Chris gestured to his settlement. "Please, come inside."
Philip followed him in, and Chris picked up the bundle he'd set down, placing it inside the tower. He turned back to Philp. The man looked more haggard and tired than he had two days ago, but also determined. "Please, Sir Philip, familiarize yourself with Kingscastle. I will return in several minutes. There are matters I must attend to."
He closed the door of the tower between and sprinted to the roof where he placed his hands on one of the settlement control pedestals. He had to see if there was a lockout option for the settlement.
There was. If someone attempted to take control of his settlement through a pedestal without formally conquering the place, it would prevent them from doing so for six hours and notify him. It wasn't great, but it was better than nothing. He turned the option on. As he did so, another option appeared, one linked to his Defender's Barracks. It would prevent a takeover of Kingscastle as long as the spawned defenders were alive.
The defenders wouldn't be available for two more days, but he selected the option anyway—there wasn't anything to lose by doing so.
Then he brought up the settlement building menu and expanded the walls, adding in a storage area and three houses—more people might come to stay eventually, so he might as well plan for expansion. It was late, so Philip would probably have to stay the night. The buildings were cheap, since they had no major special effects. The storage area was 4,000 System Coins and had a minor protection against degradation that applied to anything stored inside, and the houses were 500 each—all at the F-1 rank. That left him at just over twelve thousand System Coins.
He left the building menu, then tabbed around, looking for something very particular. He found it and purchased it immediately. At 8,000 System Coins, and limited to individuals in charge of a Settlement and their representatives, the rank F-2 Quest-Giver's Interface would let him give quests to anyone with a rank F-2 body or below, and allow him to set rewards—which he would have to supply, but which the System might supplement, depending on difficulty. It was expensive sure, but friendship was priceless—it might also come in handy.
He left the central keep, closing the tower door behind him and hurrying into the General Supplies Vendor before Philip noticed him. He made a quick purchase and received a large box in return.
He looked inside. Perfect.
He closed up the box, slipped a few things into his pocket and went to find Philip.
The swordsman was staring at the Slime Spawning Vat. The pitfall beneath it that Chris was using to house the monsters for the time being was nearing capacity, and it seemed the Slimes had fused together into one larger entity that continuously attempted to scale the slippery walls.
Philip continued staring, transfixed by a drip of Slime gathering at the spigot of the Spawning Vat. Chris dropped the box next to his feet, causing the swordsman to jump away, startled.
Chris smiled innocently. "New houses have been built. For your services in sending Sir Bruce to me, you may rest the night here. It is too late for you to return, and, as you have seen," he gestured toward the torrents of slime still falling from the dark sky, "the acid rain is particularly bad tonight. Climate change."
"Thank you, Sir Christopher." Philip fiddled with his hands.
"It is no problem. I am afraid that the houses are currently unfurnished, so I have provided you with a bed frame that you may assemble." Chris pointed to the box he'd dropped beside him.
Philip's brow furrowed. "What's the catch?"
"Pardon? I daresay I do not comprehend your implication, Sir Philip. Is something the matter?"
"This isn't some elaborate prank, is it?"
"Of course not. Here, I shall even offer you a quest to safeguard your interests. It's hardly a chivalrous deed, such as slaying rock trolls, or that performed by Steve—but it does merit some reward. It is a worthy quest, all the same." He typed up a quest screen and sent it over.
Sir Christopher has offered you a Quest!
(Optional – Kingscastle) Construct one bed (0/1)
Reward: 100 System Coins, Mattress and Blanket, One Night's Lodgings, The Hidden Treasure of Sir Christopher
Unlike System quests, the rewards that he offered needed to be displayed in advance.
His surprise visitor, however, looked confused. "Is everything in order, Sir Philip?"
Philip glanced toward him, his brows pressed together. "This isn't some quest where the bed is actually a metaphysical bed, right? Like in my heart, or something?"
"Would I lie to you, Sir Philip?"
The man did not look impressed.
Chris sighed. "Within that box you will find all the tools you require to construct a bed. Before you are all the materials required to construct the bed itself. You may claim them when you are ready."
He took a cue from the system and sent a quest to help ease Philip into his new adventure.
Sir Christopher has offered you a Quest!
