I hear a knocking sound, a light tap that echoes throughout the room, poignant in the evening stillness.
“Hello? I am a [Maid], may I enter?” a voice asks, muffled but also clearly articulated. Probably a skill.
I yawn and sit up. The sheets fall away from my chest. I wonder who undressed me? I lick my lips, tasting alcohol and smelling lavender. My mind whirls back to the night before.
Damn. Enchanted alcohol. I thought I would never be able to get drunk. It never occured to me that I could weaken my resistance to a poison before consuming. Also, why do I smell like flowers?
I hear a knock again. “Sir?”
“Oh,” I perk up, “Yeah, you can come in.”
The door opens and a woman with long pigtails enters. She curtseys. “[King] Quasi, My mistress asked me to inform you that breakfast is ready.”
[King] Quasi? Huh, apparently my secret is out of the bag already.
“Aight, I’ll be there.” I say and remove the rest of the sheets, revealing my fully naked, god-chiseled body. The [Maid] blushes.
“Your clothing was removed for cleaning,” she quickly points to the nightstand near me, “but we have provided alternate garments while they are washed.”
I grunt and stand. The floral scent follows me, emanating from my flesh. I look over my body in a mirror, finding all of my god marks visible; the enchanted paint has been washed off and needs to be reapplied. Which isn’t good since the paint was also suppressing the pheromones from the stupid [Presence of the Alpha] blessing.
“Why do I smell like flowers?” I ask as I grab the clothing. Soft, silky, and slightly enchanted for comfort, I note.
The blushing [Maid] swallows audibly, her eyes linger on my body, unable to avert her gaze. “W-we cleaned you. You smelled of alcohol.”
“We,” I ask curiously, unfolding the underpants.
“Yes,” she answers and I glance up at her. Behind her, the entire [Maid] staff is huddled, blushing, just outside my room. Their eyes are all on me, roving my body like a pack of starving hyenas ogling a wounded animal.
What the fuck? I thought that it was just that the gejan and kitsune were naturally horny, not everyone! What the hell is-
Realization dawns on me. It’s not them,
It takes me longer than it should to reach the dining room, but I do arrive. My team is wearing new clothing provided by the [Baroness] and are seated along the dining table and eating a nice, healthy meal. They all look relaxed and happy, except for Jessica who is glaring at her mother. The mother in question smiles joyfully, still high on her daughter’s return.
I walk up to the silent dining table and take an empty seat. “Last I remember, you two were crying in each other's arms,” I comment, glancing at Jessica and Juliana with a critical eye.
“It is just a misunderstanding between mother and daughter,” Juliana begins as she cuts into a crape and raises it to her lips.
“I am not marrying anybody,” Jessica growls, her fork spearing a sausage before raising it to her lips with force reminiscent of the earlier [Maids].
“Come now, Josephine. Do you not wish for kids?”
“I’m not losing my virginity to anybody! I have sworn to Eir and my promise stands.”
Right. Okay. What have I walked into?
I look at Abernick who has a smile on his face, enjoying the exchange. Fiona on the other hand is relaxing and enjoying her food with all the grace of a [Queen] raised by shitty [Bandits]. Deflon is silent as usual, eating, but with his lips curve slightly up, hinting at a smile. The fact that Mother and Daughter are even together to argue makes the [Rune Smith] happy.
I give Abernick a questioning look.
“[Baroness] Juliana wants Jessica to marry and conceive a [Noble] Heir.”
Ahhhh. That makes sense. Jessica’s entire world revolves around Eir. Changing such an ingrained outlook would take years, let alone a single day. It also doesn't help that Jessica is hard-headed.
“It is her duty to continue our bloodline,” Juliana declares.
“I don't care about my bloodline,” Jessica growls.
The [Baroness] rolls her eyes. “The [Resurrect] skill is one of the most powerful legendary skills in existence. The skill can only be obtained naturally from certain third tier classes. Our bloodline allows us to obtain the skill easily when getting a second tier class.”
Jessica takes another angry bite of her sausage and swallows it with minimal mastication. “I am not giving up my faith for a stupid skill and stupid children,” she announces and focuses on her food.
Juliana sighs aloud but does not continue the argument. Instead, she turns to me.
“Quasi, thank you for keeping my daughter safe and for freeing her from [Slavers]. If there is anything I can do to show my appreciation, please just ask.”
I shrug as I start piling food on my plate. “No thanks necessary. I dislike slavery and Jessica is a good friend of mine.” I grab an empty glass and look for a pitcher, but frown when I see none. Before I can ask, one of the [Maids] I acquainted myself with earlier rushes in with juice and pours it into my glass.
She looks a little pale. And sweaty. And she’s discreetly rubbing herself against me.
“Thank you,” I say to the [Maid] and once again look to Juliana. “Whatever Jess decides, I will fully support her on it. On another note, you said you needed me for a job?”
Juliana perks up. “Ah, yes. I’ve seen your skill and knowledge regarding anatomy. I wished to hire you as a tutor for my academy, though that was before I found out you were a [King]. Speaking of which, what kingdom do you rule?” she asks.
