The Outlands - Chapter 17

Published at 3rd of May 2022 09:12:37 AM

Chapter 17

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From just the first monster, Tess could tell that this dungeon was a few cuts above what she had been going through. It was a sort of…bipedal animal that vaguely resembled a fox, were the fur to be replaced with a thick, glossy green carapace and the muzzle with something more akin to a lamprey’s maw.

Alice wrinkled her nose. “I hate it when mini-dungeons get creative. It’s almost never fun to look at.” She hefted her shield, planting herself firmly between Tess and the monster. Unlike the other times she had been dungeon diving with Tess, Alice had kitted herself out in a full suit of armor, and Tess was beginning to wonder why she hadn’t been wearing it before; she moved like she wasn’t even wearing the armor, and it somehow wasn’t making any sound. “Alright, give the thing a hit and I’ll take it from there.”

Tess activated Pressure Puncher and lashed out with her claws. There was a strange sense of resistance as she tore through the empty air, and a small gash appeared on the creature’s carapace, a wriggling parasite barely visible over the oozing brown blood.

You have scratched Vulpine Petromyzon’s carapace for 5 damage, 5 of which was absorbed by its carapace!

The monster screeched and charged towards Tess, but Alice threw her sword at it, stopping it in its tracks. It struggled for a moment, and then the sword flew back to Alice, leaving an enormous crack where it used to be. “Did you do any damage that wasn’t absorbed?” Alice asked, hefting her sword again.

“No.” Tess replied.

“Hit it in the gash I made then. I’m not sure you’ll get EXP if you don’t do any non-absorbed damage.”

Tess made another attack, and this time was met with a small stream of blood spraying out from the monster, through which a wriggling parasite could barely be made out.

You have gouged Vulpine Petromyzon for a critical 14 damage!

You have planted a parasite on Vulpine Petromyzon! It will deal 2 damage and heal you 2 HP every second until removed.

You have Poisoned Vulpine Petromyzon! It will take 2 damage every 5 seconds for 2.5 minutes

You have inflicted Heavy Bleeding on Vulpine Petromyzon! It will bleed for 14 damage every second for 120 seconds.

Alice nodded and threw her sword again, landing a hit on the broken spot and causing the monster to disappear into nothingness, leaving behind only a core.

Vulpine Petromyzon has been killed! You gain 135 EXP! Monster Breeder has gained 67 EXP!

Alice grimaced, shaking her sword as if to flick off some nonexistent grime. “Let’s get this over with. I don’t want to spend any more time around these things than I have to.”

Tess nodded. “I agree.”

The rest of the mini-dungeon was mostly the same. There were a couple of traps, but mostly it was just fighting those fox-lamprey things until they reached the Rewards Crystal. Fortunately, the reward was worth the discomfort traversing the dungeon put them through.

Elemental Fists:
Rarity: Legendary
Type: Passive
Gives a 5% chance to imbue your unarmed attacks with a damage type you have the appropriate Skill for. The chance is repeated for each damage type Skill you have, and if multiple would be selected the most advantageous is chosen. Individual damage types may be turned on and off independently of each other.
Current available damage types: Air, dark, earth, electric, fire, ice, light, psychic, water
Used to scale off of your Magic. This has since been fixed and it now properly scales off of your Power.

They didn’t waste any time getting back into the hoverer, where both women took off their armor. “I must have blocked that one out of my mind.” Alice groaned, “Because I didn’t remember it before, and I really wish I don’t remember it now.”

“Is there…a lot of this kind of thing in dungeons?” Tess asked cautiously.

“Thankfully not. Mini-dungeons tend to have all the weird-looking stuff, and half the time it’s not even properly functional stuff, either.” She opened the fridge near her and grabbed a water, which she unscrewed and, instead of drinking, poured all over herself. There was remarkably little splash, too – most of the water was absorbed the moment it came into contact with her skin.

Alice let out a contented sigh. “It’s really nice to get out of that armor. It’s just so…stuffy. Speaking of armor, what kind are you in the market for? You’re in leather so I’m guessing light armor, but I want to be sure.”

“Yeah, I think that’s for the best.” Tess agreed. “I’m not really confident in moving well in anything bulkier than what I’ve been wearing.”

“Eh, we can teach you if need be. But my guess is that light armor will be best for you anyway, from what I’ve heard there are a bunch of unarmed Skills that incentivize wearing lighter stuff.”

Yeah, that. I’m pretty sure we have a few of those lined up for you down the road a bit.

“So, um…what should I look for in armor?” Tess asked, “Is there anything in particular or will we just be grabbing whatever looks like the best set?”

Alice shrugged. “That really depends on what you want to be doing. In general, though, I think we want to be looking at the effects the armor provides more than the raw defensive bonuses. If all goes well you generally shouldn’t be targeted except by area attacks, so defense isn’t as big a selling point as it is in a lot of other cases. We’ll have to see what’s on offer, because there’s a lot of variety at this level, so honestly we’ll just be grabbing what looks best, yeah.”

