"This was a mistake on my part."
He hastily walked into the room, a stack of documents firmly in his hands. After archiving them in their respective cabinets, he activated the main terminal.
Loading... /|\ Tempora v1.44 \|/ Welcome, Maintenancekeeper. __________________________ /timecheck Δt Ϝ ... Checking timeflow signature for 'Ϝ'... ... ERROR: Could not find consistent value. Estimated fragmentation of 'Ϝ':86%.
Why he would still do this frequently was a mystery even to himself. Clearly, the timeline was lost and things would not return to normal.
/runsearch anomaly_d24 [✉] Searching for d24... ... WARNING: d24 currently located on 'Π' for approx. t=-32. Please ensure anomaly does not interfere with timeline continuity. /resetparam timepoint17 ... Parameter reset. /setparam timepoint17 Π/-40/54,08;12,40 ... WARNING: Anomaly d24 is known to be located on this timeline. Proceed? /setparam ... Parameter set. Tread with care.
He exited the program and sighed. "The Pi timeline, hm? Curious that he should pick such a place and time.""
"Is everything working or is the terminal glitched again?"
Helen had entered from the adjacent work room, where she would usually do administration work for him. "Oh, not quite a glitched terminal. However, you may remember the anomalous being we encountered some time ago, might you not?"
Helen nodded. "It seems that he has moved to the Pi timeline."
After a brief silence, he expressed his doubts.
"That this is another iteration of myself is clear, but I cannot determine his native timeline. Such a thing genuinely worries me, Helen."
Ⅰ - One Letter
Delinius calmly sat down behind his desk and looked at the employee sitting on the other side.
"Well then, what is the matter that you were troubled by?"
The worker sighed, frustrated about the situation. "I just... I'm sure that there was some kind of dusty thing creeping around in that archive section. I've seen it, and a lot of my colleagues have too. It looks like a dust monster, like those, uh, the bunnies, right? The ones that duplicate. But it wasn't a bunny."
The Soul Flame simply nodded, not unfamiliar with the reports of an infestation of some kind in some of the less frequently used areas of the I&Q headquarters. "I see..."
He rose from his seat. "A 'dusty thing' is not much for me to go by. Where exactly was this?"
"Uh... I think it was the 34th floor."
Delinius looked at him with mild surprise. "You think it was on the 34th floor?"
"I was just going to get some coffee. I was tired and I wasn't really looking at where the hell I was. Sorry." The man's face expressed sincere regret about his inability to recall his precise whereabouts at the time.
Rather than responding, Delinius opened a cabinet and pulled out a floor plan. "The relevant floor doesn't actually have any archives, based on this document, at least."
"I swear there was at some point..." Delinius shook his head. Even though some of the interior of the building seemed to shift constantly, Delinius had a map of most floors, having found a means to get a copy of the floor plan to shift in accordance with the interior of the floors that did so. The process was not ideal, and it took anywhere between minutes and several days before changes would be recorded in his documents. The relevant floors fortunately did not shift, however.
"The original floor plan involved archive cabinets. That idea was abandoned, eventually. The 34th floor currently contains storage of some sort, though I don't quite know what exactly it's supposed to contain. I'd have to ask sometime later." He searched the same cabinet until he'd found the floor plan of several floors further up the building. "Floor thirty-seven seems to currently still contain archives of some kind. Presumably, the infestation we speak of would be located there."
"I guess it must have been over there?" The tired worker scratched his head. "Makes sense that it's not too far from where I thought it'd been."
He paused for a moment before continuing.
"Finding the way in this building and telling up from down is really hard, man. Thanks for hearing me out on this one."
He stood up, shook hands with Delinius and left the office, stumbling over several stacked boxes of documents that had been sent there for 'reviewing'. In fact, the floor of Delinius' office, which happened to be the 44th, had been converted into his personal archive and storage of 'undesirable files' that needed to be either destroyed or otherwise sorted out. This was his domain; if there was an issue with legal issues or other paperwork mishaps, this was the place to go to.
Delinius picked one of the boxes up and examined its contents. A note was placed on top of the stack of folders inside.
