Boris’ hooves clicked against mist-shrouded stone. The portal disappeared as he passed through it, leaving Fey and her pets somewhere in a low mountain range.
Fey surveyed her surroundings. The stone-cobbled path before her led up one of the small mountains, surrounded by lush vegetation that took advantage of the humid air. The mist shrouded the sun enough to cool the air, tinge the area grey, and muffle sound, creating an atmosphere of hushed serenity. The overall effect would not be out of place in a movie where the protagonist was undergoing ‘secret training at a mountain retreat’.
Near the top of the mountain was a compound built of the same plain, grey stone as the walkway that led up to it. She could only see the outer wall, but it looked austere enough to qualify for the word ‘monastery’.
Since there was no other visible man-made structure in sight, Fey got off Boris’ back and began walking towards it. The ascent was an easy climb of half an hour, the path never rough or particularly steep.
The outer wall had a set of double doors three times Fey’s height. One leaf was open wide enough for several people to walk in side by side, so Fey slipped in and found herself in a square courtyard of packed dirt.
A low, one-storey building formed three sides of the square, again built of grey stone. The mountain rose steeply up just beyond the building’s walls, giving the impression that the compound was dug into the mountainside. Not a single person could be seen or heard, but the meticulous tidiness of the area told Fey that this dwelling-place was not deserted.
The door in the centre of the building slid open along its grooves. Fey caught her first glimpse of a werebeast.
Werebeasts in Fantasia were designed with a mix of realism and attractiveness in mind. They were not the cute, cat-eared-but-otherwise-human girls often depicted in anime, nor the grotesque, distorted creatures seen in horror movies. (The author can only assume that’s what creatures in horror movies look like, as she’s too wimpy to actually watch them.) Rather, the humanoid base shape was blended harmoniously with animal traits that did not detract from its visual appeal.
The NPC before Fey was some kind of were-cat without spots or stripes; based on the sand-coloured fur and natural black eyeliner, she was guessing cougar(1). His pointed, furry ears were farther up his skull than where human ears were located, though not as far forward as where people wore decorative animal-ear headbands. Other than his scalp, which had normal hair, his skin was covered in fur short enough that it looked like bare skin from a distance. Large amber eyes tilted up attractively at the outer corners, their vertically-slit pupils intensifying the ‘inhuman’ impression he gave off. Dressed in a dark leather outfit that did nothing to disguise a leanly muscled physique, the NPC looked dangerous and exotically handsome, everything combining to reinforce the image of a badass assassin… Except for the tail. Fey resolutely kept her eyes away from the long, fluffy tail that twitched semi-independently of its owner’s will, knowing that she would begin to giggle helplessly the moment she paid it any attention.
As the system informed her that this was Rreowar (pronounced ‘rawrwar’, hahaha), the assassin trainer, he spoke, revealing the teeth of a carnivore. “So. Warrior and rogue, why are you here?”
“To become an assassin,” Fey answered.
“And what is an assassin?” he challenged.
“A killer,” she stated simply.
Rreowar gave her a look of approval that vanished into a serious expression. “Indeed. If you choose this path, you will learn nothing else. You will never lead troops in battle, or gain skills to solve dungeon puzzles. Every skill will be dedicated to killing faster and more efficiently. You will walk alone in the shadows. If this is not what you want, there is still time to choose a different subclass.”
Honestly, the whole deal sounded delightful to Fey. Teamwork is overrated. “I am committed.”
“Prove yourself, then. To be an assassin is to kill in countless ways. Show your aptitude by slaying 10 monsters your level or higher with different methods. You must complete this task alone; not even your pets may help. You may return to your original location or hunt the monsters in these mountains. Shadow bless you.” With that, Rreowar turned and disappeared back into the building.
(Fey managed to turn her amusement at the sight of his tail into a quiet exhale.)
“So, mountains or forest?” Fey asked her pets (*poll*).
She received a chorus of squeaks with mixed opinions, and chuckled. “ ’Kay, I’ll just decide, then. Back to the forest.” Since she had to complete her quest without her pets’ help, she thought it would be safer to send them off to train independently in a familiar territory. (Is it ever really safe to send your pets off unsupervised? Oh well, plot armour and all that.)
Fey pulled out the assassin token, which had disappeared into the same un-lose-able, manifest-at-will space as her teleportation key after use. Flipping it into the air opened a portal back to the same spot in the Elvenwood that she had left the hour before.
Stepping through, Fey made her way to the deeper monster territories that matched her level of 33 and began to experiment.
The first monster was poisoned to death. Fey confirmed her guess that using Amethyst to poison her weapons did not count as outside help. Using different poisons, however, still only counted as a single method of killing. With that, Fey sent her pets off to train (/explore/create general mayhem) without her and began brainstorming creative ways of killing things.
I wonder if this is what screenwriters for horror movies feel like, Fey reflected as she strangled a hapless monster to death. (We could probably retitle this story as 101 Uses for Rope.) It rather creeped her out that her brain could conjure up so many weird ways to kill things. As the quest progressed, the methods only became more bizarre. (In order to maintain this story’s family-friendly rating, the rest of the methods will be left to the reader’s imagination.)
In the end, Fey judged that this quest was actually easier than the one she had to complete to become a rogue. She killed over 50 monsters trying to find methods different enough to contribute to quest progress. Some of those methods were quite time-consuming, so by the time the quest bar read, ‘10/10,’ night had fallen and Fey was ready for a break.
Fey took the trail leading back to town and called her pets with the signal she had pre-arranged. Using her telepathy stone, she emitted a very high-frequency sound. Although easily audible to most people under the age of thirty(2), it was the kind of droning background noise commonly produced by electronics that people had learned to ignore from a young age. The sound was more conspicuous in an untamed forest, but Fey’s hope was that she could broadcast it loudly enough to summon her pets without attracting too much outside attention.
