43 Accidentally On Purpose
My adrenaline and stress levels have started to spike every time I smell black licorice, which is not a thing I'd ever considered particularly anxiety-worthy before this dungeon. I feel like a frat bro who was hazed with Jagermeister and now automatically hurls whenever he smells someone pouring Jagerbombs.
I whip my head back and forth, looking for whatever crazy shit is about to hit now.
Off by the exit, Nightfury guts a mob with the jagged dagger he's holding onto for Kane. I'm looking around so wildly, I don't notice the slimy intestines fling through the air and splat in my path.
I slip on the Sluagh innards in a perfect imitation of a cartoon idiot slipping on a banana peel.
Arms pinwheeling, I slide into the wall with a slam that leaves a person-print indent. Zen rams into a crack between two crumbling stones with all the force of my lightning-speed Sprint.
Why did it sound like my dagger pressed a hidden switch in the dilapidated walls?
The too-cheerful *Ding!* of a system notification fills me mortal dread.
[Hear that? It's the sound of your impending doom! Best get a move on!]
A seismic rumble tears through the crypt, and hunks of gray stone crash to the floor. Three Sluagh are immediately squashed into demon goo and burst into opalescent stardust.
Fucking Fantastic. It's a one-hit kill obstacle course.
A countdown timer, bright orange and obnoxiously loud, lights up the top right of my vision.
I yank Zen out of the crevice, spin around and behead a Sluagh, then kick off the wall to race toward the exit tunnel.
Rocks and dirt are cascading all around me, battering the shrieking Sluagh monsters. I retract my wings to make myself as small a target as possible and start weaving in between the falling debris.
A battle cry draws a tiny scrap of my attention toward the tunnel, where mobs are trying to escape and also kill Lialas.
I so do not have time to deal with saving other people right now.
Buuut, I also don't want to let any of these mobs make it to safety when I've gone through all the effort of accidentally triggering a doomsday event that could wipe them all out at once.
\"Leeroy Jenkins!\" I Taunt one final time. A garish neon orange 7 blinks aggressively at me, and the remaining Sluagh creatures snarl and howl menacingly as they're forced to turn back from the exit. Their murderous intent deepens, and the Willpower checks return with renewed fervor. Their bloodthirsty auras are so thick on the air, it feels syrupy humid and uncomfortably warm.
For the next seven seconds, I dodge crashing boulders, slashing claws, and hacking swings of rusty swords. I kick and Parry mobs into the paths of falling detritus, while at the same time leaping and diving into safe spaces for myself.
The hack for surviving this death trap is blazing my Lux light so the falling stones leave small shadows on the ground to show the targeted areas.
It reminds me of old school N64 Ocarina of Time, where the desiccated mummy hand drops from the ceiling, and your only warning is the ominous change in music and the shadow that grows steadily bigger as the hand plummets to snatch you.
(Honestly, after surviving that nightmare as a child, this scenario doesn't seem so bad.)
1 second left before the final cave-in and everybody dies.
Five gruesome monsters block my exit, and as they rush to devour me, Nightfury headshots the one in the middle. That makes two clutch plays in as many hours! It's almost like he's not completely useless!
\"Move it, you moron!\" he yells.
Aw, guys, I think he likes me.
As it stumbles forward, I jump; one foot lands on the monster's stooped back, and I kick off to dive through the tunnel door right as a giant ZERO lights up my vision.
A gong sounds and rubble cascades behind me, filling the doorway I just barely made it through. The monsters directly on my tail are smashed to smithereens, leaving only one jerky claw visible as a mob struggles to catch me even as its body is crushed.
\"WE'RE ALIVE! OH MY GOD, GUYS!\" Lialas dramatically falls to his knees and lifts his arms to the proverbial heavens.
\"What in the everloving fuck just happened?\" Shadeslayer's voice is still high-pitched from stress, and cracks like he's flirting with puberty.