The rest of their ride was spent idly chatting until they pulled up to the city walls. “Hey, I uh, just realized, I don’t know the name of this city.” Tess said, “That’s weird, right? I mean, I’ve been hanging around here for almost a week, I should know.”

Alice laughed. “The city doesn’t have a name, not really. It’s technically got a lot, but only people from other planes use them. This is the only city city in The Outlands, so we just call it the city. Easier to know what everyone’s talking about when you don’t have to remember a dozen different names.”

Tess frowned. “Why this? Why not just decide on one?”

Alice shrugged. “It’s a compromise. Everyone from different planes wanted the city to be officially named their idea, and before the guild came into power the name was stuck in bureaucracy. Right now the guildmaster isn’t allowing one name to be officially stamped onto the city, he’s waiting for a name to come into popular use naturally, and more and more it’s seeming like it’s just going to be ‘the city’.”

They walked through the gates, and Alice began to lead Tess to a district of town she hadn’t been in before. It was filled with all sorts of shops – street stalls, traditional shops, even what appeared to be a couple of mall-type buildings. The place was bustling with people of all sorts, even ones that really didn’t look like freelancers.

Alice took her into one of the mall-like buildings. “This is the go-to place for armor for low to mid-level people.” She explained. “You’ll probably be coming here until you’re around level sixty to seventy, so it’s good to get familiar with it now.”

She took Tess to a signpost that had a map of the building, which she began to look through. “We want an Io’s, if they still have one here. They’re a pretty good series of stores, and though they’re mostly known for their high-level gear they have a couple of outlets where they dump what their apprentices make.”

Tess looked over the map with her, and eventually Tess was able to locate an Io’s. “Right here.” She said, pointing it out to Alice.

“Perfect.” Alice said, “That’s not even that far away from here.” She and Tess left the sign and made their way to the store, which was up on the second floor.

But they didn’t make it far inside before they were stopped. “Hey, Alice, is that you?!” A cheery man called, “It’s been a while, how’s the armor treating you?”

Alice was already walking over to the source of the voice, motioning for Tess to follow, and Tess turned to see a tall elf with short hair behind the counter, with what appeared to be a dwarf boy next to him, though Tess was just guessing that based on the general build. There wasn’t any of the beard or hair or general heavy clothing or weaponry that Tess expected of a dwarf.

“Ah, Ten, good to see you!” Alice replied, “The armor’s been fantastic, it was worth every penny! Who’s this you have with you?”

Ten smiled. “I could ask you the same question. This is Dmitri, my apprentice.” He nudged Dmitri, “Say hi.”

“Um, hi.” Dmitri said shyly.

“This is Alice, member of The Rumors, a rank 9 party, and owner of the Reshi conglomerate.”

Alice watched Dmitri’s expression, smirking. “This is Tess, granddaughter of Guildmaster Los, and she’s gonna be a bigshot one day, mark my words.”

Dmitri had become visibly paler and waved a hand mechanically.

Ten rolled his eyes. “Dmitri, they’re just people, you don’t need to be so worried about it. You’ll be dealing with lots of important people in the future, so it’s good to get used to it now.”

Alice grinned. “Seems like we’ve been having some similar issues. Tess has been having a hard time acclimatizing to her status too.”

Dmitri frowned. “What’s there to acclimatize to? That kind of thing is something you’re born with.”

Alice waved a hand dismissively. “It’s a long story, but the gist is that she was adopted. It’s not really important right now. What is important is that we’re looking for light armor for her, preferably some that’s less focused on defense and more on effects. Unarmed bonuses, if possible.”

Ten raised an eyebrow. “That’s quite the coincidence, Dmitri is here dropping off some armor that fits that description to a T.”

“You’re yanking my chain.” Alice replied incredulously.

“Not at all.” Ten said, stepping out from behind the counter, “Follow me, I’ll take you to where we put them. Dmitri, you too.”

“Y-yes, sir.” Dmitri replied meekly, following his mentor out from behind the counter. The two led Tess and Alice to a back part of the store, where a few robes were sitting on mannequins. Next to each was a small plaque listing their effects, and Dmitri watched nervously as Tess and Alice looked over them.

“I like this one.” Tess said, pointing at what appeared to be a Gi of some sort. According to the plaque, it required a level of 20, offered a bonus of 10 to Defense and Magic Defense, like the leather she was currently using, but gave +10 to Power while unarmed, 50% increase to unarmed damage and a 30% decrease to the Stamina cost of unarmed abilities.

Alice walked over to it and studied it. “Yeah, that one’s pretty decent. It’s half a gold, right?”

“Yes, but we’ll slash the price to half that for the two of you. Call it a bonus for being a first-time customer.”

Alice smiled, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a gold piece, which she gave to Ten. “Let the kid keep the change, call it a bonus for providing exactly what we’re looking for. And, hey, maybe we’ll ask for him in the future. There’s enough of these that I’m assuming it wasn’t an accident, right?”

