Duty Session 390: 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
So, Kita is waiting in the cellar of one of the shops near Alne, dressed in her usual 'black mage' attire and paging through one of her spellbooks to pass th time as she waits for some other Adventurers to arrive and take up the call.
In the mean time, her eyes keep flicking towards the stairway leading downward. The girl's Imp tail twitches. "Well, at least it's not goblins."
She stops in the middle of the room, and with a few blinks, she not as much 'snaps' as more like 'slowly wooshes' back to reality.
"...Did Doctor Prophylaxis have a cellar? I don't remember this cellar," she comments, tapping her lips.
Noticing Kita, she waves to her, with a cheerful "Oh, hi!" Her shoulders slump slightly while her expression morphs into one of mild concern and embarrassment. "...this is the shop for the rat duty, isn't it?", she asks, sounding afraid of the answer.
"Ah well, I was thinking that with the Slime Labs growing and the new rental business we need a new manager, might as well do some head hunting while I'm here."
He cracks his knuckles to loosen up, and rolls his shoulders, saying, "Sorry I'm a bit slow, just got up. But I'm ready to rock and roll."
The Imp offers a curious lift of one scarred eyebrow and then chuckles. "It is. I'm looking for some help in clearing out monsters. Make things a bit easier on the town defenses. You're welcome to come." Kita doesn't quite look sure what this might have to do with the Slime Laboratory, but she shrugs.
"Hey Schneider. Don't worry too much. I don't expect we'll have much trouble. It's just rats, afterall." This is how it starts...
At the end of the staircase, there is a strange pit that seems to be made of bones. Hundreds of bones. As bones are not a common drop for monsters, there must have been a lot of creatures which died here recently to drop this many. At first glance, there is no exit visible, it must be buried somewhere underneath the sea of bones.
"Uh... this is definitely not my forte." Kita admits, kicking a few with a toe.
And this is portentious because bones are quite flammable, if you can burn them hot enough, and Schneider can absolutely burn them hot enough. Once the bones are burned away, the way forward is much clearer. It's a bit harder to breathe, but that's the tradeoff.
Bones. It's bones evrerywhere.
"Let's see, hmm." She rummages through the pile, looking for an exit, apparently, but soon-
"What an interesting scaphoid. And look! This looks like a third metacarpal- Oooh, a Metatarsal! A Proximal phalange!" She picks up the bones and gives them a nice, interested look at each naming. "Man, I've never seen such a nice specimen of Hyoid! I should start a collection."
Schneider's fire along with a blast of Kita's arcane magic seems to do the trick, clearing away enough of the bones to reveal a trap door that leads further into the ruins. There is little choice for them but to jump into the inky darkness below.
As they light the chamber, it almost looks like a dead end. However, there are a number of strange things about the room. There are unusual gaps in the stone that look almost like keyholes. There is also strange writing scrawled on the walls.
Most unusually, is that there is an absolutely pristine looking lute leaned up against one wall.
She approaches the wall, and her chin tilts up and down, left and right, as she follows the writing by waving a hand in the air, her index finger pointing now here, now there.
"Hmm... good point, Schneider. By combining your information with this... hm... it would appear that the trick lies in generating producing some sort of... correct frequency interference pattern... while depressing the right tiles on the floor..."
"Oh, seems like it's some sort of guitar-playing and tile-dancing mini-game of sorts."
She extracts some writing implements, some paper, and scribbles down some musical notation. "This is the part for the lute..." She scribbles more musical notation. "This is the part for the voice..." and finally, some system of footprints, arrows, and squares. "And this is the dancing part."
She hands over the appropriate sheets to people. "Ok, folks. I suppose it's showtime..."
Her first instinct is to play something familiar to her, which ends up being a few bars of one of Prophetic Underground's biggest hits. It sounds a little strange on a lute rather than an electric guitar.
Then, however, as Uta hands her a list of instructions, she seems to easily flip into 'performer' mode, starting to play and sing the parts required.
The device seems to activate with their combined efforts, opening into another tunnel. There, a giant creature seems to slumber. It is hard to tell who makes the noise that wakes the creature (probably Uta), but the head lifts, foaming muzzle looking in their direction.
The passageway between the creature and the Adventurers is small, but large, grasping claws try to scrape their way through and get to them. It seems they need to block the way of the monster, or damage it enough that it backs off and they can get through.
A creature sure to strike fear in the heart of bystanders.
A creature nobody would ever want to say "no" to.
"...I want that as my head of sales!", Uta exclaims, pointing at it.
When the massive rodent awakens with a flicks of its ears and transfixes its eyes on the Spriggan who awoke it, the latter's ears droop down, and with a whimper, she asks, "...did I say that out loud?"
As the beast appears ready to lunge, Uta, with a swift sweep of her hands, parts the Earth below her, and falls into the resulting crack.
"Quick, follow me here! It's too narrow for the Rat to reach us!", she exclaims, and with walls of stone on each side, she darts onwards; under the control of her magic, the 'tip' of the crack moves foward just before her face, while the rock parts around her.
"Let's get going, I don't want to stay here and get bitten by that thing. I'm already a guinea pig for Doc, I don't need a new disease for him to study." She follows Uta at that point, heading into a larger set of tunnels.
What they find there is... interesting to say the least. There is a small army of little anthropomorphic rats, complete with armor and tiny weapons. They seem to be guarding the place. They would be downright adorable, if they weren't quite so threatening.
