The Calamity that wiped out Monotal could be said to have served as a sort of wake up call for the Empire’s complacent nobles. Take for example the Lord in charge of Erosa. In the past he had been quite stingy with the city’s defensive budget, although the same could be said of many of his peers. However, that changed practically overnight when the grim rumors surrounding Monotal were confirmed to be true.
Money was poured into the guardsmen responsible for Erosa’s security. Equipment was ordered and delivered, salaries were raised and training and recruitment drives were started. The lord even went as far as authorizing so-called ‘power Leveling’ trips for his men. This was a practice whereby an individual would pay a group of powerful adventurers to act as babysitters. He or she would attack strong monsters and inflict some modicum of damage, and the bodyguards would then swoop in and clean them up.
While it was true that this method led to a dramatic increase in one’s Job Level and any related Attributes, it also meant that their Skills and Masteries would be left woefully undeveloped. There was also the very real problem that such ‘hollow power’ would often lead one to become overconfident since their battle sense and combat experience were flawed. So while ‘power Leveling’ was effective, it was also quite frowned upon by the adventuring community.
Still, the province was in a state of emergency. The lord had to take drastic measures to make sure that not only was Erosa kept safe, but that its citizens also felt safe. As a result of such drastic measures, the city’s security force experienced an explosive grown in both quantity and quality. It went from about 200 guardsmen that had an average Level of 20 to 400 well-armed soldiers with a Level of at least 35 within the span of 6 days.
Patrols were tightened and security checks were beefed up. There was even an anti-intrusion enchantment placed along the walls that would trigger an alarm should someone or something fly over them. It caused quite a few problems until it was calibrated to ignore most common birds, but that was a minor hiccup. There were, of course, more major hiccups. Many of the newly hired guards, for example, didn’t particularly care for the people and simply wanted to get paid. There were even a few bad apples who tried their hand at smuggling or absconding with their issued weapons and armor, but were quickly rooted out.
The overall result of this initiative was still quite positive despite these problems. The commoners were reassured their taxes were well-spent and those adventurer types that poured in from all over the country were less inclined to stir up trouble. It was too early to tell if it had any sort of effect on the crime rate, but that was unlikely.
While patrols within the city’s walls increased, the slums were mostly ignored by law enforcement and its residents were still treated as nothing more than a statistic. Nobody with any actual power would really notice or care if a bunch of them went missing. They were too busy focusing on external threats, rather than internal ones. So while there were a few more guards keeping order on the street, the vast majority of them stood guard at the gates, kept watch from the city’s ramparts or patrolled the immediate area outside the stone walls.
And tonight was no different. There was a regiment of 14 guards standing at attention at the city’s northern entrance, even though the sun had set long ago and the vast majority of the town’s population was fast asleep. 8 of them were outside the walls while the remaining 6 kept an eye on the inside. And one of those 6 noticed a pair of shadows approach him from the street.
“Who goes there?” he called out.
His colleagues immediately raised their guard at his words. The torches that surrounded the area around the gate bathed their surroundings in a warm yellow light, but it was still hard to make out people’s faces until they got closer.
“It is I, my child,” called out the smaller silhouette with a clear, calming voice.
The image of a humble nun in service to the Goddess Teresa gradually became clearer with every step she made. She wore a plain, dark gray habit with the image of a small golden hammer embroidered on either shoulder. Her face was easy on the eyes and, although she looked to be in her early 20s, carried herself with an undeniable sense of grace and humility.
“Ah, sister Lyo?” said the guard after he recognized her. “Going out to gather Moonblossoms again?”
“Indeed, my child. I am afraid the orphan in my care is still suffering from night terrors.”
Moonblossoms were a kind of herb said to bestow sweet dreams to anyone who drank tea made from its petals. The catch was that the flower withered quite quickly and, as suggested by the its name, only bloomed under the moonlight.
“And, uh, mister tall, dark and gruesome there will be your escort?”
The guard pointed towards the person following behind the nun. He was a heavyset man that stood at over 2 meters in height. The heavy cloak he wore concealed both his face and his body. This highly suspicious individual never spoke, and merely nodded his head deeply in response to the guard’s inquiry.
“Are you certain you will be fine with just him?”
“Do not fret, my child. He is most capable.”
“Well yeah, I know it’s not the first time you’ve hired him, but I can’t help but worry sending you out there with a shady guy like that.”
