Boxxy was understandably less than pleased when the golden chest it was strangely obsessed with disappeared into nothing after a few minutes. However, much to Xera’s disappointment, it didn’t get sad or depressed, nor did it feel like partaking in its favorite Snack. No, the Mimic’s mind was clouded by an unyielding rage. This cocky dungeon, how dare it mess with it? Did it even have any idea who it was dealing with? This was Boxxy T. Morningwood, dammit, and it would not take this sort of abuse sitting down!
“Master, don’t forget the staff.”
It nearly stormed off into the Spire with the intent of giving this dungeon a lesson it would never forget, but was stopped in its tracks by the words of its succubus familiar.
“Staff?” it answered.
Xera sighed. As expected, her master didn’t even register the item’s existence. It was so focused on that treasure chest that it completely failed to notice the skull-headed metal staff that floated in place above the chest. In fact, it had actually knocked it away earlier without even realizing it. The succubus walked over to where the expensive-looking weapon was left neglected and completely forgotten about on the ground. She bent over and tried to pick it up, but the solid metal weapon was much heavier than it looked. She couldn’t even budge it, no matter how much she strained her feeble arms and back.
Watching Snack’s ongoing failures to do something as basic as lifting an object off the ground steadily made its anger go away. It went over to where she was kneeling down on the ground and panting from the exertion. It grabbed the pitch black item its pseudo-Xera hands and raised it into the air, though not without struggling somewhat with its weight.
“There was a staff?” asked Valeria, looking around. “Huh, I didn’t even notice!”
“Oh yeah!” exclaimed Kora. “There was something like that, wasn’t there?”
“Ah, now that you mention it…” said Fizzy, cupping her chin in thought.
It would seem the rather obscene spectacle Boxxy had shown these women had made them momentarily forget about the actual treasure itself. A fact which made the exhausted succubus slowly covered her face with her palms.
It was official - she was surrounded by idiots. Then again, she was perhaps the biggest idiot of all for being infatuated with an animate chest, but she couldn’t help herself. Nobody had truly understood her wants and needs quite like her current master. That was why she wanted to present it with the clearly valuable item in the first place, as satisfying the Mimic’s greed was the only way to appeal to it. Well, that and entertaining its tastebuds, but Xera already had a handle on that particular method.
Boxxy’s sudden Spell hit Xera in her exposed stomach. There was a brief moment before a volatile mass of darkness ripped a fist-sized chunk out of her body and sent chunks of it flying everywhere.
Your spell has gouged out your target’s insides. Target HP -287.
The succubus curled up while clutching the hole in her stomach. The twisted face she was making was, predictably, not the face of a woman in pain.
Having confirmed the damage, the Mimic put away the staff and tried once again.
Your spell has gouged out your target’s insides. Target HP -207.
Quite the difference. It would appear this fancy looking staff raised its offensive magical ability by about 30%, much stronger than the 7% Spell damage boost of the plain staff it had used until then. That wasn’t all, however. This fancy skull-on-a-stick also boosted its INT by 25 points and even seemed to reduce the MP cost of Spells somewhat. It was a significant upgrade to say the least, although the Mimic could not be happy about it right at that moment, as it had more important things to on its mind.
Such as dealing with the after-effects of its Chaotic Disposition Skill.
Chaotic energies swirl around you. Your body has caught on fire for 5 seconds.
Bright red flames had enveloped Boxxy’s faux-wood shell in an instant, turning the Mimic into a walking bonfire.
“Honey?!” shouted Valeria in a panic, completely ignoring the wounded succubus next to her. “Are you okay?!”
“I’m fine,” answered Boxxy. It sounded more annoyed than panicked.
“But you’re on fire!”
Your body has been burned by the flames. HP -98.
Your flesh has been mended. HP +160.
“I’ll get better.”
This random effect wasn’t as bad as it looked since the magical flame was simply too weak to overpower the Mimic’s regeneration. In fact, it helped a little overall since it allowed the Mimic gain some much needed proficiency in Mend Flesh and Adaptive Defense.
Chaotic Disposition seemed to trigger almost immediately after the Mimic had spent MP on Skills or Spells. Boxxy had already set it off a total of ten times during the group’s push through the hedge maze. The first time it went off, it caused the Mimic’s one eye to go completely blind, although the monster’s magical perception was seeming unaffected. The second effect doubled the damage of the monster’s next Spell, while the third caused it to float gently in the air like a certain lich. The next one attempted to apply the Panic Spell to the Stone Soldier Boxxy was spraying with acid at the time, but failed to show any effect on the golem. The Skill also caused the appearance of a thick fog, made Boxxy earn double XP from the next monster it killed, shot out a random bolt of bright yellow energy that nearly hit Fizzy and, perhaps strangest of all, somehow made it possible for the Mimic to communicate with fish.