Hey Delinius, I hope you don't mind if I send these over to you. You're better able to deal with it than me. -ZI
This was true: Delinius was relatively well-informed on the numerous laws and regulations that had been brought into existence surrounding the catching, taming and keeping of Ludusian monsters as pet creatures. Many existed, and they usually required various measures to ensure they would not harm themselves, their owner or others. However, he did not feel any interest in dealing with the case, which was an all too common situation: someone owned a pet without actually having the knowledge to ensure that it would be in good shape and cause no damage. In this particular case, it had demolished not only the owner's residence, a multi-room apartment somewhere in the suburban areas of Steckenberg, but a good portion of the remainder of the building that it had been in. It had not resulted in casualities, but the building's other residents intended to press charges against both the owner and Isles & Quint.
Delinius wrote out a note.
Hello Zachary, While I am delighted that you write to me on the subject of the demolished apartments, I believe several preceding cases of a similar nature have passed. Perhaps, if you can, you could visit my office to recieve said cases, to be handed to a handler of legal issues. Should that prove impossible, I suppose I may act as representative in the coming lawsuit. - Delinius R. Langton, Legal Affairs, floor 44
While taking a sip of his tea, Delinius was visited by one of the few interns that operated on this floor, and the only one who seemed to last for a good while longer than average. "Afternoon." He never learned their names, as they would often be gone within a month. While this intern seemed quite at ease on this floor, she had only joined two weeks ago and still found herself quite lost, even on just this floor.
"Oh, hey. Sorry to bother you, but I can't find the old files about that mess-up with the owner swapping where a whole taskforce was sent out. Where'd that go?"
Delinius pondered on this request for a while, then spoke.
"Hm? Oh, that incident. Cabinet 5B, I believe. Look in the bottom two, for I believe I stacked a number of such cases in there. Otherwise, it might still be in the 'Notables' archive, though I couldn't imagine I left it there for such a long time."
The young intern smiled. "Thanks, Mr Langton."
"Oh, before you go, dear, could you get this to end up on the desk of Zachary Isles? I would see him personally, but I know he is quite a busy man and might not have time right now."
"Sure. Thanks again!"
She went off, probably to locate the documents she'd asked him about. The case in question was actually quite a silly one, though he'd only heard stories about it, as it was from before he'd joined Isles & Quint. Delinius emptied his cup and took it with him as he exited his office. He did not take the elevator - he had enough time and patience to descend seven floors.
Ⅱ - Two Corporate Colleagues
"Yo, Flameyman. What's bringing you down from 44?"
He knew this figure quite well: his name was Lucas and he wasn't quite a Gridmask. What he was instead? Part alien? Part demon? Humanoid alien? How had he managed to roll into a corporate job like this in the first place? He left it a mystery, but the fact was that he was most commonly found here, on floor 40.
"Passing by on my path down to thirty-seven, that would be. Apparently, people are seeing dust monsters on that floor." Lucas' face went from his usual relaxed expression to excitement.
"Dust monsters on 37? Damn. Guess my floor ain't too bad compared to dust monsters running around. Hey, I don't get to do a thing 'round here, sittin' on my lazy butt. I'll check it with you, alright-o?"
Delinius nodded. "It probably won't be too much of a problem, but I wouldn't mind having company in dealing with the issue." Lucas rose from the lazy position in his chair and made an attempt at saluting like a soldier, which looked silly in his case: he was a lazy desk-sitter, not an aspiring recruit, and his clothing showed that, being beyond typical corporate attire and even beyond a casual T-shirt. Instead, he wore a hooded sweater, the hood more often than not covering all of his head.
"Right, right! Let's do this!" He always put unnecessary emphasis on the word 'do', though he denied it consistently.
The two descended the next three floors in relative silence, greeting people along the way while passing through. The relevant floor wasn't as busy as the rest: people kept to their cubicles and some seemed to cast nervous glances at the space below their desk.
"Right... where them dust monsters at, now?" Indeed, there was no sign of dust monsters or monsters that spewed dust.
One of the corporate zombies that populated the cubicles replied, having expressed his irritation with a loud sigh.
"That's because they're in the archives. Now please just get the fuck out, okay? Nobody's going to ever finish them off and I definitely won't be doing it either." Delinius picked the man out of his chair by the back of his shirt.