“I appreciate your concern, but please be at ease. I trust my dear cousin with my life.”
“Ah, your cousin is it?”
If the good sister said it was so, then it must be the truth. Hammerites like her abhorred lying, no matter the circumstances.
“Apologies, sister Lyo. I just can’t help but worry. I, uhm, heard about the break-in at the temple.”
Someone had snuck into the temple of Teresa and absconded with one of the Holy Pearls kept there. Pretty much the entire city knew, even though it was discovered only this afternoon.
“Indeed, a very horrid affair,” said the nun with a hint of sadness in her voice. “I pray the misguided soul who took that sacred treasure see the light of Her Truth.”
The nun raised her right hand up to her face and kissed the tips of her middle and index fingers, then pressed them to her forehead and then to her heart. Many of the guards present there repeated the religious gesture. Its meaning could be loosely interpreted as ‘let my mouth speak the truth in my mind and heart.’
The well-meaning guard then ordered his men to make way for the devout nun and her companion. They guided them respectfully through the heavily guarded door on the side of the gate and kept a watchful eye on them as they made their way into the night, beyond the city’s walls.
“I don’t like that guy.”
One of the men stationed outside the wall spoke to his colleague once the two travellers were out of sight.
“Yeah I know. Something about him just rubs me the wrong way. Gives me the creeps, you know?”
“What? Oh yeah, I guess there’s that, too.”
“What were you talking about, then?”
“Ah well, I guess I’m just a bit jealous.”
“I mean he gets to keep a cute girl like that company for the entire night. You know - just the two of them… under a moonlit sky... away from prying eyes…”
The other guy raised his hand, gesturing for his colleague to shut the hell up.
“I am going to pretend I didn’t just hear you insinuate that sister Lyo was having an immoral tryst with her cousin.”
While not all religious orders made vows of chastity, it was a widely known fact that the Hammerites in service to the Goddess Teresa did indeed take such vows.
“Yeah right! How’d you know they haven’t done it?”
“Because, you idiot, that’s fucking wrong. On many levels. Besides, Teresa’s the goddess of truth!”
“So, do you honestly think She’d let anyone get off easy if they dared break an oath made in Her presence? They’d get branded with the Taboo Skill for sure!”
The effects of that Skill were, simply put, to alienate the bearer from all religious orders and pious believers. It was basically the gods’ way of marking those who actively and knowingly went against their will. It was pretty much a death sentence in some of the more... fanatical villages.
“Oh, right,” said the younger, ruder guard. “That was a thing, wasn’t it?”
“Hey you lot!” called out someone from on top of the gatehouse. “Be quiet down there and pay attention! If someone or something sneaks past us it’ll be on all our heads!”
“Yes sir!” replied the two undisciplined guards and resumed their duties. Tensions were indeed high since the Calamity of Montal, so they could not afford to be careless. Which was slightly ironic considering the mastermind responsible for that disaster had just slipped by them.
Actually, it would be more accurate to say it slipped under them.
Let’s just say all those guards and magical security measures were no match for a Mimic with a penchant for digging and too much free time on its hands. Or is that tentacles? Tongues? Legs?
Regardless of Boxxy’s confusing anatomy, it had simply made a tunnel that went under the western section of the wall. The entrance was near its hideout in the slums and the exit was some distance away from the wall and was impossible to spot at a distance. Of course, the heavy security measures weren’t in place when it first got here and could leisurely climb over the wall. But that was then, this is now. Attempting something like that after that detection enchantment was placed was sure to cause an alarm. Trying to get past those security checkpoints was also quite troublesome.
Granted, the subterranean route wasn’t its only option. There also existed the possibility of infiltrating the city by walking along the bottom of the Whispering Canal. That deep, narrow river provided Erosa with fresh drinking water and ran right through the center of the city. Going through the drains built into the city’s thick stone walls was a rather obvious choice, but Boxxy had to give up on that path.
The water was crystal clear for the most part, so anyone and anything would be able to spot it moving along the bottom. There was also the very real worry of running out of breath. The fact that the wall’s drain had not one, not two, but a series of four metal grates protecting it had very little to do with that decision, okay?
