A caravan of 3 horse-drawn carriages had been on the road for the past three days. The first of them was a stagecoach capable of carrying 6 people and their belongings. The other two wagons were transporting cargo. One of them had barrels and crates loaded with all manner of food. Salted meats, smoked fish, dried fruits and pickled vegetables made up about half of its cargo, the rest consisting mostly of rye and wheat. There were even a few kegs of top-quality dwarven ale and a crate of less-than-top-quality elven wine. The other wagon, the third vehicle in the convoy, held a number of general goods such as spices, ropes, clothing, tools and cutlery.
Overall, the caravan was carrying goods that had a total market value of about 1,300G. A tempting target should a group of well-coordinated unscrupulous individuals decided they wanted it for themselves. Which is precisely why the merchant that owned these carriages hired a total of 13 adventurers as armed escorts. 9 of them were keeping pace with the caravan on foot while the rest were riding on top of the carriages where they and their weapons were clearly visible.
Usually a show of force like this would be enough to deter bandits. After all, even though such criminals were not that uncommon, they weren’t stupid enough to risk fighting an engagement where their lives would be at serious risk. No matter how sweet a prize, you couldn’t get a single taste of it if you were dead. That’s why such criminals would not attack their victims unless they had an overwhelming advantage.
Such as, say, having a large group of 30 or so bloodthirsty men ambush the convoy and use their superior numbers to quickly overwhelm the defenders and seize the loot. Which is more or less exactly what the local bandit gang tried to do. They picked a spot on the road where one side of it had a thick forest with plenty of cover while the other side was a sheer 25 meter drop into a rocky canyon, complete with furious white water rapids at the bottom. Even if the escorts survived that fall, they would still be dragged under by that unforgiving current.
And so, with their plan in place and their target in sight, the bandits began their ambush by firing on the caravan out of the forest. A flurry of arrows and Spells rained down on the adventurers. However, it would seem the criminals had not gone entirely unnoticed. The Shaman and Wizard in the group had already deployed their defensive Spells.
An impossible gust of wind knocked physical projectiles off course while a bright purple bubble repelled the offensive magic. However, the defensive magic could not cover the entire convoy, and a number of attacks ended up on target. A combination of two Acid Javelins and a Shadowbolt struck the lead carriage at once, knocking it over and blocking the road. The horses flew into a frenzy and bucked wildly, threatening to wreck the two cargo wagons.
The redhead human Ranger that served as leader of the armed escort quickly flew into action. She ordered her comrades take cover behind the cargo wagons, with the canyon to their backs. She wanted to confirm the safety of the passenger in the lead carriage, but that seemed to be a lost cause. The bloodied, lifeless hand that stuck out from inside the melting wreckage was more than enough proof that their client had died. A second volley was fired soon after, killing the horses and completely ruining any chances the adventurers might have had for a quick escape.
However, the 230 centimeter tall, scar-faced, black-haired gang leader by the name of Makren didn’t order a third ranged attack. The female Ranger’s snap judgement was spot on. It was only natural that the bandits would hesitate to destroy the very loot they came here to get.
“Damn that bitch,” he cursed under his breath. “Guess she’s not as green as she looks.”
He ordered over half his men to step forward. 20 heavily armed bandits revealed themselves from the treeline and started establishing a perimeter while brandishing their weapons. All of them were male and wore mismatched armor and shields, obviously looted gear from previous victims. There was even a trio of them that appeared to be deserters from the royal army, or at least the very least wore its trademark plate armor with the griffin-head-shaped right shoulder pad. Other than that, the rest of them were a mix of half-plate, chainmail and reinforced leather armor.
However varied their gear might have been, all of them still had one thing on common. Each bandit wore a dark red cowl, hood, headband and/or bandana. Clearly intended to be some sort of identifying gang sign, a flag if you will. They also moved with a certain amount of coordination, suggesting they had been training in mixed unit tactics, which was extremely strange for criminal rabble like that.
Once their half-encirclement was complete, they moved forward in a threatening manner, stopping some 15 meters away from the still hiding adventurers. It was a tense atmosphere, a standoff of sorts. While the adventurers were naturally unwilling to start the inevitable skirmish, the other side seemed to be holding back as well, at least for the moment.