As soon as they see the Adventurers, they turn, brandishing those tiny weapons and charging at them.
"Oh? You're a guinea pig for doc too?", Uta suddenly asks Kita. It would appear that it is very easy to get Uta to talk shop.
To be fair, it is very easy to get Uta to talk, period.
"Nice! I'm one as well. What is he testing on you? He tested some crystal medicine on me. It's amazing. Doctor Prophylaxis must be one of the best medical minds we have in this world." With a slight frown of concentration, as if suddenly noticing something, she adds, "Now that I'll be around Tolbana much more, I should ask if he needs a part time nurse at his clinic."
All this while she keeps walking. That is, until she sees the army of mice.
"D'aaaaaaaw. Look at them. Being cute. Are they re-enacting the Batrachomyomachia?" She looks around, hand on her lips. "Where are the frogs?"
As the mice attack, she swings her staff to point it at the charging army, and sings a breezy aria; tendrils of light dance on the staff, forming colorful helixes which coalesce into the gem: the jewel, charged with magical enrgy, glows, and begins to suck in air, like some sort of magical vacuum stick.
There is nowhere to suck the rats -into-, so, once reaching the staff, they keep flying towards the opposite end of the magical item, and are thus hurled against the opposite wall, where they take massive damage or shatter outright.
The little army of rat-knights might be cute, but they don't stand a chance against powerful magics. The fact that they are wearing armor and wielding metal weapons means they are particularly vulnerable to electric attacks. Uta takes out a few more with her vacuum-based spellcasting, while Kita smashes them with a mixture of dark and air energy that creatures a sort of magical shrapnel.
Soon after, with a bit more travel, the trio find themselves in a familiar circular room, the sort that usually contains a boss monster. It is unusually dark inside, almost a supernatural sort of darkness that even the most keen of senses can't seem to pierce easily.
Two red eyes flash at them from the other end of the chamber. The creature looks almost smokey, the impression of a rodent-like muzzle surrounded by mist. When it moves, it seems amorphous, like it were made out of some dark, elemental smoke.
Where it attacks, the Adventurers are left feeling cold, as if all the light were sucked from the world.
At the sight of the Shadow Rat, Dark Schneider frowns, and begins casting his signature spell. It seems like dark is competing against dark, now, because Schneider's spell is the opposite of happiness and light. It's existential dread and hellfire and damnation, all mixed up into a big ball of whupass.
"Kaizard, aruzard, kisk!" he chants sonorously. "Hansay Glossik! Unleash total destruction! Sage of Hades use the seven keys to open the gates of Hell!"
He takes a deep breath, and shouts, "HALLOWEEN!"
And then it goes poorly for the rat. Horrible, evil, dark fire roils and pulses, incinerating the rat horribly, sucking down its HP bar as the fire rages and surges. And this is why he's called an Exploder Wizard.
There is a frown of concentration, followed by an apologetic "I'm sorry, I get carried away. I... I was just like you, Kita. My grades in science were terrible. But then..." There comes that frown of concentration again. "I don't know, while I inhabit this avatar, all things medical just... come natural to me. I seem to learn much faster, and better."
She sighs. "Perhaps it's the game messing with our heads, or perhaps, it's just me having learnt my lesson..."
She doesn't linger on that, deciding to, instead, exclaim "Right! Boss!"
She lowers her stance, inspects the boss, and after a quick hmmm, she swings her staff to point at it. "I'll be support."
She sings a melody which alternates between celestially breezy and infernaly oppressive, in pitch and timre, and soon, after the obligatory tendrils coalesce into the gem, two beams shoot out, red and green, to sap HP from the monster and replenish the HP bar of whomever she directs the green beam to. and then, temporarily throwing her staff in the air (with a spin) to free both hands, she punches her fist. "Right! Of course! Now I remember!" She catches her staff and resumes her proletarian energy redistribution. "-That- is why I came here to doc's place! I wanted to ask him if he needed a part-time nurs-"
She blinks and looks around, still in the middle of the fight. "...this is the rat duty, isn't it?"
As for Uta's explination, Kita seems to be listening, curious. The girl may not be the most scientifically minded, but she does respect other people's interests. "It's fine. My dad was a geek, so I'm kind of used to it."
Looking over towards Schneider, the corner of her lip quirks ever so slightly. What do you get when Scale Emblem Adventurers get together? Fire. Always Fire.
"From the blackest pits, I call upon thee. Fire of the darkest heart: Stygian Inferno!" She blasts the creature with a purple flame, driving it back.
Eventually, the creature simply flickers before bursting into pixels, leaving behind a few remnants of that strange, dark mist. "It is the rat duty. But I'm sure Doc wouldn't mind you meeting with him once we get out of here."
Keeping one vial to herself, she places one next to Schneider, for him to find as soon as he turns around. "I don't really remember that anime," she begins, "but I'll be glad to learn more about it. It might be useful in researching storytelling techniques if we ever team up with Kita to draw a manga." She then turns to Kita, to offer her another vial. "Thank you for your help here. And, hey, that reminds me. I am putting together a gang of bards to collect the Songs of Yamato on the field, and research them. Would you be interested?"
Clearing her throat, Kita raises her eyebrows at the idea of bringing together a group of bards. "Sure. I'm always interested in learning more about music and how it works here. Doc just usually keeps me too busy to really look into it much."