Having passed through its tunnel, the Mimic emerged into the night under the cover of darkness. Since the west side of the city wall had no gates, it only had to worry about the people patrolling on top of and around the wall, but the distance between them and it was already more than 60 meters. It also made sure to cover its faux-wooden body in imitation grass and leaves in order to blend in with the knee-high grass that surrounded the plains to the west of the city.
Boxxy scuttled along towards the Troll Woods in the distance, but made a slight detour. It noticed a nun and her towering escort in the fields and decided to scout them out. It approached them silently under the cover of Stealth and stalked them for a bit, sizing them up. The woman that was busy picking flowers didn’t seem to be particularly threatening, but the Mimic knew better than to underestimate the humans around these parts. Based on her religious vestments, it was very like she was the holder of a Priestess Job, although her Level could not be guessed at.
Her escort was clearly a threat, however. Shining full plate could be seen under his cloak, while what was probably the handle of a greatsword stuck out from behind his head. Obviously a close combat profession, and although his Level was equally unknown, he was giving off a very dangerous feeling. Not to mention that his gear looked particularly shiny and, as Boxxy found out recently, shiny things are expensive. Owning expensive things meant he must have the money to buy them, which in turn meant he was probably successful adventurer. And successful adventurers were no pushovers.
Eventually the Mimic decided against attacking the two and skulked away towards its initial destination. If either of those two were alone, then it would definitely ambush them. However, if they were together and it failed to take down the healer on the first strike, then its chances of winning that fight became close to zero. At that point it would have to either retreat or lose its life. So, rather than gamble on the uncertainty that were adventurers, it would much rather hunt far more predictable prey like its fellow monsters.
Having made it to the edge of the Troll Woods about an hour later, the Mimic forcibly dismissed and both Kora and Xera, who were currently still in the city, and summoned them to its new position as backup. It briefly considered doing this to get a drop on those two potential targets earlier, but decided against it. The Summon Familiar Skill was quite flashy and using it in the open fields just outside the city wall was a good way of getting itself noticed.
The three of them set off into the thick woods, looking for a Bouncewood tree. Well, that only took about 5 minutes since the Mimic was already familiar with their shape. It just hadn’t really bothered with them until now. The tree’s surface was black and smooth, just like the Quest said, and the reason for that was that their bark was essentially a form of natural rubber. Its appearance was also closer to that of an oversized palm tree rather than a pine tree, although that little detail was well outside the purview of the Mimic’s understanding of botany. The combination of the strange plant’s bark and shape made it bouncy, stretchy and resilient, which made it an interesting component that looked to be useful to Artificers. Therefore, Boxxy decided it would collect a few extra kilograms for itself, in addition to what was necessary for the Quest.
However, it soon found out exactly why this seemingly easy Quest had not been taken by someone else earlier.
Stripping away that bark was hard. It was impact resistant to the point where Kora’s punches and kicks had absolutely no effect and merely bounced off it for the most part. Trying to put her entire weight and power behind a double haymaker punch also proved to be useless. While her blow was a magnificent hit that would snap most trees in half, this one simply bounced away while making a weird *BOIOIOIOING* sound. It swayed back and forth a few times before returning to its original position without suffering so much as a scratch.
Xera could, of course, set fire to it, but burning the bark they were here to collect pretty much defeated the purpose. In the end Boxxy had to transform the tip of its tongue into a handaxe using Metal Mimicry and start hacking away at it. The tough material ended up denting and dulling the handaxe surprisingly quickly even though it had the toughness of real steel. It wasn’t much of a problem though since Boxxy could easily reshape it back to full sharpness without much effort.
It still took the Mimic almost fifteen minutes of frantically hacking away at the incredibly annoying and relatively thin Bouncewood tree until it fell over. The tree’s cross section revealed that 70% of it was nothing but rubber bark, much to Boxxy’s surprise. No wonder it was so resilient! It spent the next 30 minutes or so harvesting the bark, making sure to get big pieces of it when possible. Those guys at the Mercenary Guild were bound to withhold part of its deposit if it tried to turn in 120 kilograms worth of rubber scraps. They’d already done that 2 days ago when it turned in 10 troll hides that were riddled with holes. That dwarven bartender named Grog was even able to tell they were left behind by some sort of irregularly shaped bite marks, though he wasn’t able to determine what monster they belonged to. Which was good considering the monster in question was standing right next to him.
Once the tall palm-like tree trunk was stripped of its bark, the Mimic started putting it away into its Storage. Once it had stowed away the last of it, it double checked its Quest status.