“Listen up, snowflakes!” shouted Makren. “We just want the loot! Leave it behind peacefully and we will not give chase! Nobody else has to die here!”
They would probably win the fight if it came to that, but it was highly likely the bandits would suffer quite a lot of casualties even though they outnumbered those people nearly 3-to-1. If their ambush had succeeded and they had taken out 3 or 4 of them, then it would have been a different story. However, the Ranger leader had spotted their approach seconds before and prevented most of the damage. Two of her people were heavily injured before they could scramble for cover, but it was nothing the party’s healers couldn’t deal with. The client in the lead carriage, however, was not so lucky.
“Yeah, right!” she yelled back. “As if anyone would trust a bunch of lowlifes like you!”
“Be reasonable, honey! Your people ain’t got a chance!”
“Then come and get us, you dickless turds!”
Makren sighed. He really hated those heroic types that never backed down. It was always the hard way with those insufferable people. To make matters worse, he really wasn’t lying about letting them go. Engaging a well-oiled adventurer team in open combat was a terrifying prospect. They were people that fought dangerous monsters and beasts on a nearly daily basis. The difference in quality between a bandit and an adventurer was almost like heaven and earth, which is exactly why Makren made his men train together regularly. The importance of teamwork was something Makren understood well, having been an adventurer himself until a few years ago.
“Come on boss!” said one of his subordinates. “Let’s go shut that bitch up real good!”
“Yeah,” chimed in the fellow next to him. “Enough with this diplomancy bullcrap!”
His fellow bandits, however, lacked that sort of insight. They failed to understand that the adventurers leaving peacefully would have been the best resolution to this failed ambush. None of his men would die and they’d keep all of the loot. True, they’d leave witnesses alive, but they could always relocate if someone put out a bounty on their heads or if some punitive force came knocking.
That path was now closed to him, however. He now had three options.
First was to try to flush out the adventurers and keep the cargo as intact as possible. They would reap the most profit, but his men would end up questioning his leadership if a lot of them ended up dying over it. This was the best short-term solution, but would sow seeds of discontent among the survivors which would likely become trouble further down the line.
The second was to bombard the carts from afar with magic. That Wizard would try to ward off their Spells, but his MP would not hold out for too long. That way they would suffer the least casualties, but also have very little to show for their trouble. Some smart-asses would probably question his decision anyway, but he could just counter with how they’re alive now becaues of it.
And the final option was to simply give up on the profits and withdraw. A sure fire way to have his men turn on him, have a bounty put out on his head AND lose out on all the loot. It was still technically a choice, no matter how terrible it would be.
“Have it your way then!” he shouted. “Boys!”
Having made his decision, Makren lifted an arm above his head. Everyone, bandit and adventurer alike, went silent in anticipation of what would undoubtedly be the order to start the battle. The tension in the air was so thick you could cut it with a knife.
Wait, wasn’t this too quiet? The bandit leader could have sworn he still heard the odd bird call or distant roars of monsters while they were preparing their ambush. In fact, the forest’s denizens had gotten particularly noisy ever since the sky lit up and the ground shook several hours ago.
And yet they were quiet. In the middle of a summer day, that entire section of the overgrown forest was completely and utterly silent. The only noise that could be heard was the muffled splashing of the nearby river.
“Boss! On the road, look!”
One of the bandits pointed in the direction that led towards the city of Monotal. Makren followed his finger and easily saw it. How could he not? You’d have to be blind from the eyes to not notice that. A nearly 3-meter tall, red-skinned, four-armed and metal-horned pile of muscle and anger was running toward them at full sprint. It was some 150 meters away and closing in fast.
“W-What is that?!”
“What do we do, boss?!”
The bandits were understandably shaken. It’s not every day one meets a demon. Especially not one that seemed to be without a master.
“Calm down, you shits!” shouted Makren. “That thing’s nothing to be scared of!”
He once again raised his arm. That demon was going to be upon them real soon!
“Backline!” He swung his arm down theatrically. “Open fire on that thing! Turn it into a puddle!”
