Duty Session 334: Obligatory Rat Maze
It has been a year of Adventurers delving into the underground of various cities across Yamato, seeking to eliminate the rat infestation that has caused so many shopkeepers trouble. After all this time, something finally seems to have changed. The shopkeeper's dialogue has changed, explaining that while repairing their cellars, they found a passageway into a deeper part of the underground. Since then, rats have been finding their way up through the previously sealed passage.
Now, they are seeking brave Adventurers who are willing to, once again, explore the tunnels beneath the city, in order to seek out this new source of rats.
Rec. Party: 3+
World Rewards: None
They weren't going to get past Floor 10 without more training, so conveniently there's new Hunter's Guild duties to do. Though as she swats some of the dust and cobwebs away from the musty old cellar to eye the crack in the wall Vertina snorts softly. "Are we sure this is the new version? Doesn't look any different so far..."
There's rat noises coming from beyond the crack though, so at least they're in the right place.
"Rats are rats," Prophylaxis says, "No matter how much they grow or change, they shall forever be... rats. But in a way, there's something soothing about repeating well-practiced actions over and over again, right? It's a nice distraction."
The rats duty *changed*? Well, it changed before, but the general premise and layout hadn't. Mizuki puts on a smile and tells the shopkeeper that *obviously* she's prepared to solve any rat problem, but inside her thoughts stray to 'has it really been a year of this? What could this change mean?' Seeing Vertina though, she gives Lizard Friend a hug and that seems to cheer her up. She nods at Prophy's comment about the comfort of the familiar.
She points at the (clean, not molded-away) boxes and the crack. "Yeah, I've never seen this variation before. This is new." Once greetings are over with, she looks at the crack, detransforms, looks down at herself, considers, then retransforms. She's pretty short anyway, the reduced height of human form probably isn't as helpful as her were form's flexibility.
She peers dubiously at Prophylaxis when he makes his claim. "You make a habit of repeating actions with rats?" she asks, rephrasing it in not quite the worst way she can think of, but oh well. She wrinkles up her expression. "I think I'm just going to kill them, if it's all the same." she notes, hefting her rather large axe significantly.
Mizuki adds, at Fukaziroh's question, "This was the first duty to appear all over the place. We did it a lot, early on, to learn about how they work after the Apocalypse. The possible bosses at the end have changed a few times, but there were only a couple of layout variations... well. The sewer maze layout was different every time, but the encounters were always like, one of two sets? So this is new." She blinks. "Aww, does this mean we'll never see the Armored Rat again? It was so cute!"
"Too bad we couldn't just toss a match down here and take out the whole infestion no?"
"A match in a sewer? Isn't that an explosion hazard?" Mizuki answers. "Also, sometimes it turns out the infestation was caused by someone summoning extra-tasty rats to make into food! We wouldn't want to explode them and ruin-- augh oh god what is that smell?!" Mizuki covers her nose and then detransforms, fumbling her way through the crack in the dark until she can get out in the open and see someone's light source.
You've got several Scale members, Salamanders, and Fukaziroh here. WHo needs matches?
"Explosion hazard? It's not a hazard if that's the point, right?" Fuka grins wildly, nodding to Miho. "I'm admittedly a little fond of explosions sometimes. And fire seems a good way to deal with rats. But we don't want to blow up the streets above us do we?"
"Where's your sense of adventure?"
Once Mizuki sees what the problem is, she changes her mind. "R-right... but this has gotta be incinerated... I don't smell methane anyway..." Wait, does it have a smell? She pulls her gi up over her mouth and inhales, then transforms and breathes fire all over the garbage, trying to incinerate it, followed by ninpo-ing up an air shield for herself so she can breathe. "Agh... right... I can make fresh air with magic... That's good to know..."
She smiles at Miho when she sees the salamander doing the same! "Go team fire breath!" She holds her hand up for a high-five!