"I would suggest you keep the display of your irritable mood limited, lest you be punished much more severely by one of the other managers." He allowed the awe-stricken man to sit down again and continued down the corridor between the cubicles. While Delinius was by far not such a strict corporate manager as most, he did have a clear rule about respectful behaviour that he enforced under all circumstances.
On the other hand, Lucas simply shrugged. "Jeeze, he was salty. You sure it's not these guys and girls we're supposed to see for dust monsters?" He laughed softly, but he was slightly nervous, possibly thinking back to a number of personal conflicts he'd been involved in with his colleagues in the past.
"I am quite certain that was a low-quality joke, but I will let it pass for a moderately good one in this case. Whatever the case, I do not believe that these supposed 'dust monsters' will be such a problem. In the worst case, you and I shall have an unpleasant cough for some time. People will think we'll have caught a cold."
Lucas burst into laughter. "Oh damn, you didn't! It's a killer!"
Delinius smiled curiously. "Hm?"
"The hell? You weren't joking?" The discovery that Delinius had made this remark without intending for it to be a joke seemed to make him laugh even more, causing some of the cubicle occupants to look up and sigh at the annoying and disturbing noise that snapped them out of their concentration.
Even though most of these corporate workers were not the most belligerent of types, Delinius speedily guided Lucas along to the entrance to the archives of the floor. "This the archives?" He peered through the door window. "Don't see no dustballs."
Delinius shrugged and unlocked the door, which creaked ominously. Lucas reached for the light button to find it was not working.
"Ah, jeeze. The light's dead. Think we'll see enough without?"
As if in reply, Delinius' entire figure began to give off a soft orange glow that illuminated the surrounding area moderately. "I believe so, yes."
With little more than their footsteps and the occasional cough to accompany them, Lucas and Delinius noticed the sound of papers being shuffled. "You hearing paper too?" Lucas whispered.
The shuffling stopped and a curious creature emerged from between the shelves and cabinets.
"What the hell? This what they called a dust monster?"
Apparently, that which had indeed been described as a 'dust monster' was in fact something quite different, despite the thick coat of dust that had settled on it. It was hardly larger than an archive drawer; its head had the shape of a typical envelope, with its mouth apparently being the 'opening' of said envelope.
Before they could make any attempt to catch it, it made a few distressed noises and launched a dozen envelopes and sheets of paper from its mouth before quickly rolling away. "Lucas, do not let it go past the door." Without hesitating, Lucas headed for the door to keep the weird envelope-headed monster back, should it come his way.
Delinius was running after the envelope between the dusty archives, trying to catch it by cornering it. Instead, he ended up landing on the floor after diving for the monster, sending the dust flying everywhere. "Stop fleeing, you silly thing! I'm not going to slay you!"
Eventually, the rolling envelope-like creature found itself crashing into a wall, having focused on avoiding Delinius too much to notice. Delinius finally caught the dazed monster, clenching it tightly between his arms to stop it from escaping. "There we are. Not so terrifying once I've caught you, now am I?" The envelope-shaped head was turned to him and the creature stared at him in confusion with its beady eyes. Needless to say, Delinius then tamed the creature using the Call of Wonder, something that he'd been taught after some time at Isles & Quint.
Ⅲ - Three Staff Members of I&Q
"Excuse me, passing through."
"Oh, hey. Where did you find that?" Delinius and his newly-found envelope creature were headed for the Adoption Center, where he would place it for adoption.
"This little one was identified as 'dust monster', as it ran its own show in the archives on floor thirty-seven. I intend to place it for adoption, unless you happen to need a creature that can launch paper projectiles from its mouth, that is."
Zachary pondered surprisingly long on this answer. "Eh, probably not. Thanks for the offer though." He continued his work, apparently not yet made aware of Delinius' note. Delinius entered an elevator and brought his rolling envelope creature to the Adoption Center, where he filed the paperwork himself - making sure it would not be one of the first to go. With the envelope out of the way, he then returned to his own floor, where he spent a number of hours dealing with the various mishaps that the files on his desk and around his office were the result of.
With several more legal issues having been sorted out by the Soul Flame's ingenious mind, he now descended to head home for the day. Rather than leaving immediately, however, he decided to check on the envelope creature, to see if it was alright.