His men raised a cheer in anticipation for the light show. It lasted for several seconds before it dawned on them that such a thing wasn’t going to come.
“... Huh? What are those assholes doing?!”
Their leader looked towards the forest, just in time to see a small crystal fly out of it. It was a perfect dodecahedron, with a tiny, transparent skull inside it. It fell on the ground, right int the middle of a cluster of his men. It then cracked open, releasing a wailing, piercing screech that was loud enough to rock one to their core.
Your target has been crippled by fear for 6 seconds.
Your target has been crippled by fear for 7 seconds.
Your target has been crippled by fear for 6 seconds.
Your target has been crippled by fear for 4 seconds.
Your target has been crippled by fear for 5 seconds.
Your target has been crippled by fear for 5 seconds.
Your target has been crippled by fear for 7 seconds.
Your target has been crippled by fear for 8 seconds.
Your target has been crippled by fear for 8 seconds.
Proficiency level increased. Crystallize Magic is now Level 2. INT +2. WIS +2.
Mass Panic is much tastier this way, thought Boxxy. The spike in MP cost was well worth the additional range. The duration of the effect was still unreliable though. It seemed to vary from person to person, and never went over 8 seconds or under 4. Well, other than all those times its minions resisted the effect completely, but that was besides the point.
“Save me! I don’t wanna die!”
“Mommy! I’m sorry! Mommy!”
The bottom line was, the distraction was scarily effective and effectively scary. About half of the red-clothed humans were currently curled up in a ball and wetting themselves or running away at full speed due to the magically induced panic attack. And fear was contagious. Even if it wasn’t ‘real,’ the sudden wailing and crying, combined with Kora charging at them like a gigantic woman-shaped battering ram made the rest of them visibly shaken.
And speaking of the muscular fiend, she seemed to finally reached their panicking front line and then-
“Here comes the pain, bitch! OOOORAH!”
-literally ran them over. She clotheslined two of them with a double lariat and decked a third one with a boot to the face. Being crippled by magic left them wide open for her attacks, allowing her to forego defense and hit them as hard as she could. She then jumped on top of the booted one’s face heels-first, using her enormous weight and powerful legs to smash the human’s head open against the ground, killing him instantly.
“Ora! Ora! Ora ora ora oraoraoraoraoraora!”
Next came the immediate barrage of fists and kicks aimed at the few bandits that still had the balls to attack her. Some of them tried to strike at her unarmored torso while others tried to stall for time by blocking and parrying. However, all of them seemed to be fighting sloppily due to their anxiety and uneasiness. If they were calm, they would be able to quickly pick up on her simple attack pattern and counter attack, but the Mimic’s new toy had taken a massive shit all over their composure.
Judging by the 8 bandits it disposed of silently just a while ago, Boxxy had concluded they seemed to be quite a bit tougher than the rabble it had dealt with until now. Estimated Level was around 30 or 35. 40 at most. And while that increase in Level made this endeavor more dangerous, the XP and Proficiency earned were extremely delicious. Ah, but it would seem that one or two of the rats were making an escape. It would seem the Mass Panic Spell Crystal was a bit too effective. Now it would have to go hunt them down and kill them. After all, the last time it let someone escape like this, it resulted in a punitive force being organized to hunt it down. Needless to say, it wanted to avoid a repeat of that situation. Next time it may not be so lucky.
“Snack,” it called out telepathically,” I am going to hunt. Do not let any of these people survive.”
“Yes, Master,” replied Xera.
She was currently scouting out the situation from high in the air. Even if someone were to look upwards it would be difficult to see her light-blue camouflaged body against the clear sky. The rotten gears in her head started turning, looking for a way to fulfil that command.
“Ah, Master!” she exclaimed. The proverbial lightbulb had gone off in her head when she saw the new development. “I need something from you to help me do that!”