“Just a deep southern one. I’ve got a [Queen] running things.”
“Another [Queen]?” Fiona asks, confused, “You mean [Mistress], right?”
“No. She’s actually a [Queen]; well, a [Myrmer Queen], which is more a class than an actual rank.” I shrug. “Anyways, she’s running things while I’m on my quest to destroy the world.”
“[Myrmer Queen]. I’ve not heard of such a class upgrade, nor have I heard of a [King] with two [Queens]. Only an [Emperor] can have multiple [Queens].”
“[Myrmer Queen] is a class, not a rank of nobility. It’s… complicated. The system’s broke. Anyways, just know this:” I point across from me, “Fiona is my only [Queen], at least until I become an [Emperor].”
Juliana takes another bite of her crepe while attempting to deduce my lies.
Ha! Jokes on you, I was telling the truth!
With a flick of my wrist, I grab a knife, take a heaping piece of butter, and then slather it on some toast. “I should mention that we won't be staying too long, just a couple days at most. I’ve still got a long trip west for the next part of my world destroying plan,” I take a bite out of the toast and enjoy the perfect crunchy texture.
Juliana raises an eyebrow at the mention of my plan, but gives it little thought. Instead, she glances at her daughter. “You are free to go, but I will not allow my daughter to leave my presence.”
Before Jessica even says anything, I raise my fork. “Nope. Don't even go there. Jess is a grown ass woman and is allowed to do whatever the fuck she wants,” I point my fork at Juliana, “and I should mention, she is a very dear friend of mine. If someone ever attempts to force her to do something she wishes not to, then I will wage eternal and bloody war on them.”
I lower my fork and stab an egg on my plate, ignoring the blush on Jessica’s face. “On that note, she also has the levels to stop anyone from controlling her.”
I lift the egg and shove it into my mouth while all eyes are on me, especially Jessica who is blushing profusely. I ignore their looks and continue to enjoy the breakfast.
Juliana stares at me and then at Jessica A good dozen emotions war for expression on her face. It’s a good sign. She is a mother, an inexperienced one, true, but a mother who nevertheless holds a deep love for her daughter. I can already see wracking her mind for an excuse, a good reason for why Jess should stay, but none will stick. Currently, Juliana’s daughter, Josephine, doesn’t exist so she’s not being hunted. If her existence is discovered, she is far safer away from here and with my team. On top of all that, Jessica isn’t a pushover.
“Fine,” Juliana relents, “I won't force my daughter to stay, but I want to spend some time with her. A week at the very least.”
I swallow my egg and frown. “I’m already behind schedule with this detour. A week is a bit pushing it.” I answer.
“I-I would like to spend some time with my mother,” Jessica pleads.
I look at Jess .“You can stay with her-”
“No,” Jessica quickly interrupts, “I need to keep you from doing anything stupid. If you can't stay a bit longer, then that’s fine too. I just-,” she looks at her mother,” I want- I just- My-”
“One week,” I say, resigned, “then we leave.”
“Thank you,” She replies with a smile, “thank you.”
“Yeah, yeah, damn my bleeding heart.” I stab another egg and shove it in my mouth. I chew slowly, trying to ignore the grateful smile on her face.
I fail miserably. One of the reasons I do my best not to open my heart to people is how weak I am to my friends. Her happy smile puts me in an annoyingly good mood.
I swallow the egg. “In the meantime, I’m going to need to modify our carriage for speed. I’m going to need to borrow some bones.”
“Aren't you able to make bone from your shadow?” Abernick asks with jealousy. As a fellow [Necromancer], the awkwardness of transporting the dead is the greatest weakness of the class. But an ability that lets you keep an army in your pocket? That's a skill [Necromancers] would kill for.
I stare at the dumbfuck who once proclaimed himself “the greatest [Necromancer] alive” who doesn’t understand the energy needed to create any amount of mass. Make bone from nothing? I shake my head. “First off, my shadow doesn’t create bone, I just have a lot stored inside it. And second off, the bone I have is brimming with mana. I need something nicely inconspicuous, otherwise the carriage is going to turn into a beacon that any [Mage] will notice.”
I look at Juliana. “Any ideas?” I ask.
Juliana doesn't even twitch at the conversation happening or the request. Instead, she tilts her head. “Human bones are unavailable unless you get permission from the donor’s family members,” she grabs her glass and takes a sip, “but Carpe Diem has a graveyard for our griffins. I can offer you their bones if you would like.”
I raise my hand with my thumb up. “I can work with that. When can we leave?” I ask.
Juliana removes a tiny bell from her sleeve and rings it. The [Butler] quickly shows up. “Yes, madam?” he intones.
“Prepare a carriage for everyone. We will be visiting the family graveyard today.”
The [Butler] freezes. “Mistress, you have several meetings scheduled today. If you were to leav-”
“Cancel them all,” Juliana interrupts. She pauses. “Actually, cancel all of my meetings for the entire week. Tell them I am busy, just make sure you don't mention my daughter at all.”