I gesture with Zen as I sheathe my trusty Cursed baby. \"Triggered a hidden switch in the wall that caused a cave-in.\"
Lialas and Shadeslayer gape. \"Wow, did you do that on purpose?\" Lialas asks in an awed whisper.
Nightfury flushes red. \"Bullshit! You just fucking tripped!\"
\"Nope. Totally planned,\" I say, straight-faced.
\"Wow,\" Lialas repeats. Shadeslayer nods to second the sentiment, eyes wide.
Nightfury's eyes bug out of his head, and I think he might be trembling with a mixture of rage and that special disappointment that comes from realizing your friends are irredeemable idiots.
I shrug. \"Some people are blessed with a gift for strategy.\"
Before Nightfury can curse me out or have a heart attack from rage, four iridescent spirits materialize.
They're glowy blue-gray; two seem to be ghosts of humans, and two are the ghosts of elven fae. Nightfury and Shadeslayer whirl to face them, weapons drawn, looking all fierce.
I just step forward and wave.
\"'Sup. You the souls we saved?\"
\"Indeed, clever mortal,\" the taller fae says. \"We have come to offer our sincere gratitude for your noble actions—\"
Blah blah blah, turns out they're the souls who were kidnapped by the Sluagh and by Ankou the Soul Collector, and now they're free at last to move on to the planes of their true afterlife resting grounds.
They have a whole programmed spiel that I really wish I could skip by repeatedly mashing A or an arrow key. Since I can't, I settle for zoning out, occasionally sighing, nodding when it seems appropriate (and like it might increase our rewards if I show some form of enthusiasm), and checking my Battle Log.
I have a system notification that tells me all 120 Sluagh were defeated in battle, and as such the members of our party have received a [Perfect Genocide Bonus] of 50k EXP, on top of the 350 EXP (x2 for Nightmare Mode) received per Sluagh killed.
Unfortunately for them, the individual 700 EXP per monster is split by Contribution, and the system has determined the Cave-In was my action, and the mobs were also under my Taunt at the time of their demises, so I've scored 67,900 of the possible 84,000 EXP available.
I figure they can't complain too much, though, since the 50k bonus alone's enough to increase their levels multiple times.
I've also received more Rusty Claymore Swords, monster parts, and Wraith Remnants than any person could ever possibly need, but I'm obviously not complaining. Mostly I'm pumped because I also receive three vials of Fiendish Fog Essence, which seems to be the black smoke that emanated from the Sluagh. I immediately put one into Upgrade Storage; I'm not sure Zen would appreciate the Fiendish Fog so much, so I figure I'll see if there's a Justice Fog equivalent or something before I make the upgrades.
Finally, the long-winded rescued souls finish their tales of woe and gratitude, and we get down to the good stuff.
As a final thank you, each spirit provides a treasure chest that appears directly into each of our inventories. It's clear from their language that whatever is inside each chest is already pre-determined, based on Player Contribution and Luck.
Naturally, it's that second part that worries me.
The faint tinge of black licorice still hangs in my nostrils.
The spirits leave with much triumphant Celtic music fanfare and pretty sparkly lights, and we get down to the important business: opening our loot.
Before anyone can open their chest, however, Nightfury grumbles, \"Wait a second, this is some bullshit.\"
Lialas frowns. \"What are you talking about?\"
Nightfury juts his thumb in my direction and scowls. \"This asshole's gonna end up with all the best stuff just because his clumsy ass tripped and accidentally triggered a cave-in. He's gonna get bonuses and shit, and it wasn't like he even did anything except not die!\"
Lialas looks at my stoic-smug face before returning to Nightfury's cranky scowl. \"I mean, wouldn't you have died, though? Like, isn't not dying kinda impressive?\"
\"Shut the hell up. He just got lucky!\"
\"Is it actually good luck to trigger a self-destruct while you're still trapped inside, though?\" Shadeslayer asks.
'My question exactly, my dude,' I think.
\"And, I mean, Erebus also killed like 50 mobs before he triggered the hidden switch so...\" Lialas adds, trailing off with a half-shrug.
