Red made a slashing motion with her staff at the blue shape, causing her shade to reach out and cut the navy blue creature across its body. Quickly, taking advantage of Red's momentary helplessness as her shadows were out and about, Not-A-Block dispensed a poisonous gas into the air.
Vulnerable from the absence of her shadows, Red was unable to block it. Forcing her to take a knee, the oblong sphere's shell suddenly molded into a face.
"What in the world?" Red gasped, for she had never seen a shapeshifter this low-level before. Karen shrugged in response, then sighed.
"It's a Not-A-Block. A new mutation. I've taken note on the several that I've studied. They can morph their outer layer to give it a 'face'. That way they can communicate with each other. To defend themselves or attack others, they crack open slightly to release a poison in gaseous form. I think that it took advantage of the fact that yer defenses were dropped from attacking it. It's too low of a level for me to do any damage to it."
"Okay, so what should we do? Any weaknesses? It doesn't seem to attack until after I do." Red finished pulling her shadows back in and gulped down a healing potion. The tree the egg-like creature was under creaked, it's limbs swaying in the breeze. A leaf fluttered down, and the Not-A-Block rolled out of the way. "It rolled away from the leaf to protect its head. Does that mean that it's sensitive where it lets the poison out?" Red noted, and Karen smirked.
Walking over next to the Not-A-Block, Karen picked up a rock. "Cover us both with yer shadows so we aren't harmed by the explosion of gas caused by me destroying th's thing."
"Gotcha. Just give me a moment," Red says, quickly moving over to where Karen was standing, and moving the lack of light around, stopping anything from penetrating the shell of darkness, even air. "Ready."
Barely two seconds after Red gave the 'OK', Karen was smashing the rock, which weighed about 20 lbs. The first blow did nothing, and the second yielded similar results. The third time she hit it on its outer layer, she noticed that it seemed to grow darker.
"Looks like it has been moving more density towards its top. I think I need to puncture it or something. Got a stake?" Karen asked jokingly, motioning towards the Not-A-Block with the rock.
Squinting in suspicion, Red slowly drew out the previously-mentioned weapon. "'Ow did you know?"
"Oh my gods Red it was a joke. Why do ya even have that!? Does it have something to do with the rumors of how you're only in these parts to go after that thing ya mentioned in yer letters? Honestly, I should have known that ya wouldn't come down here just to help me out with th's weird infestation of mutated creatures. Our noodle-date 's no longer on!" Karen frowns, snatching the metal stake out of Red's hands.
Pounding with a newfound fury, Karen growls at it. "Ya know, th's thing 's from Blocky Woods. It's supposed to be a BLOCK. Th's 's why ya've been ostracized yer entire three-month existence. Good for ya and all, but ya should try and not be such a pain in my ass. Stop. Killing. Travelers." With every word during the command, a crack appeared and grew. Hitting it with the same strength but faster, Karen manages to split it open enough to see under its armor like layer. Pulling her knife out, she shoves it into the malformed creature, killing it instantly.
"Isn't that the same knife you use to cut the meat for your noodles?"
"Shut yer face about th's or I make ya."
"But isn't that technically a violation of the Food Standards Agency's protocols?"
"Th's knife 's a retired one. It's called recycling, ya get it?"
"The only reason it's retired is that I called you out."
In response, Karen simply drew it, blade side away, across her throat in the sign for 'I will kill you.' Motioning for her to follow suit, Karen then started to dig into the creature. "Make sure that ya keep the shield up while we loot th's. There's a reason I've had to use th's knife. Profits took a nosedive after that festival left. Sure, I make enough to support myself, but a bonus 's always nice. You're a professional bounty hunter, ya can keep the staffs if there are any."
"’Ow generous of you."
"I know. I could always sell them on the market. Instead, I'm letting ya have them."
Delving into its hoard, they quickly separated the objects that they wanted to keep, the objects that were worth anything, and the objects that were both useless and worthless into piles. There was a lot more in the third pile than the other two.
"I guess we could donate that stuff to the old knick-knack shop. 'S not as if there were many people clambering for their loved ones remains and all, so I doubt that they'll want the non-valuables such as.." Karen's voice faded off, squinting at a bottle of 'Fontanle's Fantastic Facial Freer'. "Whatever th's thing 's. Fontanle's Facial Cream. Sounds Fancy. Ya ever heard of it?"
"Oh, do you mean Fontanle's Fantastic Facial Freer? My mum uses that on 'er back. Mind if I take it?"
"Sure," Karen says, tossing it to Red. "Just make sure ya don' tell her how ya got it."
They continue looting and re-piling things until they're both satisfied with how it turned out.
"So there were no staffs."
"And? Whadya want me ta do 'bout it? Magic ya up something or the like?"
"No, just wondering what my payment's going to be."
"It was meant to be a favor."
"I know. And you know I don't do favors unless I already owe something. 'Ow about some of those delicious noodles?"