"We're going to need some light down here." Fuka notes, somewhat obviously. Fortunately for a wielder of a big axe, she's pretty good at several different classes of magic, and Light is useful for a lot of things. "And I don't mean setting everything on fire!" she scolds. "This time." she adds in a stage-whisper, possibly directing this at Flame-Lord Schneider... or possibly at her own pyrotechnic self.
"Well okay, setting everything on fire is fine I guess, but we still need steady light!" she notes, channeling some mana into her axe to set it aglow. "Don't expect this to mean I'm going to stand in front when we're attacked by rats! *I'm* not the one that thinks they're cute!" she adds.
...Or maybe that's just the stink of garbage wafting up from the depths of the earth.
"Why would you want to breathe /anything/ under these circumstances?" The doctor asks, because 'breathing' implies letting that awful miasma into their lungs. And that's just awful! "Burn it all away! The only thing that'll properly purge this much filth is a storm of fire!"
...Schneider predicted his order well. Is Prophylaxis getting too predictable? Regardless, he adds to the firepower pouring down into the hole with a barrage of his own blazing bolts. Pew-pew!
Alcohol makes a wonderful fuel source, getting her breath hot enough that the tips of the flame are actually blue instead of red and orange as it incerates a path clear.
And they managed not to blow the places up in the process of so much pyromania. Keen!
They also managed to find a trap door under the filth, which Vertina pries open with one of her clawed cestus and hops down.
".. Well, cork my backside and call me a bung." The room below isn't very clear on what it is, or where the exit is. Just lots of grooves and holes that might be important in the walls. "I've got nothing here." She glances over her shoulder. "You're the braniac, Doc, got any ideas?"
She looks around. Keyholes? Writing? A musical instrument? "Oh hey, now I know we're in a dungeon adventure." says Fuka, pointing. "Look. Lute!" she grins. She rushes over, shooing the (hopefully non-giant) rat away and picking it up. "Anyone have any ideas what I should play? Maybe something that's written on the walls, if anyone can decipher it?" she asks, perhaps slightly more serious than she's been before this. She's somewhat genre-savvy, and figures this is a crafted puzzle with a clearly obvious solution, if they're able to put enough clues together.
A trap door? A little checking shows the fall isn't long, but once they're all down there... There's some sort of rune puzzle, and... a lute? "Hey, wasn't there a bard down here for awhile? I never met her..." Mizuki picks up the lute and strums it a little. "Oh, hey, cool!" She starts playing snippets of videogame tunes... underground/dungeon and puzzle themes, mostly. "I never did learn how to play guitar in real life, it was too hard to bend my fingers enough... but here it just comes naturally!" She's so excited about this she forgets to actually do anything to help.
Into more maze. Cornering paths of switchbacks and dead ends. Until they finally find, or more aptly accidently stumble upon, another proper chamber.
A chamber full of rats in nests of horded material and filth. They don't read very high level, but the sheer numbers here lend one to not want to poke the proverbial problem.
"I don't see why Indy worried about snakes so much," Vertina mutters under her breath.
Fukaziroh scowls as Mizuki steals the lute from her and then doesn't even do anything productive with it. They do eventually work it all out, mostly by strumming random notes and tunes until the arcane apparatus has heard enough to trigger. At that point she may forgive the luter, but it's touch and go until they finally proceed.
Getting into the deeper catacombs, Fuka sees the horde of rats and signs of larger things indeed. A rat king perhaps? Giant rats? "Look." she says quietly. For her. "I figure we could probably burn all these rats, but some people think they're cute. I think we just need to SQUEAK THROUGH here and get to what's behind it all, okay?" she suggests.
Assuming the group is willing to be stealthy, and not kill Fuka for bad puns, she sets out to lead them through the rat-infested warren. Only to watch as Schneider lashes out with hell-energy. "Or that, I guess. Well, whatever works! I hope we didn't murder any cute pets!"
Mizuki's ears blush when she realizes in her excitement she grabbed the lute from someone else trying to play it. "Sorry... I just got excited..." They don't seem able to solve the puzzle quickly, though.