“It will be done,” the [Butler] bows and walks away to prepare.
As the [Butler] leaves, Juliana smiles sadly to her daughter. “I hope you are ready to meet your father.”
Raven 7 sits upon a roof with his legs folded and his usual smile on his face. His eyes, always covered, are closed, yet see the whole city. Over a thousand needles are positioned around the entirety of Shul, each one vibrating faster than the eye can see, catching its own echo and every sound, every movement, every disturbance in the air. Each needle sends a clear image directly into his head. He can see things, through things, into things, everything. He watches, peeking here, examining there, waiting for his target to appear. He’s been at this for six hours now, but so far noticed nothing…
With a shift in focus, he zeroes in on a carriage belonging to the [Baroness]. He watches as his target enters the large carriage with his team and the [Baroness]. Then the carriage moves as the driver whips the half dozen horses.
Raven seven stands up. The quarry has been located.
Baring his teeth, he sprints to the edge of the roof and hops to the next building. First, he must inform his team.
Quasi relaxes in the carriage far more spacious than his own. He idly stares out of the window, watching as they leave the city and make their way to the cemetery on the outskirts of Shul. As they pass by, he notices his favorite [City Defender]. He knocks on the window and grabs Joe’s attention.
He waves to the dumbfounded man.
“Who are you waving at?” Juliana asks
“Just a good pal of mine,” he answers.
The carriage continues on, leaving the cobblestone road and entering a worn dirt path. A raven stands at the cemetery gate.
“Alright. This is annoying,” Quasi growls and points at the offending building. “Why the fuck are there so many churches?” he asks. “It makes no sense. I’ve seen these damn things everywhere.”
Juliana frowns at the question. She looks out the window at the chapel. She remembers feeling so good about herself when she funded its construction.
“The gods are able to see in and around places of worship dedicated to them. By having a network of buildings and at least a single [Priest] present, their vision expands. Odin is known to have eyes all across the Aesir lands. He uses this sight to smite anyone that dares to defy his [Paladins].”
“Sounds overpowered. What's the catch?”
Juliana crosses her arm. “Odin cannot identify individuals, only that there are people present. For example, he knows how many humans are in this carriage, but he doesn’t know who we are,” she frowns, “unless you enter one of his churches. Then he is able to see everything clearly.”
Quasi clenches his hand into a fist so hard his bones pop. His expression darkens.
“So,” Quasi grinds his teeth, eyes focused on the church with malice, “Odin knew about the children then. He chose to ignore the sins committed by his own [Priests].”
Nobody in the carriage answers. They just wait and watch as Quasi struggles with his rage. Slowly his anger subsides as the carriage rolls past the paupers’ graves.
They exit the vehicle at the entrance and walk through the gate, taking note of how dead and empty it feels.
“Come with me.” Juliana orders and begins walking. After a moment, the rest of the group starts to follow.
They arrive at the Carpe Diem family plot. A low, meter tall wall encloses a wide, grassy span dotted with gravestones. Juliana ignores most of the tombs and leads the way to a singularly impressive and relatively new three meter tall monument. The grave was recently tended; around the stone, a dozen bunches of bloomed flowers are laid out to wilt.
Juliana places her hand on the epitaph and rests her forehead on the cold stone.
“Here lies Ferrarius, loving husband to Juliana and devoted father to Josephine. Greater love has no man than this,” she recites aloud. She then looks away, eyeing her daughter with an expression that is both sad and happy.
“Your father died fighting the [Assassins]. He took several of them with him before his end,” she sniffs as her eyes get watery, “I’d probably be dead if he didn't stay and fight.”
Seeing her mother showing weakness, Jessica rushes forward and gives her mother a hug. Crying ensues. First Juliana, then Jessica cries because Juliana is crying. Even Fiona wipes a tear from her face just from watching the mother-daughter duo.
Of course, Quasi, the [Hero] jaded by twenty-eight lifetimes of lost friends and parents and siblings some of whom he’d even liked, and twenty-eight deaths of his own, is unfazed. Instead, his eyes are focussed on the ground below the slab.
“So,” he begins, ignoring the crying duo, “why is his corpse missing? I sense no bones.”
His question immediately ruins the mood as Juliana and Jessica stop tearing up. For a moment, they both glare at Quasi before they register his words.
“His body is missing?” Jessica asks, confused. She looks down and sends a pulse of mana but senses nothing.
Juliana takes a deep breath and organizes her thoughts. “Three years ago, it was reported that a [Necromancer] snuck into the cemetery and created two undead, likely to be [Skeleton Bruisers]. We’ve not been able to figure out who they were or why they had been taken from our cemetery.”
“[Skeleton Bruisers]…” Quasi begins as he tries to remember where he first heard of those undead. He touches his chin thoughtfully as he looks at Jessica.
Then his eyes widen. “Were those the und-” he never finishes his sentence as his [Greater Dangersense] blasts a warning in his mind. He turns to face the threat…
Before he can even react, a projectile punches into his chest, rips through his bones and heart, and lodges past his spine. The impact slams Quasi into Ferrarius’ tombstone…