Needless to say, it was far from being reliable and the effects it produced were quite unpredictable, but they were always temporary. Although there were some tasty ones, the majority of them were either completely useless or mostly harmful. The only consistent part of that Skill was that it appeared to have about a 5% chance of triggering whenever a Spell was cast or certain Skills were used. Things like Acid Spray, Stealth and Storage could set it off, but Assassinate, Shapeshift and Mend Flesh could not.
The Mimic seemed to calm down somewhat by the time the fire extinguished itself. It really should have known better considering it was born in a dungeon. Then again, it didn’t particularly care for those simple wooden chests as they were never as shiny as that golden one. Still, it realized it had a very good reason to challenge the rest of this dungeon.
Powerful magic items could be obtained here. Although the exact properties of such precious things were impossible to determine in the field, one could still figure out its effects by simply using it. The only way to get a full analysis was to go to a town or city and buy the services of a Scribe with at least 5 Levels in their Appraisal Skill. The combination of the Identify, Appraise Item and Detect Enchant Spells they could cast would then fully reveal an object’s physical and magical properties.
Having made up its mind, Boxxy stopped moping about, rallied its minions and set off to conquer the rest of this place.
The ground floor immediately inside the entrance was an open flat space completely devoid of furniture or decoration. The walls, floor and ceiling were all hewn out of the same black stone as the rest of this place. The walls themselves were lined with a huge number of blue crystals that shone with a dim white light, providing some measure of visibility.
The first few steps of a circular staircase were visible to the left. It appeared to coil itself clockwise around a central pillar and provided a way upwards. The steps themselves were made out of that same rocky material and were much wider than what Boxxy was expecting. An adult human would probably take 2 or 3 paces before reaching the next step. Which meant this was going to be one long, gradual climb. At least those lamp-like crystals ran alongside the outer wall on the left, otherwise Fizzy would be pretty hard pressed to see in this closed off, windowless environment.
Having obviously nowhere else to go, Boxxy and its group started climbing up those stairs. This area of the dungeon was still called the Black Stairs so that much was a given. Kora and the Mimic took the lead while Fizzy followed directly behind them. Xera and Valeria were bringing up the rear several meters behind, with the two remaining dullahans watching their backs. The reason for this formation was that the place was essentially a corridor. Getting attacked from both sides and pincered in was a very real possibility, something the Mimic would definitely do if it had the chance.
And surely enough, scraping noises could be heard all around them. The quiet, solemn staircase suddenly got noisy as countless dog-sized crystalline beetles started pouring in from the stairs both behind and in front of the group. They crawled over the ground, the walls and the ceiling in huge numbers. The two dullahans at the back turned around and swung their warhammers at the incoming swarm at Valeria’s command. 5 beetles were smashed to smithereens in an instant, revealing these things were quite weak individually. However, their sheer numbers allowed them to overwhelm and topple the two undead with little difficulty.
Kora’s Martial Art sent shockwaves through the ground and air, enough to cause the glass-like insects on the walls and ceiling around her to lose their grip and fall off. She then got busy swinging her arms and legs around as she pummeled them into dust. Boxxy and Fizzy assisted her, which meant that Valeria and Xera had to deal with the rear all by themselves.
That was hardly a problem, though.
The succubus’s Spell completely enveloped the corridor behind the group. The noise of breaking glass could be heard coming from within the swirling flames as the beetles succumbed to the heat and fell to pieces. She could probably hold them off all on her own, but Valeria seemed to dislike being upstaged and took a rather drastic action.
The lich inhaled deeply and unleashed a Sonic Scream with all her might. The ear-piercing sound was amplified by its surroundings as it bounced off the walls and echoed throughout the entire Spire. The resulting screech was much stronger and louder than the one she let loose when Boxxy confronted her back at the old Arcaneum tower. It seemed to achieve the result she was hoping for as the crystalline golems started shattering and breaking from the intense vibrations in the air.
However, those beetles were not the only ones to suffer from those sounds. Fizzy clutched her head and nearly blacked out again, but Boxxy reacted before she collapsed and tossed her into its Storage. Even if the gnome normally disliked the dark, cramped space, the circumstances made her welcome its deafening silence with open arms. As for Boxxy and its two demons, they were left to endure the horrible wail of the ex-banshee the old fashioned way. Nobody there collapsed due to their formidable MNT Attributes, but they still took a good amount of damage from it.
The scream abated some 30 seconds after it started, although the ringing in Xera and Kora’s ears wouldn’t go away for quite a while. The fiend had almost attempted to rip her own ears out in desperation, but the screeching stopped before she managed to do it. Boxxy immediately spit out Fizzy as it wasn’t sure when was the last time it recycled the air inside its Storage. The gnome was a little disoriented, but otherwise fine.
Chaotic energies swirl around you. You have obtained new headgear.