Back at the battle itself, the adventurers were already locked in combat with the enemy. Borona, the Ranger leader, made a judgement call to assist the mysterious red-skinned demon. It was a risk to get too close to it, however. She may have managed to kill one and incapacitate two of those criminals during the surprise attack, but it wasn’t clear if she was under contract or not. The fact she was not under ranged attack from the forest meant she probably had allies working nearby that counter-ambushed the Casters and archers hiding in the treeline. Even if that wasn’t the case, it was better to act now and catch the bandits in a sort of pincer attack, rather than, as her second-in-command named Winchester put it, ‘sit down, have a pint and wait for this whole thing to blow over.’ Bloody dwarves.
“Miles, support Eric and Logar,” she ordered through her Whisper Wind Skill.
The effects of this Skill meant her words would reach any target within 200 meters without fail and would be clearly audible no matter what.
“Haas, you have two of them on your left. Nora, don’t get near that rampaging demon just yet!”
It also meant that only the target would be able to hear her speak, which made this an excellent tool for relaying orders during a hectic battle like this.
“Winchester, how are you already out of MP?! I swear, if you put whiskey in your mana potions again I will rip your fucking liver out and feed it to you!”
She kept giving out orders while firing her bow from a distance. Even if the enemy was more numerous, the adventurers had magic support on their side, which made them the superior force. The only worry was making sure none of the people under her command died to this scum.
Just then she saw a Fireball stream in from the treeline. Her first thought was that more bandits had shown up, but quickly abandoned tht thought when she saw the Fireball accurately hit one of the bandits in the back, setting him on fire while he screamed his lungs out. The Ranger quickly tracked its point of origin to female human Caster emerging from the treeline. She had auburn hair tied in a long ponytail and wore long, gray robes. It was plainly obvious she had been badly hurt. Her right thigh had a deep gash in it with copious amounts of blood leaking from it. Her robe had been slashed up along her thigh and shoulder, and it looks like she cauterized her wounds with magic. Let’s not even mention that heavy limp she had.
“I am an adventurer from Monotal and that fiend’s master!” she yelled towards the Ranger. “I will support you!”
“Understood! We welcome the assist!” came the immediate reply.
The Ranger was honestly glad. Looks like they wouldn’t have to face off against that fiend. Honestly, she had serious doubts she was actually leashed. She knew demons were brutal by nature and that bandits were to be killed on sight by law, so she could accept a certain amount of violence under the circumstance. However, ripping off a guy’s arms and and then beating him across the head with them while repeatedly yelling ‘Stop hitting yourself!’ was perhaps a bit too violent. It’s like her master didn’t even try to restrain the demon under her charge.
Which was more or less the case. That red demon’s actual master was currently busy stalking one of the two deserters from earlier. It had neither the time, the opportunity nor desire to reign in its rampaging familiar. In fact, ‘run wild and mow them down’ were pretty much the orders it gave Kora in the first place.
“Haah, haah, haah,” panted the bandit as he leaned against a tree to catch his breath. He was a young man, barely 17 years of age. That Mass Panic from earlier hit him hard. It was his first time experiencing that sort of depthless desperation. When he finally regained his senses, however, he had already deserted the battle. And he knew full well what that leader did to deserters. Therefore, he just kept running. Fighting people was one thing, but he never signed up for that sort of freaky monster shit. How come he had to-
Assassination Skill triggered. Your attack has dealt 250% more damage. Target HP -563.
You have slain your target in a single strike. Assassination Proficiency increased.
Proficiency level increased. Assassination is now Level 6. AGI +2. DEX +1. STR +1.
The mithril dagger was then casually withdrawn from the back of his throat, pulling his body down in the process. Boxxy then immediately activated its Cadaver Absorption Skill. This should be the last one it needed before reaching the next Skill Level.
Your Cadaver Absorption was a minor success!
12% of the target’s highest Attribute has been added to your own. AGI +10.
Proficiency level increased. Cadaver Absorption is now Level 5. All Attributes +1.
And indeed it was. It even got some tasty tasty Attributes from it as a bonus! It would seem that taking part in that little struggle was the right choice. Even if its Jobs were slow to increase in Level, it could still spend some time and train up some of the Skills it had been neglecting recently. Such as, for example, Stealth.
Description: The practice of thinning out one’s presence in order to avoid detection
Requirements: AGI 15, DEX 15, INT 5
Type: Toggled (ON)
Activation Time: Instant
Cost: 10 MP
Effects: Suppresses all sounds made by movement.
