After having stowed away the once-pure Holy Pearl, Boxxy brought its attention back to the gray toolbox on the floor. It opened up its maw and retrieved the blue toolbox from earlier, setting it down next to the other and opening it up. This one also had numerous bits and pieces, although the majority of them were various sizes of cogs, sprockets and gears, complete with some wound springs, an assortment of screws and a collection of metal plates. Just the right ingredients to build designs that relied on Clockwork Expertise. The last remaining toolbox it bought from Fizzy, the red one, held the ingredients and components for creating explosives, although that would have to wait until Artificer Level 10.
Kora and Xera watched on in silence as their master prepared its many-tooled limbs and once again began assembling a device. However, this was something vastly different from the Bladeblossoms it had mass produced until now. To begin with, the metal plate that would serve as the base of the contraption wasn’t circular, but rectangular. Not to mention that it was significantly larger at about 15 centimeters long and 3 and a half centimeters wide. Its ‘hands’ also moved much slower than before as it punched a few holes into the thin plate and then started screwing gears into it.
The reason for the loss in speed was simple - this was its first time handling these delicate components seriously. It did get some practice on working with clockwork contraptions in its teacher’s workshop earlier, but that was while using the clumsy fingers of a human. Therefore, it took things slowly until it grasped exactly what needed to happen. Boxxy always learned by doing rather than listening, after all.
Still, it’s not like it didn’t listen to Fizzy’s instructions. Quite the contrary, it absorbed every little insightful detail she revealed, either through her words or actions. Where to apply pressure, how much of it to use, what parts needed additional oil, how much strain the delicate gears could take before their teeth broke and other useful tips that could only be gleaned from experience. After all, the knowledge derived from the Clockwork Expertise Skill only related to schematics and blueprints rather than practical application.
Proficiency level increased. Metal Mimicry is now Level 3. STR +2. END +2. All Attributes +1.
Working with new parts also demanded new tools. And while it did technically have access to those, and paid good money for them, they were much easier to handle if the Mimic simply grew them by using its newest shapeshifting-related Skill. As for the higher-than-average Attribute boost, this was something else that Boxxy realized a bit too late.
It would appear that, on average, higher tiered Skills provided additional Attributes whenever they went up in Level. This realization made the Mimic feel a bit scammed in that respect since it had already used a precious unlock point on a Level 1 Skill instead of a Level 30 Skill. Well, it wasn’t a huge loss since Cadaver Absorption was there to fill the gap.
Now was not the time to get complacent, however. Boxxy had spied on a team of adventurers in the field, and what it saw was worrying. Those four people were said to have attained Level 70 recently, which was comparable to the Mimic’s total Job Level, and yet they completely outperformed it. Not only was their teamwork something else entirely, but each individual was also immensely powerful.That is when Boxxy realized the biggest, most damning difference between itself and adventurers.
Namely their gear.
Magic weapons, sturdy armor, enchanted jewelry and potent potions. Each item they had provided them with some Attribute bonus or other special effect that allowed them to fight toe-to-toe with monsters. The Mimic had to get gear of its own if it hoped to stand up to such things when the time came, and that’s when it ran into its first hurdle.
Enchanted gear costed money. A lot of money.
Money was exchanged for goods and services - that was simply how civilized society worked. And although the monster had some starting capital, it wouldn’t be nearly enough for its needs. Of course, it could always attempt to loot said magical equipment off their dead bodies, but would it really survive an encounter with those people? No, no it would not. It had complete confidence it would lose if it ever had to fight that particular team of adventurers, regardless of whether or not it got a successful ambush off.
And so it found the Mercenary Guild and started taking on Quests. Its small fortune swelled to about 2,400 GP and then it went shopping. Potions were easy enough to obtain from merchants and peddlers. In fact, the Mimic currently had 10 of them, although they were of varying quality. The 4 most potent ones it had could instantly restore up to 300 HP, but were also quite expensive at 190 GP. What’s with that exorbitant price considering 50 HP potions only cost 16 GP?!
Well, as it turns out, Alchemical products had side effects. After all, the difference between medicine and poison was mostly in the dosage. Consuming too many potions in a short amount of time would inflict a condition known as ‘potion sickness.’ Exactly how much a body could take varied between individuals, and the Mimic found out its limit was about 5 potions per day. Any more than that and its body would be wracked with immense pain and it would suffer a penalty to its Attributes until it recovered. Therefore, it was better to rely on a small number of potent elixirs rather than chug down buckets of the cheap stuff. It may be expensive, but being poor and alive was preferable to being rich and dead.
Having solved its medication needs, the Mimic then moved on to check out the prices of enchanted arms and armor. It didn’t see a single piece that was cheaper than 800 GP. Some of the armor pieces went up to as much as 5-digits, though Boxxy did its best not to read the actual numbers as they were clearly beyond its means. Well, the good news was that the mithril daggers and enchanted knife it had appeared to be of decent make and would net it a mouth-watering 3,400 GP if it sold them. The bad news was that the most vital piece of equipment - namely armor - was out of the question.