Having obtained a key from the rather ignorant worker responsible for the security of the new arrivals wing, Delinius opened the door and looked inside. Aside from a few other creatures he did not know the names and origins of, he saw the holding pen in which 'Epistulans' was being held. The pet had been identified as of an irregular genotype that suggested it being the spawn of a larger being, though it clearly approximated the feminine genotype classified as Venus; the name was something he had come up with as a mildly humorous name that only he knew the meaning of within the company.
Epistulans was nowhere to be seen, however. Delinius muttered, irritated by this mishap.
"I leave it in their hands, and they manage to lose it on the very day I brought it in. One would almost think they do it to generate more paperwork for myself to sort and thus generate more salary from." Though he muttered this to himself, he heard a soft cough behind him. He turned around to see it was Hankvi, the company's resident 'gog' and highly valuable worker who seemed to consist solely of the many things he did for Isles & Quint, as well as falling asleep during his work.
"Oh, sorry, did I interrupt something?"
"Not quite, though there is certainly something amiss here." Delinius nodded at the empty cage. "It would seem that the curious creature I found and placed here has been released by an as-of-yet unknown responsible, and thus must be found."
"Well, that's not very, uh, convenient, is it?" Hankvi always seemed to adopt a slightly quieter tone when the two spoke, as if he was always slightly awestruck by the appearance of the relatively taller Delinius.
"That is one way to put it; I will have that lousy key guard fired if it is proven he is responsible for this. Now, I do not know if you were intent on doing something in particular here, but I will hand you the key nonetheless - I must head out." He did so and nodded at his troll co-worker before leaving.
While starting his large pickup, he noticed something near the back wheel from the corner of his eye, though he did not pay attention to it and instead drove home.
Name: Epistulans Taxonomy: Green Envelope Roller (?) _ Description: An avid spreader of all forms of paper. Is capable of racing within the confines of a room and practices such on occasion. _ Sidenote: I will have the person responsible for the enclosing of this pet know that a simple padlock is not within regulations, and they will suffer consequences for having used it as if such were the case. - D.R. Langton
"How's the day been?" Delinius mumbled something with food in his mouth. "I don't understand Munchinian, silly." Delinius finished chewing and repeated his words.
"Aside from the fact the the latest intern seems resilient and quite able to survive in the somewhat safe environment of my floor, I had the pleasure to deal with a rather strange creature in one of the archives."
Lyka's attention suddenly shifted to something behind Delinius. "Would it happen to be a rolling pet with a head that looks like an envelope?" Delinius was somewhat surprised. "Yes, in fact. How do you know?" Before she could answer, he abruptly turned around to see Epistulans, who had apparently found a way to his mansion.
"Why is it that I see you here?" Rather than rolling away in flight, Epistulans remained stationary and looked up at him. Delinius picked the pet up. "What am I supposed to do with you, now?"
Lyka came to take a closer look. "Ooh, it's a cute one!" She stroked the pet's head. "I know what to do: we keep it." Delinius sighed and looked at Epistulans. "It seems I have a new inhabitant, then!"
Surprise Mail Deliveries
"It's no use. I cannot locate him."
The Maintenancekeeper sighed in frustration. He could not halt the progress of this cocky iteration at the present time, but it wasn't exactly possible to go after him physically just yet; difficult as it was, he would not deviate from his code of conduct to which he'd sworn, even here and now.
"I will have to wait. Perhaps my Pi-bound self will take care of the issue to a greater extent than I'm expecting."
Ⅳ - Four Days of Madness
After some conversations, Delinius had arranged for a brief leave, in order to properly train this new envelope creature he'd called Epistulans. Within a few days, he'd taught her a number of simple commands as well as teaching the little Roller to utilise the spraying of various kinds of paper as an offensive move - having brought a large amount of insignificant files from his office, both for her diet and the aforementioned training.
He had not kept track of the news, however.
Steckenberg officials stated today that the infestation of the so-called "mail spammers" will be dealt with by a specialised unit, though no statement was made about its details. Investigation into the origins of the monsters has proven unsuccessful due to a lack of captured specimens. Estimated damage caused by the...
Rather than reading the remaining article, Delinius immediately called one of the few Steckenberg officials he knew in person and informed them that he had at least a similar creature in his custody, and offered to command this unit personally.