"Ya know I took that offer back when I found that ya didn't go out of yer way to help me. 'S almost insulting, if I didn't know ye so well. Alright, I'll give ya yer noodles. But ya need to know that I'm not going to bend to yer every whim every-which-way all ta time. T'sn't a date anymore. Ya ruined that when you weren't upfront about yer reasons for comin' down ta visit me. Won't be charmed by those pretty eyes of yours anymore either."
"I'll make a note of that, tell 'Ermi that I won't be coming to visit like you said I would either."
"But she's yer auntie!" Karen exclaimed, then grabbed Red by the arm. "If ya won't visit willingly, I'll force ya along with me when I go! I've a meeting with Hermi th's afternoon anyway. I'm stopping by for tea, and she won't mind me bringing another person along. Might even welcome it, considering that 's ya. Hope for that, ay?"
"Nay. I cannot stand 'er and I refuse to enter that establishment."
"Easy fix! She's coming by my place anyway. So now ya haven't an excuse if ya want those noodles."
Dragging the loaded down Red along with her, the loaded down Karen strolled along the road. Keeping the other's arm in a tight grip, she took the turn to go to the town. "We're a mere 3 1/2 miles 'way from the town, so ya might want to try an' escape soon. Oh wait, ya can't!" Karen cackled at the end, scaring away quite a few animals and at least one very minor monster. The rustling in the trees proved that.
"If you wanted me to go on a date so badly with ye, you shouldn'ta cancelled. I never claimed that I was coming down only to 'elp you."
"Aye, but ya didn't clarify."
Sighing, Red started walking, severely expediting the process of getting back to town. A squirrel puttered across the path, looking like a catastrophic example of what not to do when faced with a carriage half a mile away. Here's a hint: Don't stay on the road until the carriage is close enough for its only choice to be to run over you. They continued walking until Karen started to complain about her feet. Then Red picked her up and carried her for about a hundred feet.
"Th's 'sn't going to become a regular thing, 's it?" Karen muttered in Red's shoulder, almost pouting.
"I thought that your feet were aching."
"Aye they were, but that didn't mean I wanted ya to carry me. Would ya put me down already anyway?"
Red dropped her in response.
"Great Morgana woman do ya have no airs of gentleness about ya? I said put, not drop. Imma delicate creature, not one of those bulky fighters that go through town lookin' for work!" she protested as Red helped her to her feet.
"Would you like for me to pick you up and try again?" Red asked with a smirk, helping pat the dirt off of Karen's legs and back.
"NO! I'm lucky enough to not have to deal with havin' the breath knocked out of me this time. Next time ya might well kill me. Also, watch where yer hands are. Don' let them wander."
"I assure you, I didn't even think about that. Are you ready to walk now?" Red asks hands held up in surrender to the unstoppable force that is Karen.
Nodding, Karen holds out her arm. "Care to accompany me?"
Smiling and shaking her head, Red does. "Maybe we'll run into another lower medium level mutation and 'ave to deal with that."
"Aye, maybe we will. Don't mean that we can't enjoy our little walk."
More smiles between the two were shared, and they continued on for about a mile. But then there was a rustling among the leaves, larger than the squirrels that ran amongst them frequently. The two women reacted fast, Karen with her knives and Red with her staff of shadows. Pulling the leaves away using her control of shadows, Red stayed behind Karen so she was protected this time.
"Yer shadows make ya vulnerable. Thanks for staying behind me for once, ya cute idiot." Karen murmured, and Red snorted in response.
The perpetrator of the noise slowly strutted out, making sure to flounce its tail behind it. Striped grey and green, the mutated cat must have been a stray that got caught too close to the area where the transformations were happening.
"Quit calling me out and focus on the cat-creature. Didn't we take that tuna? Maybe we can feed it and it'll leave us alone."
"Doubt it, but toss me the fish anyway," Karen demanded, motioning for Red to look in her bag. "Thought I might use it in a new noodle dish, but nevermind. Rodents have been a tad of a problem all around anyway, so it pays off."
While Red was looking through her bag, Karen continued to brandish her knives at the creature, just in case. Finally finding and handing over the seafood, Red stepped back so Karen was left to deal with it.
Feeding it by tossing the fish bit by bit in front of her while backing away, Karen managed to lure it in.
"Poor thing's gobbling up the fish. Musta' been starving."
"Aye, but it also may be playing you for food."
"Oh, shush ya big ol' meanie," Karen says, batting at Red's arm with the non-fishy hand.
Keeping a bit of fish in her hand, Karen lures the cat back to town. Til they're on her doorstep, the two ladies were followed by the cat. Placing a blanket and the rest of the fish, which was quite a lot, on her porch, Karen washed her hands, took Red's arm again, and the two went off shopping for the afternoon until it was time for the engagement with Hermi.
"Ya look lovely in that scarf you're wearing, did I mention that?"
"Thank you. It's covering those scars."
"Ah, right, those. Ya still're the loveliest gal in this place.