"Ugh, another maze. Usually this would mean we're gonna run into the racist rats next..." But she doesn't sound like she thinks that's what will happen.
Confronted with the rat horde, she suggests, "Maybe we should be quiet and sneak by? Well... I guess at this point someone always forces their way through the horde anyway..." And BOY DO THEY. She stares at Schneider's spell, and then hurriedly ninjas her way across before the swarm can cover the space again.
"Why," Prophylaxis asks the world, "Is there a place like this under here, anyway? Like, who built it? Why did they build it...?"
Was it just to contain a legion of rats!?
Speaking of which, there are many of those here. "I suppose we can't just burn them all this time. Too much risk of accidental gas explosion," Instead, Prophylaxis resorts to a much more... Direct way of killing them. They are living things, after all, and as a Magus, he has access to an element that is very well suited to dealing with those.
Schneider lights them all on fire anyway, but Prophy takes a subtler tack. The shadows thicken in ripples as he strikes the floor with his staff. Waves of flesh-sloughing energy plow through the churning mass of rats, reducing them to piles of dessicated ash in its passing. "Eh, it's fine," Prophylaxis says to Fuka, "I like animals too, but I make exceptions for rats."
More tunnels. This time the sounds of rat squeaking mixing with metallic clinks and... marching? That's weird.
And finding the source isn't making it any less weird, as they come across a squad of armor clad rodents, matching on their hindfeet so they can stand and wield weapons. Which upon seeing the intruding Adventurers they stop, one squeaking out what's probably orders as they bring the makeshift weapons to bear, and charge!
It's cute... but it doesn't make it any less dangerous!
Fortunately Fuka doesn't hold grudges. She's quick to annoy, but faster to forget and forgive, particularly for a comrade. "Are you sure this isn't a rat... uh, what are those things called where you have to work a crappy job? Rat maze? No wait, rat race?" she muses. And continues on musing semi-aloud as they navigate. Unfortunately none of her mumblings are particularly relevant or useful.
Upon entering the room with the squad of rodents, she looks back at Mizuki. "Okay, they ARE kind of cute." she admits, seeing the tiny little sharp weapons and armor and beady little eyes, not to mention the upright stance. "But I'm still gonna blow them away! Gale of SWORDS!" she cries, summoning a globe of air to her axe (ironically) before swinging it and launching a storm into the array of tiny warriors.
OK, maybe it /is/ a little cute to see a bunch of tiny rat-people sally forth in their tiny little rat-person armor. That /is/ pretty frickin' adorable.
And yet, Prophylaxis seems poised to set them all on fire in some way, shape or form, or so says the conflicted expression on his face. He gives the charging ratmen a glare that could curdle milk, lifts his hand, and...
...Conjures an electric blue-colored potion to chug.
"Sorry, need a sec," the doctor says, "OOM."
Please wait warmly while mana bars are refilled.
"'Rat race' is the metaphor... I suppose the mazelike qualities of this dungeon *might* be meant to bring to mind the mazes scientists use to study rodents' mental abilities though, as well." Mizuki answers.
And then the next group they find is...
A whole GROUP of armored rats! Mizuki raises her paws to her cheeks, eyes sparkling. "Oh my gosh there's a BUNCH of them now! They're even cuter in numbers!" But, she doesn't let her guard down, dodging away, trying to stab the rats in the back between the plates of their armor, apologizing as she does so. "Sorry..."
"Can someone hold aggro for a moment?" Once the rats are all focused on someone else, Mizuki stands clear, holds out her hand and incants: "Swirling bolts, gather and strike with power! LIGHTNING BOLT!"
Lightning should get some kind of hit bonus against enemies in lots of metal armor, right? Maybe? Does physics even work that way here?
One swings it's sword, longer than the rat is tall, at her, which the martial artist does the classic 'catch sword in hand', partially in thanks to the protective covering of her battle gloves, and partially knowing enough about weaponry to know where the makeshift weapon's balance is and can restrain it successfuly.
"BUT ITS WROOOONG!" she bellows in the rat's face, then punts it back across the room.