It wasn’t just the cost, either. That could easily be resolved if Boxxy put enough work in, but most armor was made to fit humanoid shapes. Oh sure, the Mimic was capable of disguising itself as one, but that was still a disguise. It was an unfamiliar form that was extremely awkward to fight in and played havoc with the sentient chest’s sense of balance and direction. Any enemy that could be taken down by that shape was hardly worthy of being considered an opponent.
And that’s when it found out about Artificers. About how they could build weapons and gear to solve any multitude of problems. Transforming shields, repeating crossbows, multi-purpose projectile launchers, metal boots that allowed flight, gadgets that rendered one invisible, weapons that outright shot lightning - the list of fascinating inventions went on and on and on. But perhaps the most alluring part of that was the ability to create truly original works that were custom-tailored to fit the needs of their creator. Even if said creator was a violent box with a penchant for sticking pointy objects into fleshy things.
Of course Boxxy was intrigued. Using cheap tricks and unexpected maneuvers to confuse and befuddle its opponent was its way of life, so the possibilities it saw within the Artificer Job were truly delicious. Granted, most of this information it got second-hand from Xera, but it could easily confirm the details if it visited the best (and only) Artificer trainer in the city. Which is how it met Cornie Fizzlesprocket and obtained the Artificer Job from her, for a fee of course. Well, it also had to have her memory wiped since it got over-excited and licked her face with a clearly inhuman 1-meter long tongue, but that’s besides the point.
But would such a moronic chest really be capable of constructing and using all this complex machinery? The Artificer Job and its derived Skills afforded all the knowledge and expertise necessary to create all those wondrous devices. Provided one put in the time, effort and resources to raise them properly, of course.
This course of action was precisely what the Mimic had decided it would do, and was also the reason why the only noises that could be heard throughout the abandoned warehouse’s old office for the past hour were the clacking and scraping sounds of an Artificer immersed in their work. And the fruit of its labor was what appeared to be a metal dagger handle with a slot where the blade should be.
You have created a Retractable Blade of inferior quality.
Well, that was more or less what it was, though. Boxxy opened its mouth and a pale humanoid arm stretched out of it. The Retractable Blade was then partially absorbed by this arm, sinking into the skin just above the wrist. And then Boxxy activated it by trigger the small switch hidden inside the arm’s flesh.
A 10 centimeter long steel blade popped out just above its wrist and over its knuckles.
“Woah! Hey, that’s pretty cool!”
The two demons that had been sitting quietly until now let out surprised voices. Xera was momentarily startled while Kora was actually impressed. Of course they saw the assembly start to finish, but they had no idea what this blade-in-a-box was supposed to actually do until they saw it with their own eyes.
The blade disappeared as instantaneously as it had appeared. Boxxy thought this was a good start, it could use something like this. Well, it could obviously achieve a similar result just by applying its shapeshifting Skills, but that wasn’t the point. Doing such things would not increase its Artificer Level, after all. Still, it wondered how good this thing would actually be as a weapon.
“Snack, come over here and stand still,” it commanded.
The succubus, having no choice in the matter, did as ordered and stood before her master while still disguised as a nun. She had a pretty good idea of what was about to happen, anyway. And indeed, just as she’d deduced, her master swung that freakish arm towards her chest. She envisioned a scenario where the blade would pop out at the last moment and strike into her with added momentum and force.
You have suffered a deep wound. HP -122.
“Guheh! Heeeh! Hnnnn!”
Which was precisely what had happened. The specially-designed iron blade skewered her left breast and pierced her torso. If she had a heart, it would undoubtedly be stabbed clean through. But since she didn’t, she could just revel in the delicious sensations of being penetrated by something long and hard.
Boxxy on the other hand was slightly disappointed. This amount of damage was quite terrible. Was it because this weapon was, technically speaking, not a dagger? They were quite similar, but very different at the same time. Maybe the reason for this subpar performance was because the device was flawed?
There was a slight delay between the triggering mechanism being activated and the blade popping out. The Mimic briefly thought back on the last hour and determined that it probably bent the main lynchpin during assembly. That was the most likely cause for this defect. The rookie Artificer decided to take the thing apart and see where else it messed up.
However, attempting to pull the weapon out of the demon’s torso caused it to break off, leaving the succubus with a large metal fragment sticking out of her left boob. Well, that wasn’t supposed to happen. It would appear that Boxxy also shaved away too much material from the brace that connected the handleless knife to the rest of the contraption.
Xera was, understandably, still in pain. And she was, less understandably, still enjoying it. That’s when the Mimic had a flash of inspiration. It made a fist and punched the succubus in her wound, driving the blade even further inside her.