\"No, you know what! Nightfury's right!\" I interject quickly.
\"—bi-What?\" Nightfury asks, incredulous, turning to stare at me so fast I'm surprised he doesn't get whiplash. \"I'm right?\"
I nod, trying to school my features into a serious expression. \"Yes, you're absolutely right. It wouldn't be fair to take extra bonuses just because my mad gamble with the entirely-on-purpose cave-in paid off perfectly.\" Nightfury yelps in annoyance, but I push on, ignoring his spluttering. \"Though I don't know if anyone else would really want my chest. Maybe my luck's finally run out...\"
\"Tch,\" Nightfury scoffs. \"Yeah right. It's probably a freaking epic weapon or something.\"
'Tch,' I think to myself. 'As if it would ever be that easy.'
I clap my hands. \"All right, so how about everyone materialize your chest, place it in the middle, and we'll all randomly grab someone else's?\"
Lialas shakes his head. \"Nah, that's not really fair either. Since Shade and I got Frozen by the stupid Willpower Checks, we didn't contribute as much. Our chests are probably lower-tiered than yours. Nightfury's the one who actually had some clutch plays. How about we just switch ours, and you and Nightfury switch yours, if you're really okay with this?\"
\"Of course he's okay with it, he already said he was,\" Nightfury says quickly, yellow draconian eyes gleaming at the prospect of legendary treasure. He's never looked more like a Western \"sleeping on a horde of gold\" dragon than he does in this moment.
Choking back a laugh at the image, I materialize my shiny chest and pass it to the Draegkyn. He practically drools as he accepts it, and passes me his own. \"You're acting like a proper Party Leader now,\" he says.
\"I try,\" I reply.
Lialas and Shadeslayer open their chests first, and like they expected, they don't get too much: a handful of silvers apiece, some vendor trash (useless items that only NPC vendors might buy from you), Spectral Grenades that deal double-damage against undead mobs, and vials of Health Potion.
Shadeslayer also ends up with a piece of Yellow-tier armor, so it looks like Lialas' Luck stat might be higher than his. I make sure to remember that for the future.
I open my chest next. There's the expected little stuff—silvers, Spectral Grenades, potions, etc—and then the real prize:
To Equip: Level 15 / Agility 12 + Intelligence 8
|| For when Melee is too Mundane. The Unseelie Crossbow is a one-handed ranged weapon that can be attached to a vambrace and shot by wrist movement. This dark magic item can load up to five bolts at once, though it can only shoot one at at a time. With normal arrows, Deals 250 Attack Damage, 2x Damage for Headshots, 3x Damage against Seelie Fae or other Light-Aligned Enemies. +2 Intelligence, + 1 Agility
Active Skill: Target Lock - If you visually lock onto a target before activating Target Lock, the next arrow you shoot will hit the target no matter where they are, as long as they remain within 500 meters of you. Cooldown: 5 Minutes
Active Skill: Triple Hit - Once you hit a target, activating Triple Hit will automatically rapid-fire another two arrows to hit the same target. Cooldown: 3 Minutes||
The crossbow is beautiful, dark silver with amethyst Celtic designs, and when I attach it to my left vambrace, it looks like a lethal bird resting on my arm. The bowed part of the weapon flows like spread wings, and the stock is the body of the bird in a dive, beak covering the back of my hand.
It only comes with a bundle of 25 arrows, but I plan to make them count.
When Nightfury sees the gorgeous crossbow, a flash of regret crosses his face, until he realizes that if his measly contribution was worth a White-tier weapon, the chest I'd given him must contain something truly extraordinary.
Everyone holds their breath in anticipation as Nightfury clicks open the chest. Bright aurora-like light fills the tunnel and reflects off the scales at Nightfury's temples. As one, we all lean forward to see what amazing item waits in store for our most cantankerous party member...
ITEM AUTO-BIND UPON ACQUISITION. CANNOT BE REMOVED UNTIL CURSE IS LIFTED.