As far as she could tell, it worked. Nothing attacked her, no players came to investigate, and Boris joined her in walking back (*success*). As per their new habit, the smaller Feypets hitched a ride on his back. In the nighttime conditions, the glooms were almost invisible against the boar’s dark bristles, while Amethyst stood out with a faint, purple glow.
Wait a minute… There were actually two glowing objects. Her eyes had been momentarily fooled because they were close together and the second glow was a pale blue that almost blended into Amethyst’s purple.
Fey stopped walking and Boris halted beside her with his extra passenger. “Where did this guy come from?” she demanded. She was referring to the second slime blinking (cutely) up at her from beside Amethyst.
Amethyst squeaked. (“It just started following me around. I think it’s the crown.”) She tapped her trophy from the King Slime with her bubble (See Chapter 26 if you don’t remember) for emphasis.
Inkblot also chimed in. (“It was fan-sliming pretty hard, so we decided to bring it along.”)
Amused and exasperated, Fey bowed to the inevitable and picked up the new slime.
<Fey has tamed the slime!>
<Fey receives a pet!>
<Fey has attained level 3 Slime Mastery! (details in Bestiary)>
<Please select a name for your pet: ___>
“Aquamarine,” Fey decided, keeping to her gemstone theme.
<Aquamarine, level 1 slime>
<Hp: 5/5, Mp: 5/5>
“Gah, not again,” Fey grumbled. Slimes were really too fragile at level 1. She hurried back to the Moonwood before something could accidentally kill her new pet.
Back in the village, Fey headed to Tallen’s tavern for a meal. She usually ate one meal a day there, relying on travel food at other times in order to save trips back and forth from the monster territories. The ‘VIP table’ was still on the second floor, so she made her way there without waiting to be seated. Ever since the incident of Boris nearly being shot, she had taken to bringing the (massive) boar indoors with her; Tallen had considerately shortened one of the table’s long benches to give Boris somewhere to sit. (This may or may not have to do with the fact that more people paid to sit at the VIP table when there was something interesting already there, such as a six-Fey iron boar.)
Shortly after Fey took a seat, Todd appeared. He held an order pad, but not with the posture of someone preparing to write on it. “Hi, Miss Fey. Are you eating?”
“Yes, please,” Fey answered. She did not bother specifying her meal preferences, as she preferred to be delightfully surprised by Tallen’s mind-reading ability and culinary skill.
“Just a minute.” Todd disappeared downstairs and returned with a platter.
“…Sushi?” Fey questioned, recognizing the distinct cylindrical shapes of the seaweed-wrapped rice rolls. “Where did you get fish from?”
“We didn’t,” Todd answered. “These are all sweet potato rolls.”
Fey sighed dreamily. “Tell your dad he’s literally the best.” If Fey could be said to have a love affair with a particular root vegetable, sweet potato would be it. She picked up the chopsticks that came with the platter and lifted a sushi roll to admire before popping it into her mouth.
Todd chuckled. “You say that every time.”
“Because it’s true,” Fey mumbled through her food, covering her mouth with her hand while she spoke.
Amethyst hopped onto the table to inspect the food. As if copying an idolized elder sister, Aquamarine did the same. Though the slimes were largely the same in size and appearance, Amethyst was noticeably stronger and more intelligent just from watching her actions.
“Did you get a new pet, Miss Fey?” asked Todd.
“Yeah, I guess.” Fey’s response lacked enthusiasm. She really did not need another slime, and training it up from level 1 would be a hassle. Suddenly, and idea occurred to her and she perked up. “Hey Todd, want a pet?”
“What kind of pet?”
“This one.” Fey grabbed Aquamarine and dumped it into Todd’s startled hands.
Boy and slime examined each other. “It’s kinda cute,” Todd said doubtfully, clearly concerned with maintaining a manly image.
“Oh no, slimes are super fierce once you train them up,” Fey assured him. “Just look at Amethyst here.” Pulling out one of her throwing stars, she jabbed the triple-membraned slime with one of its sharpened points. Amethyst ignored the attack and ate one of Fey’s pieces of sushi. “I’d show you how strong her attacks are, but Tallen would yell at me for damaging the tavern,” Fey continued.
Todd looked impressed at Amethyst’s durability. “Okay. How much are you selling it for?”
“Oh, it’s a gift,” said Fey. She was starting to feel guilty about all the free meals she was eating (despite the fact that Tallen usually managed to profit from her presence in one way or another) and thought this would be a good way to give something in return.
“Really? Thanks, Miss Fey.”
<Pet ownership transferred(3).>
“What should I name it?” Todd asked.
“Whatever you want,” Fey said with a verbal shrug. ‘Aquamarine’ was really too much of a mouthful to be a good name, though it nicely matched the slime’s colour.
Todd spent a while making various contemplative expressions. “…I’ll go ask my dad.”
And thus began a week-long event to suggest names for the tavern’s new ‘official mascot’. To enter a suggestion cost only 5g.
(1) Puma concolor, referred to as cougar, mountain lion, and puma, is a felid species native to the Americas.
(2) People are born with a hearing range from approximately 20-20,000Hz. With aging comes mild sensorineural hearing loss that especially affects the upper range, so that the average person can only hear up to approximately 14,000-15,000Hz by the time they reach middle age.
(3) This is a plot event planned a long time ago in response to a review back in 2014 from one SfaKngWeTodd:
“Amethyst is my favorite!
I want a pet slime *threatens unice5656* give me one, or I change my rating to 0 stars.”
Please note that the author takes all suggestions and plot ideas into account and that threatening her with low ratings will not actually increase the likelihood that your idea will make it into the story.