Drains 2 MP for every 1 meter traveled in any direction.
The noise suppression effect of this Skill improves with each Level of this Skill.
Honestly, this entire encounter so far felt oddly nostalgic. Boxxy felt like it had been forever since it actually managed to ambush something properly, even though it’s only been about a week in reality. Well, from the perspective of something that’s only been alive for 3 months, that’s still quite a long time. Even the core meltdown that happened earlier today already felt like a distant memory.
Ah, but now wasn’t the time to space out and reminisce about the past. It had hunted down one of the rats that tried to flee the sinking ship, but the other one had escaped in a different direction entirely. Boxxy wasn’t very good at tracking so, realistically speaking, its chanced of tracking him down now were catastrophically low. It could keep looking around blindly, but perhaps it would be better to go back and make sure that tasty buffet it left behind didn’t go anywhere?
Speaking of which, it had been about 7 or 8 minutes since it left that battle. Wouldn’t it be prudent to check on the situation? Yes, that seemed like a-
Your target has been obliterated. HP -934.
Your familiar has been banished.
Your target has been blown away. HP -601.
Your target has been obliterated. HP -915.
Your target has been obliterated. HP -951.
Your target has been obliterated. HP -734.
Your target has been obliterated. HP -886.
Your target has been obliterated. HP -860.
Your target has been obliterated. HP -903.
Your target has been blown away. HP -812.
Your target has been obliterated. HP -894.
Your target has been obliterated. HP -847.
Your target has been blown away. HP -794.
Your target has been blown away. HP -689.
Your target has been obliterated. HP -920.
The slaughter invigorates you. HP +126. MP +112.
Proficiency level increased. Power Overwhelming is now Level 4. INT +4.
Proficiency level increased. Crystallize Magic is now Level 3. INT +2. WIS +2.
Proficiency level increased. Ruin Mastery is now Level 6. INT +2. WIS +1. END +1.
Congratulations, you are now a level 24 Warlock! INT +4. MNT +4. END +4.
Several seconds after that, it was notified that the four targets that were ‘blown away’ had suffered blunt force trauma, presumably on impact with the ground, giving it an extra 18 HP and 16 MP through the Butcher of Humanity Perk. It also heard the distant echo of an explosion roll through the forest.
“Arms, any survivors?”
“I don’t think so, Master. That bitch blew up good! She took out the whole lot of them in- Oh wait! One of them’s still twitching!”
Proficiency level increased. Summon Familiar is now Level 7. INT +2. WIS +1. MNT +1.
The slaughter invigorates you. HP +19. MP +18.
“There, all done!”
“Good. Guard the place, I’ll be there later. I have prey to hunt.”
The Mimic felt oddly satisfied as it began its search for the last survivor. As expected of the Snack, it came up with a truly tasty plan. Boxxy would never have considered gaining the trust of adventurers just to explode them all at once in a suicide attack by detonating a Big Bang Ball. That was the nickname it had given to the potent combination of Power Overwhelming, Dark Explosion and Spell Crystal.
Incidentally, the Bang Ball was the same, only without the Power Overwhelming, and the Mass Panic Spell Crystals were referred to simply as Boo Balls. It’s true that, technically speaking, they weren’t actually balls, but the Mimic didn’t really sweat the small stuff. Besides, there was no way in hell it could actually say something like 'dodecahedron,' no matter how many times Xera tried to teach it.
Speaking of which, Boxxy was still unsure as to one aspect of her anti-adventurer plan, but it was hard to argue with tasty results like these. Therefore, it decided to accept that jamming the 10-centimeter wide crystal up the succubus’s asshole was probably for the best.
|General Information||Attributes||Job Information|
|Name||Boxxy T. Morningwood||Name||Value||Name||Value||Name||Level||Progress|
|Cadaver Absorption||5||0%||Sword Mastery||6||39%|
|Natural Armor||2||23%||Dagger Mastery||4||53%|
|Summon Familiar||7||0%||Ruin Mastery||6||31%|
|Power Overwhelming||4||44%||Domination Mastery||3||86%|
|Dark Explosion||Mind Blast|