(Optional – Kingscastle) Pick up the box (0/1)
Reward: Tools required for construction of one physical bed, Access to one house to construct the bed inside
Philip finally moved and picked up the box. As he completed the quest, Chris felt a thread of mana enter him, precise and controlled, but also vaguely threatening. Chris had a bad premonition of what would happen if he failed to provide the promised reward when it was requested. That wouldn't do.
He quickly headed off the problem. He smiled and said, "You should have all the tools you require inside that box, please select a house of your choosing to construct the bed inside." As he gestured to one of the three houses, he felt the thread of mana inside him loosen its grip, but it remained in place.
Philip blinked, adjusted the box in his hands and strode off to the nearest house. "What about light?" he shouted behind him.
"Fear not, I shall obtain a lantern," Chris called back.
Chris smiled as he left, mentally wishing Philip well in his adventures with flat pack furniture. When he'd visited the General Supplies Vendor earlier, he'd been startled by the sheer abundance of products on display. And among those were unassembled beds.
This particular model was a fairly standard bed, if you ignored the fact that it was designed to be assembled by a race with four arms. He was sure Philip would manage, though, Chris had the utmost faith in him.
After all, he had all the tools needed to make that bed—even if he was lacking two extra limbs.
Chris grinned as he thrust a hand into his pocket and pulled out a couple of screws. Now, the materials needed to make the bed, he might have accidentally mislaid some of those.
He strolled back into the General Supplies Vendor to buy a lantern for Philip. After a short moment's hesitation, he also bought a beginner's guide to alchemy, some reagents, a collapsible table and chair, and an alchemical stand, burner, and retort. Might as well do something while he watched his guest struggle with assembling furniture. Alchemy seemed like a safe bet, given how useful healing potions were. All he needed was meatballs, he suspected he'd have the whole Ikea experience—impossible to assemble furniture, and some strange guy trying to turn meatballs into gold in some forgotten corner.
When he entered the house that Philip had selected, it was as dark as he expected. Thankfully, the lantern ran off a magical power source. He pressed his thumb to the base and directed a smidgeon of mana into it. The room was filled with light—lacking the flicker and hazy waver of a candle.
Philip was sitting on the box in the middle of the room and rose to accept the lantern, then flipped open the lid of the flat-packed bed box. He pulled out the assembly schematic first, looked it up and down, then removed the pouch of screws and a few of the timbers—helpfully arranged in order of assembly.
He consulted the schematic again, then stared up at Chris accusingly. "Why do the instructions show four arms."
Chris shrugged, he was already in the process of setting up his alchemy station. If in doubt, repeat dialogue. "You should have all the tools you require inside that box, please select a house of your choosing to construct the bed inside."
"But it shows four arms."
"You should have all the tools you require inside that box, please select a house of your choosing to construct the bed inside."
"Come on, I know you're trolling."
Chris looked up, weighing up his options. Was Philip bluffing? Well, he could bluff too. As mechanically as he could, he spoke, "Invalid word used. Locally allocated resources exceeded. Please complete quest to assign unit more processing power."
"Yeah, game's up dude. I'm onto you."
"Response not found. Please complete quest to assign unit more processing power."
"Yeah, cool beans. Drop the act."
"Response not found, locally allocated resources critically exceeded. Initiating purge of quest database, initiating catastrophic meltdown of unit. Fifteen minutes to catastrophic meltdown. Please exceed blast radius calculated at thirty miles, survivable for Constitutions of 10 and above." Chris looked straight ahead, schooling his face. There was no way Philip could run at two miles a minute.
"Yeah, gig's up, dude. Not falling for this." Philip smirked back at him. "Go ahead, blow yourself—"
Chris let a small drip of Slime materialize at his fingertip, then fall to the ground. The green goop steamed as it hit the floor.
"Response not found. Locally allocated resources catastrophically exceeded. Nine and a half minutes until catastrophic meltdown. Please exceed blast radius calculated at fifty miles, survivable for Constitutions of 10 and above."
Philip's jaw went slack as he looked disbelievingly between the acidic goo on the floor and Chris' neutral expression. Chris went back to studying alchemy as, eyes wide, Philip threw himself toward the nearest piece of unassembled furniture and began piecing it together at a record pace.
When he was sure his new builder wasn't looking, Chris allowed himself to crack a smile. He let another blob of Slime sizzle against the stone floor. Philip looked over at it and cursed, then began constructing the flat pack furniture even faster, swearing under his breath.
There really was nothing like the threat of a nuclear apocalypse to properly motivate your employees.