Two days later, he was introduced to the select squad of people who had been selected for this task: they were with five in total, although four of them appeared to be present there rather because they were not very good at other tasks. Having noted their names, these being Anna, Chester, Vanis, Ralph and Abas, he introduced himself. Except for Vanis, they were all Gridmasks of various kinds; Vanis was a somewhat odd Oumeth who seemed to consider this task more of a pleasurable pastime than anything else.
"A good afternoon. Now, we have been drafted together in order to deal with a plague that roams Steckenberg and beyond. For those that have not yet heard it, my name is Delinius Rupert Langton, also known as the infamous corporate manager of Isles & Quint. With introductory speeches out of the way, I would like to know what information we have to begin with."
"Well, for starters we know who you are and that you burn stuff. What else do we need when we're dealing with some plague about paper?" Delinius couldn't determine if this was a sarcastic comment on the part of Vanis or that it was a compliment, but decided to assume the latter.
"Well, yes, I do have the ability, but that doesn't quite mean we must burn the papers. In fact, do we have any amount of the papers that these creatures procure from their bodies?"
He soon regretted this as Chester and Anna then dumped a whole cart of paper before his eyes. "And lots of it." Anna remarked.
Delinius picked up a handful of papers and briefly read their contents. "Oh, I see. Well, this is quite curious. Some of these appear to be copies of mundane documents, but some lack any logical structure or theme to them. Now, what have we-" He dropped the remaining paper in his hands upon finding a document in the stack that was most certainly not meant to be out on the streets.
"This is more serious than I had expected."
In his hands was a copy of his application form for I&Q.
"Well, well." His initial plan had not succeeded: the one protoype envelope creature had been turned over to the other side. However, they were as of yet unaware of him or his plans.
"That'll be quite alright, then!" He chuckled. Surely, the moustache wouldn't find him here or do anything about him just yet; the old man let himself be restricted by his own mind.
He chuckled. There was more than enough time for him to do all he could possibly want.
For some time now, the many envelope-headed Rollers were striking everywhere, and Delinius and his crew could only do so much. However, they had begun analysing the directions and locations of the swarms while in the field, and they'd finally tracked down the origin of the plague to an abandoned building on the outskirts of an old industrial area, most of which was either slated for replacement by new apartments or reuse as business and shop buildings.
The building that had their attention was a former brewery that had continued to produce its beverages by traditional means until several years ago, when it fell to bankruptcy.
Ⅴ - Five Agents and Their Leader
Chester shook his head after trying to push the door open.
"The door's jammed, crap. Get us a crowbar, okay?" Anna went off to get said tool, but was stopped by Delinius. He walked towards the relevant door with one of his axes in his hands, although not the typical one with its flame pattern: this was a much shorter weapon, and its head was a vivid yellow.
"Never mind crowbars, Anna." He swung at the lock on the door and cut right through it. "That ought to be enough." The rest of the little crew assembled and subsequently entered, Delinius leading the way with an orb of glowing light hovering just above and to the right of his head, while everyone else turned on their flashlight.
The place was quite old: rather than modern steel, many things were made of wood or brass and the place had a distinct smell to it. There was no sign of any envelopes, however. In fact, the building seemed completely devoid of paper in general.
"I suggest we divide ourselves into two groups, so as to make exploring the area a slightly shorter task." Surprisingly, everyone complied without a word. Taking care not to trip over the mess that the industrial building was in, Delinius took Abas and Chester through the building's various areas.
After ascending a flight of stairs, they reached a surprisingly clean door. Delinius then indicated to the other team to move up to their location through the radio.
"Hey, that might just be me, but I don't like where this door is going with us."
After they'd joined, Vanis nervously glanced behind him, as if he felt that something was watching all of them.
"I swear, there wasn't a pipe running over there when we got here."
"Oh? Curious. However, standing here without a decision does not help us much either." He turned back to the door and found it to be unlocked as he slowly pushed it open. "Now, what lurks in these shadows..."
For a few moments, they all got to see the sight within: dozens, if not hundreds of the paper-spraying creatures were here, and they were all staring at Delinius with a glint in their eyes from the light entering the large room. "Quite a sight, don't you agree?"