Collect 120 KG of Bouncewood Bark
Time Limit: 3 days 8 hours
Description: Deliver 120 kilograms of Bouncewood Bark to the Mercenary Guild in the city of Erosa. Bouncewood trees may be found in the Troll Woods west of Erosa and are easily recognizable due to their smooth and black surface.
Well, that was odd. Usually the Progress that tracks the completion of a Quest’s objective would update in real time, and Boxxy was quite sure it stowed away at least 200 kilograms of the stuff. It was quite the dense material, after all. Ah, but technically speaking the objective was to deliver the stuff, not just gather it. Otherwise it could legally get paid and then still keep the stuff for itself, huh? Those Mercenary Guild pencil-pushers sure knew how to avoid leaving obvious loopholes in their Quests.
Since its business with this place was concluded, the Mimic decided to leave the forest and go back to town before dawn came. As for its bound demons, they really wouldn’t fit in that narrow passage and had to be re-summoned every time Boxxy crossed the wall. It was a bit annoying but it was better than trying to sneak a 250 centimeter tall pile of rape and muscle through a small army of armed guards. Therefore, once the three of them were clear of the forest, it ordered its contracted demons to stay put and do as they pleased. They would only slow it down, anyway.
Having received their orders, the two familiars immediately carried them out. Of course, in their case ‘do as they please’ translated loosely as ‘fucking like animals.’ Kora seemed especially eager since she hasn’t gotten any much alone time with Xera lately. She immediately pushed the succubus down to the ground and thrust her engorged length all the way inside the blue-skinned slut’s asshole, then began pistoning in and out of it while grunting. Xera also got quite into it, going so far as to grow a horsecock of her own. She sandwiched it between her truly monstrous breasts and started performing fellatio on herself with great gusto. Well, the two of them were bound to attract the attention of some wild beast or monster if they kept making lewd noises like that, but that was entirely their own problem.
As for the Mimic, it was already on its way. The Troll Woods were on a significantly higher elevation, which meant that getting here from the city involved walking uphill for about an hour. Going back, however, was a gradual downward slope, which meant that the Mimic could roll almost the entire way to town by using wheels instead of legs.
The shapeshifting chest had already improved greatly upon its original design for the organic wheel. The complex limbs with a diameter of 60 centimeter now took only about a second to fully grow from scratch and no longer leaked like they used to. Granted, the ride along the uneven dirt was hardly comfortable, but it was hard to argue with its speed. It drastically reduced the time for the return trip, allowing the Mimic to cross the distance between the Troll Woods and Erosa in a mere 20 minutes.
Well, it couldn’t keep going all the way, though. Even it understood that no amount of tall grass would be able to hide a chest rolling along at high speeds, so it made sure to cross the last 2 kilometers on foot. On its way back, it once again spied the nun and her protector out in the wilderness, in the same area they were a few hours ago.
However, it would seem the two of them had moved on from their flower-gathering mission onto something else entirely. Something the Mimic had been witness to many times in its shorts life. Something its familiars did with disturbing regularity.
“Haahn! Yeah! Harder!”
In other words, the tall escort was currently lying on top of the nun and ‘escorting’ his dick inside her anus while she moaned with her face buried in the dirt. Well, technically speaking, doing it in the ass didn’t count as far as chastity vows were concerned. It was still a clearly immoral act that left both of them naked and distracted. With their backs turned towards a monster.
Assassination Skill triggered. Your attack has dealt 350% more damage. Target HP -753.
You have dealt a devastating blow. Target stunned for 5 seconds.
Assassination Skill triggered. Your attack has dealt 350% more damage. Target HP -914.
You have slain your target in a single strike. Assassination Proficiency increased.
Honestly... It’s like they were begging to be stabbed.
|General Information||Attributes||Job Information|
|Name||Boxxy T. Morningwood||Name||Value||Name||Value||Name||Level||Progress|
|Cadaver Absorption||6||13%||Sword Mastery||6||65%|
|Natural Armor||6||28%||Dagger Mastery||7||51%|
|Metal Mimicry||3||12%||Ruin Mastery||8||27%|
|Summon Familiar||7||45%||Domination Mastery||5||75%|
|Power Overwhelming||6||30%||Shield Mastery||3||32%|
|Dark Explosion||Mind Blast|