Your target has suffered internal injury. Target HP -71.
She fell over backwards while screaming, her blood flying everywhere. The Mimic loomed over her while holding one of the cheaper healing potions it had. The succubus looked up at it in between wails of pain and pleasure, but had no idea what was about to happen. Surely that selfish master wasn’t about to offer her healing?
Contrary to her expectations though, that was precisely what happened. Boxxy poured the magical liquid directly onto the wound. Doing so would concentrate the potion’s effect on that part of the body, at least according to the old elven apothecary that it bought it from. It would seem the knife-ear wasn’t full of shit, though since the bleeding gash closed up almost instantly.
With the foreign object still inside.
“AAAAAARHH! ARRRGHAA! AAAAAAAAH!”
The test subject started screaming her lungs out. These were no longer lustful half-moans, but the undeniable wailing of a woman being tortured. She thrashed about wildly as her body tried to bond with the metal blade that clearly didn’t belong to it. There was not much HP damage, but the pain she felt was like every nerve in her torso was being forcefully ripped out.
Another tip that old Alchemist gave Boxxy was to make sure that no foreign objects like shards of glass or arrowheads remained in the wound before applying the potion directly to an open wound. Drinking the potion would cause it to work from the inside out and push said objects out of the body all on their own. However, pouring it over the wound would result in what Xera was currently going through.
“Stand up,” commanded the Mimic.
The wailing succubus did an effort to follow this order, but every single movement she made caused bolts of pain to shoot through her chest, all the way into the back of her head. The white hot sensation made her stumble over and fall down to the ground, which only aggravated her condition.
She wailed like a banshee was having all her teeth and nails pulled out simultaneously.
The Mimic figuratively nodded to itself. If the pain was debilitating enough to physically keep its familiar from following a simple order, then it was a very good use of a disposable blade and a cheap potion. Well, whether the creature could actually perform this trick in combat was another question entirely, but it was good to have options.
Xera’s screaming and thrashing stopped immediately and her body went limp and lifeless.
Your familiar has been dismissed.
Her physical form disappeared within seconds, as did any bodily fluids she left behind. Such as the blood that oozed out of her wound, or the transparent puddle of sticky liquid that poured out from between her thighs. All that was left behind was the broken-off Retractable Blade. The Mimic nonchalantly picked it up and examined it. It was still in near-pristine condition so it could undoubtedly be reused. Satisfied, it sat back down in its little work area, summoned back the succubus and went about dismantling the rest of its first clockwork-based gadget.
Kora, having watched the whole thing start-to-finish, was more than a little disturbed. Of course, she dared not question her sadistic box of a master and simply thanked her lucky stars it wasn’t her turn to be its test subject. However, she did get a bit curious about that whole ordeal.
“Hey, Slagathor,” she called out. But the succubus gave no response and kept staring idly at the Mimic.
“Oy! I’m talking to you!”
She hit her compatriot across the face with a strike that was more of a punch than a slap. That seemed to do the trick as Xera looked away from the Mimic and stared at the fiend with the same glassy eyes and satisfied smile she had ever since being re-summoned.
“Hmmm? Whaaat is it?”
“You’re acting weird. Weirder than normal, I mean. Did your rotten head break even further?”
“Hee hee hee… Maaaybe ~♪!” answered Xera in an uncharacteristically cheerful voice. It almost sounded like she was half-singing.
“... Okay seriously. What’s going on? Do I have to call Demons ‘R’ Us?”
It didn’t matter to Kora how much physical torment her co-contractor went through, but the fiend would immediately take action if her fellow demon’s immortal soul was in danger.
“Oh, nooooo ~♪! Nothing like thaaaat ~♪! I had just forgotten how, nnnn, thorough my Master can be!”
This was the first time in a long while she had been abused to that extent. It was far more exhilarating than anything Kora had done to her. Of course the fiend broke her bones and bruised her body during their extremely violent sex sessions, but she still cared for Xera as a fellow demon and treated her like a person, at least for the most part.
Boxxy, on the other hand, completely saw her as a tool, a thing. It regarded her as nothing more than its possession, something to be used and thrown away as its owner saw fit. There was no doubt within the succubus’s mind that the only reason she wasn’t still on the writhing in agony on the floor was because Boxxy wanted to retrieve its component from inside her. That or she was simply being too noisy for its liking.
Of course the Mimic didn’t literally see her as an object. It still understood that demons were living beings with feelings and emotions of their own. It just didn’t give a damn about them and ignored them unless they inconvenienced it in some way. And the one who understood this the most was none other than Xera.
In short, Kora was good, but she paled in comparison to Boxxy. Nobody could make the succubus’s twisted heart race quite like her one and only Master. Well, metaphorically speaking, that is.
“... I swear, you are getting creepier by the day,” commented Kora.
Xera did not respond. She simply kept staring at her master work on its little contraption while humming a random tune.