Dealing with the guardian rats is quick and effective, and the party makes their way to the final room. There's a tingling in the air, not unlike it being ionized just before a storm. Bits of broken metal rods lie about the room. One more clatters to the ground just as the group arrives, as it' chewed through by a strange glowing rat. Which then starts running around the room, trying to bite and kick people while it's movements send bolts of electricity arcing around the room!
"Say, this room looks kind of familiar..." Fukaziroh muses thoughtfully. She's actually fairly quick to spot the static effects, considering her skill with air and lightning magic. "Oh hey it's a lightning rat! Take a peek at chu, little guy!" she grins.
The grin fades quickly when she comes under lightning attacks. "Hey! No fair that's my trick!" she insists. And she can't even use Chopstick, considering that'd be hefting a rather large metal object in the middle of a lightning storm.
Fortunately she picked up a rather powerful Support Art recently, one just made for boss battles. Concentrating on the somewhat unfamiliar art, she makes the gestures while trying to stay relatively sheltered from the storm. As thorned vines lash out and surround the boss she cries out in (perhaps premature) triumph. "Sic 'im, guys!" she cheers.
Mizuki stares at Vertina. "Did they have Two Stupid Dogs in Japan? Or...?"
Once they reach the boss room... Mizuki finds herself having to dodge lightning, which... isn't really dodgeable and may require finding some sort of pattern in how Raiju and the rods are positioned. "Aaah now I know how Team Rocket feels!" If she can get just a moment, though, she starts doing some martial arts moves in place. "But I have something they don't... magic!" She finishes with a rising upward motion, and stone rises out of the ground around the party members, forming into insulating plate armor that, to them, doesn't seem to have any extra weight!
"Alright, Raiju... prepare to be grounded!"
There's a large yellow rat in the next room. It prizes its speed, and wields lightning as a lethal weapon.
"No," Prophylaxis commands. He slams his staff into the ground, and the ground answers with a low and ominous rumble. Thick vines erupt from the cobblestones, a tangle of fibrous threads that narrow the rat's viable avenues of escape until it's trapped in a cage of tangling strands. Finally, the wood wraps /it/ up as well, holding it helplessly in place for the others to do what they will.
"Finish it off," Prophylaxis says, though he doesn't need to at all. "I'll arrest its movements...!"
And then there's multiple Vertina also running around the room, nearly as fast as the rat is, as they move to interrupt it's charges against her party members. Occasionally a jolt of electrical current hits, only for the Vertina struck to disappear in a cluster of motes and spent ki.
Just for the real Vertina to step in, and soccer kick Raiju back into the center of the room, where Fukaziroh and Doc's vines entangle the beast. It bites and claws at the bindings, but doesn't accomplish much despite it's speed. Plants are naturally grounded and don't conduct electricity very well, after all. It's arguably a more effective cage than the lightning rods were.
Also makes it easy for Miho and Schneider to pummel it with additional Earth based forces. The use of elemental weaknesses deplete the boss's HP faster than it's static field can it's foes, until a tiny sparkless rat drops out of the tangle of plants and scurries off into the cracks of the walls with an annoyed hiss.
When it's all said and done Vertina walks over to pick up one of the broken rods from it's previous imprisonment. "Lots of tourists at the family inn," she explains to Mizukichi while examining the rod. "Might be able to make use of this. Let's get back topside and let the Guild know the job's done."
Mizuki still gets zapped a fair bit, the armor seems to not be as effective as she'd like. Still, she does her best working with the others! "Ooh, nice!" She calls out, at Prophy's use of vines!
"It's... shrinking? That's weird, right? I wonder what it means..."
After it runs off, Mizuki examines the drop. Reading aloud, she says: "'A charred piece of metal that looks to have once been part of a more advanced structure. There is a feeling to the metal, as if it still contained some electrical current within it.' Useful for Air, Metalworking and Construction. Hmm."
"So its a ROUS...no more." She muses before she packs her loot away. "So how about we go get cleaned up and get something to eat?"