introduced the others in turn.
“Familiars? You are a Warlock?” Wyatt said, almost accusingly.
“Indeed. Don’t worry, I have a tight leash on them.”
“Hmpf. We’ll see about that.”
“May we ask what is your purpose in coming here?” Amona inquired politely.
“We’re adventurers from the Ishigar Republic,” it half-lied. “We’re currently seeking the wreckage of a ship that supposedly sank in this region four centuries ago. We were in the midst of our exploration when we happened upon this place by accident. I apologize for any trespassing, it was not our intention.”
“That is quite alright, you haven’t broken any of our laws.”
“Not yet, anyway,” Wyatt chimed in.
“What my colleague means to say,” Amona shot him a sharp glare, “is that our laws and customs likely differ greatly from yours, which can cause undue incidents. We would therefore greatly appreciate if you would allow us to serve as your guides during your stay in Saphrina. Assuming you wish to visit, that is.”
“We would very much like to, yes.”
“In that case, I’m required to ask what you hope to accomplish during your stay here. It’s mostly a formality, but I must insist that you make your intent official.”
“I see. Hmm…”
The shapeshifter paused to formulate its words, its billowing cloak spreading out in all directions like ink as it did so.
“I imagine your people have lived here for many generations, and would surely have records dating back to the time period I mentioned. I would therefore like to peruse your libraries and converse with your historians if at all possible. My companions and I would also appreciate the chance to experience krymerian culture and cuisine, in addition to having a place to rest and recuperate. Lastly, I would like to see what sort of adventurer or mercenary work you have available in case there are good opportunities for us to earn a bit of extra coin.”
“Excellent,” the woman smiled brightly. “We would be more than happy to accommodate your wishes, but for now I must ask you to follow me to the guard post so we can get you checked in. Right this way, please.”
“Before we go, I’d like to ask one question.”
“Of course. I will do my best to answer.”
“How come this Council of yours sent two whole envoys for a bunch of random strangers? It seems like a bit much.”
“Like Amona said, things work differently around here,” Wyatt explained. “We rarely get visitors, so we try to treat the few that show up with the… care and attention they need.”
“Okay, seriously, what’s his problem?” Boxxy asked Amona.
“Please forgive him,” she tilted her head. “Wyatt here had a bad experience with the last guests we had. They accidentally sexually harassed him.”
The man definitely seemed uncomfortable hearing that, but it seemed to be the truth.
“Uh… care to elaborate?”
“One of them grabbed his fin without permission. Those are very important to our courting rituals, so doing that sort of thing is no different to copping a feel.”
“I see. Then, is it okay if I compliment you on yours? Because they look quite nice.”
“Oh, thank you,” Amona blushed lightly in response. Or at least that’s what Boxxy assumed had happened when the small fins on either side of her head flared completely red for a few moments. As for Wyatt, he merely rolled his eyes in disapproval.
“Come on,” he beckoned. “Let’s get you people through customs, you can flirt all you want afterwards.”
Amona shot him another sharp glare, but didn’t say anything further. The two krymer turned around and skillfully used their tails to push themselves forward at a leisurely pace while remaining upright. Boxxy’s troupe all swam after them, except for Fizzy, who seemed content to stomp along the ocean floor. It wasn’t as if moving around like that was her only option, though. Her Assault Mode’s back-mounted Jump Jets worked just as well underwater as they did out of it, and would afford her a lot more mobility than this slow trudge she was currently confined to. However, the golem felt there was no need to rush towards that krymer settlement, nor was she all that interested in exploring it.
Mostly because Null had estimated that, based on Boxxy’s track record and current behavioral patterns, there was a 94% chance that Saphrina City was about to become a bubbling crater.