The creatures sprinted forward, opening their mouth and launching heavy yellow envelopes as well as loose sheets of paper, many of which landed small cuts on everyone. In the midst of this mayhem, Delinius's glowing orb shattered apart, causing the many papers to go up in flames, along with the majority of the envelope creatures.
"Location has been confirmed to contain a large amount of the plaguing creatures. Plaguing creatures unfortunately had to be terminated for the most part due to their hostile nonsense. Well then, let us see if we can find any other pests that might be lurking within the shadows." He'd written the first two sentences down on the clipboard that he was carrying. The third was another command to his taskforce.
A single envelope creature bumped into Anna and knocked her over before being slain by Delinius' axe. Recollecting her things, Anna got back up and dusted off her coat. "Thanks. Definitely came from over there, but something is blocking out the light of my torch."
Everyone gathered around the strange area that was unlit by their lights. "Well uh, do something? What do we do about some weird barrier that blocks light?" Delinius nodded and headed into the darkness, vanishing from their sight. His voice was still clearly audible, however.
"This barrier is permeable, it seems. I believe we have ourselves the source of our problem, but it is unlikely we will be able to move it by ourselves." The shadow dissipated to reveal an enormous creature that was still producing a few envelopes, though it did not produce them very quickly.
"Oddly enough, its name was printed on a paper stuck to its backside. 'The Mass Scale Paper Distributor', as it is called, is now under our custody. I believe the shadow surrounding it was a rather poorly executed form of obfuscative magic, but that says very little about it or who must have put such a stationary creature in a place like this."
He took his phone from the inside of his coat.
"Now, please guard it. I must go consult an associate in order to have it transported safely."
Rather than walking out the entire way, Delinius only walked as far as the doors and then used an inscribed stone tablet to teleport to outside the building. There, he called Zachary to see if transport could be arranged.
"Isles & Quint, Isles speaking. Hello?"
"Yes, Zachary, hello. I suppose you might remember the special taskforce that has been drafted in light of the recent monster plague that is roaming Steckenberg?"
"You mentioned it just before you returned, yeah. Why?"
"Well, the source of the plague appears to be a rather large creature that must be contained. This means that I will need a standard vehicle for large creatures as well as a few people to load said creature into it."
Zachary didn't quite follow why Delinius made the latter request. "Wait... didn't you have a taskforce with you?"
"A taskforce of slightly below-average law enforces, most of which do not participate entirely of their own volition. In addition, I do not believe these five will be able to carry a creature of twice their combined weight, if my experience in this field is reliable. That aside, we know the reason why I have never done any arm wrestling and never wil, so let alone of how little use I am on that matter."
"Ah, okay. We'll send a team over then."
Ⅵ - Six Folders
"Steady now, do not put the weight on the lifting door!"
Ever so slowly, the Mass Scale Paper Distributor was loaded into the truck and secured with a series of straps and cushioning.
"Well, there's that I guess. Took us shorter than I thought." Chester lit a cigarette.
"I suppose that is true. It is now up to my colleagues at Isles & Quint to capture the remaining ones and deal with them as they see fit."
"Guess you won't be hanging around, will you? Pretty sure we could do with someone of your skill in some places."
Delinius coughed in the smoke of the cigarrette. "I have many things that need doing, I'm afraid. However, should another disturbance of this kind arise, we will rejoin with the same vigourous and adequate spirit that has brought us to solve the problem this time. It was quite pleasurable to work with the five of you for the time being."
Having said goodbye to the other four, Delinius greeted Chester a last time as well.
"Well then, Epistulans. Here we are."
He'd brought the pet along due to her previous connection to the entire mail issue, as persuasion attempts by various other sources had not brought it to share any information about its employer or its purpose.
Epistulans was introduced to the Mass Scale Paper Distributor. Delinius kept his distance, ensuring privacy between the two, yet not preventing himself from intervening if the large creature proved hostile.
Though he was too far away to interpret the chattering, Delinius was able to discern that Epistulans was eventually able to convince the larger monster to provide the information that it had stored within its archive - being at least partially mechanical and possibly even digital in nature. This information came in the form of a docile Paperworks Deliverer, the type of creature the MSPD created. Even now, sheets of paper magically appeared in its top hopper and empty envelope-heads were arriving at an equal pace.