Dmitri nodded shyly. “Y-yes. I have a friend who got a bunch of unarmed abilities, so I thought I’d give it a go. These are the ones that didn’t really fit what he was looking for, he wanted stuff that was more defensively oriented.”

Ten took the armor off of the stand, then handed it to Tess. “There you are, young lady, use it well. If it needs any maintenance make sure you come to one of our stores, don’t try it yourself. We ensure that all armor comes with at least minor self-repair enchantments, so if there are holes or anything, that means it’s probably something more than an amateur should attempt. Chances are you’ll just end up doing more harm than good if you try.”

“What he said.” Alice agreed, “Their maintenance fees aren’t expensive, and they usually work pretty quickly, so don’t hesitate to bring your stuff in.” Alice started, apparently realizing something. “Oh, uh, Ten, mind if we talk privately for a minute? I have a couple of requests, and don’t particularly want details getting out.”

“Of course.” Ten replied, smoothing out his clothes. “I believe this store has an audience room, would you care to follow me there?”

Alice shook her head. “Sure. Tess, come with me.”

“Do you mind if Dmitri joins us as well, then?” Ten asked, “I want to give him some experience in the request process.”

Alice frowned. “Best not. While I’m sure he’s a trustworthy boy, it’s something that I would rather as few people know about as possible. Tess already knows, so she’s fine, but…” She trailed off, and Ten nodded understandingly.

“Of course.” He replied. “Dmitri, wait in the staff room, I’ll come pick you up when we’re done.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Alright, just follow me, then.” Ten said, walking off towards the back of the store, Tess and Alice following closely behind. He led them through a few short hallways before showing them into a room behind a nondescript door.

“These rooms are completely soundproofed, so don’t feel like you need to quiet yourself.” Ten told Tess, “No one outside will be able to hear, and we don’t record anything inside the room itself unless our client expressly approves of it.” He gave Alice a nod. “I assume you don’t want this recorded?”

“Please don’t. The guildmaster would have my head if I let any more of this leak than what I’m about to tell you.”

Ten raised an eyebrow. “Intriguing. Do go on.”

“I need to commission gloves and shoes for her.” Alice said, waving at Tess. “Something that can adapt with transformation, the fingers and toes will need to be able to open, though I’ll still need something on the bottom of the toes so they’re not on bare ground. Kind of like sandals, but sturdier. If at all possible, no defensive bonuses either, just offensive stuff for unarmed attacks.”

Ten wrote that down in a small book he was carrying. “Understood. Anything to add, young lady?”

“Ummm…” Tess began, a little taken aback by the suddenness of Alice’s order. “That’s fine, I guess. I didn’t know we were going to be ordering anything custom made so…”

“We weren’t.” Alice said, “Ten was here and we were looking at stuff and I remembered we’d probably need custom stuff for your hands and feet so it just sort of happened.”

“And what level range would you like this to be?” Ten asked.

“Something usable well into the thirties would be ideal. It’s fine if the minimum ends up being twenty-five, but higher than that is a no-go.”

“Come back a week from today and I’ll have the gloves ready for you. Will there be anything else?”

“No, that’ll be all. Thanks, Ten.”

“You’re most welcome. As for the price, would five gold be considered fair?” Ten asked.

“More than fair.” Alice agreed.

“Excellent.” Ten said, standing up. “Follow me and I’ll show you the way out.”

He led them back through the hallways, stopping for a moment to grab Dmitri from the staff room. They parted ways at the counter, Dmitri and Ten going back into the back of the store while Tess and Alice left, though Tess was able to catch the beginning of the conversation Dmitri and Ten had thanks to Enhanced Hearing (Perfect).

“Dmitri, what did you learn from this?”

“Um, well, when dealing with important people…”

Tess stopped paying attention after that, the walls between them making straining to listen to the conversation more trouble than it was worth.

“So…um, anything else you want to do?” Alice asked.

“Uh, I guess not.” Tess replied.

“Cool, cool. I’ll just drop you off then, and…we’ll be back to normal business tomorrow, I guess?”

“Yeah, that sounds good, I guess.”

And, with that awkward conversation, they set off for the guild, their day finally coming to a close.

Fighterman481 Well, uh...don't have much to say about this. Been taking a break and just writing this in bits and pieces. Going to try and pick up the pace now so there's more chapters once I start posting this to SH and it goes weekly. We'll see how this shakes out.

Um, that's all, though. Next time we' know, I'm just going to leave it as a surprise, so look forward to it!



Or not. With the benefit of hindsight I have a little more to talk about. Yeah, I forgot their planned outing to show Tess a little more how to deal with her period, but it is what it is. We'll say they forgot too, after the whole "really gross monsters" thing and going to get new armor lol

Anyway, as always, thanks for reading!

Please report us if you find any errors so we can fix it asap!