Epistulans approached Delinius with the Paperworks Deliverer following her, despite her smaller size. "Ah, you've returned."
The Paperworks Deliverer then allowed Delinius to extract a small number of folders from its mouth, and followed Delinius around for some time as he took the elevator to his office. There, he told it to rest in the corner, having fed it a number of files pertaining to solved issues. At last, he could read the files contained within the six folders.
The next two hours, he continued reading, not stopping a single moment to pause, other than to take the occasional sip of his tea. Although it would cool as he proceeded, he reheated it every time it was too cold for his tastes. In these documents, fragments of plans and knowledge about various areas of Ludus was shown. It was clear from these that there was an entity coordinating this entire operation, although the exact nature of said entity remained vague.
He suddenly dropped his cup on the carpet, spilling its contents.
"This cannot be true."
Without hesitation, he took hold of both Epistulans and his Paperworks Deliverer and teleported to his pickup with them. After securing each to a seat using the regular belts, he drove to his mansion at high speed.
D.R. Langton the Second?
"Let's see you handle these."
He chuckled as he sent the fleet off. Counterparts were interesting: the last one he'd dealt with had gone out of his way to catch up. What would this one do about an attack?
"I'm certain that you'll be quite delighted with them!" He laughed his quiet laugh.
Ⅶ - Seven Ante Meridium
At no later than 7 in the morning, Delinius had awoken everyone, including the various pets in and around his mansion, explaining what he had read in the documents he'd recovered.
"Are you sure that this is going to happen?"
"Yes, Maltus. I suppose your coffee-deprived brain does not quite process this yet, but I know for a fact that such an invasion is planned." He held up the folders with the information from the MSPD. "These documents, obtained from a formerly-involved monster, detail at least the time and location, with strong probability that the present day is the date."
Rather than being able to question Delinius further, Maltus pointed at something in the air outside. "Well..."
After a notable pause, he continued: "I think you might be right."
On the outside, several monsters had appeared. Their appearance was not unlike the Paperworks Deliverers, who had been little more than rolling creatures with envelope-shaped heads, not much larger than a typical Green Smiley Walker. These creatures, however, were notably bigger and seemed to have some means by which to stay in the air. From the lower part of their bodies, these creatures were releasing a number of smaller monsters, some of which began orbiting it while the remainder slowly fell to the ground.
"There is no time to waste, by the looks of it." Many of his pets followed him through the large garden door as he opened the garden's gates in advance of them.
His suspicions were unfortunately true: a whole fleet of the airborne monsters was approaching his mansion, accompanied by a swarm of flying drones around them as well as hordes of smaller envelope-headed Rollers; the remains of the swarms of Paperworks Deliverers were also found scattered in between their smaller kin. These small creatures were almost identical to Epistulans, except for their colours, which were notably more blue.
"Everyone, take positions!" Lyka, Ina and Maltus had joined Delinius, Ina and Maltus with their respective weapons ready. Lyka had taken up the role of guiding all the pets in the necessary directions.
"Are your mechanisms guaranteed to work as they are supposed to?"
Rather than speaking up, Maltus nodded and drew his somewhat damaged sword, a weapon he'd carried over from his earlier days. Ina brandished her "folding dagger", as she called it, next to a sparingly used handgun.
Delinius was equipped with his signature axe, but also wore a suit of padded leather that was meant to protect him from the storm of envelopes and papers that was evidently nearing.
"Do you think we'll be able to handle them, sir?" Sherman, one of his pets and designated caretaker, seemed rather nervous, despite knowing how powerful many of his fellow pets were.
Delinius shook his head. "It is rather a question how well these creatures will handle me."
"Something is off." Maltus had reached Delinius in a rather urgent fashion.
"How so?" Maltus pointed at an enormous creature that was ever so slowly coming into view, advvancing through the dunes. It appeared large enough to at least severely damage Delinius' home, if not demolish it.
Delinius then called out for one of his more notable pets - known as the Buttering Ram. It was enormous, and he rarely left it to stray outside of its pen for obvious reasons. It was finally strolling about through the swarms, seemingly unphased by the myriad of smaller monsters attacking it and not noticing the many envelope monsters that were crushed under its legs. "Are you sure it's not going to get killed by them?"
Rather than giving an answer, Delinius equipped his bow and quiver and sprinted after his giant pet.
"Wait!" Lyka ran after him despite her below-average running condition.
The Buttering Ram was still calmly striding forwards, now flanked by Delinius and Lyka, both making sure that it would be fit to halt the other large creature that loomed in the distance. However, a number or highly annoying monsters were trying to distract the pet from its forward trajectory.
"Can you carry me up there, honey?" Delinius complied immediately, and Lyka sent the creatures flying using concentrated blasts of air. Some of them quickly returned, however, hitting them with static shocks by colliding at high speed.
Delinius took care to place Lyka on the woolen back of the Buttering Ram, after which he used his pyromancy to repel the monsters back.
"Ignite and perish, return to your sending address!"
With some effort, he caught most of them in the blaze, leaving the remains to be picked off by his own airborne pets.
"Keep them off, I think we're almost there!"
"Wait, is that Delinius on TV?"
A live news broadcast had interrupted the low-quality comedy show that everyone was watching in the break room. While Zachary had been busy elsewhere at the time, someone had come to his office to mention that Delinius was involved. A reporter, looking quite shocked, explained that an enormous swarm of "mail monsters" was fighting Delinius and his pets. In the distance, two creatures, each surely the size of a small house, seemed to be slowly approaching each other on a collision course. The man in question, Delinius, was unfortunately not available for commentary.
Ⅷ - Eightfolds Spilling Out
With a ground-shaking, almighty thud, the Buttering Ram collided with what appeared to be a rolling fortress that was sending out more of the airborne mail carriers that had been abundant in the past few hours. Rather than rolling back and giving way, the enormous thing, whether monster or machine, began to crack. Tears in its outer shell slowly widened as Buttering Ram continued to head-butt it. The ram had no idea what he was doing: it simply believed that there was butter somewhere in the distance, as his master had whispered to him. With a last thud, the tears gave way, spilling a very flood of various creatures, both living and deceased, many of which then began attacking the poor ram.
"Oh, this won't do!" Delinius then called upon Dwin, hoping that he would perhaps receive help in defeating the endless plague. Instead, however, the majority of his pets engaged with the masses, forming a protective ring around their fellow pet to protect him. With Ina and Maltus arriving on the backs of these pets, the three merely nodded.
Accendendi Hostes Sunt!
With their combined efforts, a haze of fiery particles formed like a protective shroud around the Buttering Ram and the other pets, setting fire to the hostile monsters and gradually wiping them out.
From the piles of burnt and slain mail creatures, a humanoid figure emerged, obscured by smoke.
"My, my! You have indeed risen to the occasion for this challenge!"
Maltus turned to his younger cousin.
"Rupert. Is it me... or is that voice very much like yours?"
"It would seem so, yes. For once, however, stop addressing me as Rupert."
Ⅸ - Ninth in Line
The three stood dumbfounded, but Delinius most of all: before them stood an individual who, save for perhaps his exact face and costume, seemed like a twin brother of Delinius.
"And who are you, may I ask?"
"Me, you ask? Oh, I simply deliver the post, my friend!" The young man disappeared in a flurry of envelopes, all of which read:
The Postbringer Deliverer of Envelopes and Parcels Bringer of Mail Primus novitaferentium
"So... you basically just burned them all?"
Sam's question was as humorous as it was a brief summary of what Delinius had just explained.
"If you wish to put it bluntly, yes. However, the fact that this man, whoever he may be, appeared as if it was my reflection I was gazing at, I cannot comprehend."
He rose from his seat and began pacing up and down, using his hands to reinforce his words. "He needs to be found, and he is to be removed from this world. We cannot have an individual who bears such a striking resemblance to myself."
He then struck his fist in the palm of his other hand. "In other words, this 'Postbringer' must die."
"This is most unacceptable. Helen, I must ask you to keep watch over the home for some time. It seems that my direct influence is the only thing that will stop this rebellious young man. If he is young at all, that is."
Delinius the Maintenancekeeper exited the room and opened his locker. His combat equipment was here, and he'd likely need it.