Boxxy’s brief use of Storage had caused its Chaotic Disposition to trigger once again. The ‘new headgear’ revealed itself as a black, cylindrical top-hat,which materialized out of thin air and stuck itself to the top of the animate chest’s lid. The Mimic grumbled inwardly, but couldn’t complain too much. At least it wasn’t something truly dangerous.
“Th-thanks, Boxxy,” mumbled Fizzy after catching her breath.
She smiled slightly when she saw the Mimic’s ridiculous new appearance, but she withheld from breaking out into laughter.
“Pffu! Nice hat, boss! Kukukukuku!”
Kora on the other hand brazenly giggled at it.
“Think so?” asked Boxxy, completely failing to notice the sarcasm in the fiend’s voice.
“It is quite a fancy hat, Master,” commented Xera.
The Mimic had to agree with her on that point. Even if it wasn’t very practical, the top hat did have an undeniable feeling of class to it.
As for Valeria, she was currently preoccupied surveying all the damage she caused with a shit-eating grin. The splintered remains of countless beetles were strewn all around the area, slowly crumbling into dust as the dungeon absorbed them back into itself. The lich gleefully turned around and opened her mouth to brag, but was met with a dagger through the throat.
“Keh! Kehok!” she coughed.
“Don’t do unnecessary things!” growled Boxxy, then withdrew the weapon from her neck.
Yes, her action was unnecessary. The Mimic had judged it would be a relatively simple matter to smash those things up even without her ‘help’ eventually.
“*Cough cough* I’m so- *Cough* Sorry, sweetie! I’ll be more careful so please don’t be mad!” pleaded Valeria.
“... Alright. I’ll let you off with just one stab wound.”
“Thank you ever so much ~♡!”
Of course, this wasn’t out of sympathy. The Mimic had simply decided that her actions were not entirely unwanted. She did end up saving them a bit of time, which wasn’t a bad thing. Still, it would be good to educate this lich on matters of friendly fire at a later time. Right now it had a dungeon to pilfer.
The party continued their climb undisturbed. Ether the ambush from earlier was this place’s only means of defense, or whoever or whatever was in charge here decided repeating it would be a futile effort. Regardless, there seemed to be no traps and no more enemies appeared to impede the group’s progress. Eventually they made it to a heavy set of double doors made out of shiny black marble like the rest of this place. A series of intricate patterns were etched into them, indicating this was probably a place of some significance.
“Uhm, B-Boxxy?” spoke up Fizzy. “D-do you think we can take a reh- rest b-before we go… in… there?”
The gnome’s already shaky voice seemed to disappear into a whisper with every word she spoke. While the Mimic did say it would take a break for her sake, this was the first time she’d actually dared to ask for it. Even if she had spent the better part of the day invading a dungeon, Boxxy still had everyone take regular breaks to replenish their HP and MP. This long climb, however, had drained what was left of her stamina.
“Okay,” said Boxxy, much to Fizzy’s relief. “Will 30 minutes be enough?”
“Y-yes! That’ll be plenty!”
“Good. Arms, Snack - keep guarding the stairs.”
“You got it, boss!”
“Yes, my darling ~♡!”
“You shut up and be quiet. I have preparations to make.”
“Geh! But- But! Surely we can prepare by doing that a few times, right?!”
“I suggest you do as Master commands,” commented Xera. “Or perhaps you’ve grown to like being stabbed in the neck?”
“There’s no such thing, you slut! Not everyone’s as hopelessly rotten as you!”
The succubus scoffed at the irony in Valeria’s voice and took a few steps down to join Kora in keeping watch. The noisy lich seemed to calm down a bit and turned around to resume protesting her case to Boxxy, but was stunned silent when it saw it had assumed Xera’s form and was sheathed in what appeared to be lightning.
The Mimic prepared a Big Bang Ball, the combination of Power Overwhelming, Crystallize Magic and Dark Explosion. It then stowed it away in Storage while simultaneously taking out a metal toolbox which immediately caught Fizzy’s attention. It was one of the explosives manufacturing kits she had sold to it about a month ago. Boxxy opened it and nonchalantly started putting together some rough hand grenades with the leftover materials. After about 5 minutes its MP had recovered to full, so it stopped momentarily to make another Big Bang Ball before resuming its tinkering.
It was highly likely there would be a big, tough monster on the other side of those doors, so it would make sure it was adequately prepared to face it. XP and Levels could be obtained easily in the hedge maze outside, so it wouldn’t hesitate to wipe that thing out in an instant. The Level 5 Crystallize Magic Skill meant that Spell Crystals would last up to 30 minutes before disappearing, so with its current production rate of 1 Big Bang Ball every 5 minutes it could realistically have 5 or 6 of them at the ready while also having all of its MP. The Artificer-made explosives were there to finish the job in case the magic proved to be insufficient.
And so it set about spending the next 30 minutes tinkering while occasionally stopping to use magic. However, it was still short on explosive components and could only put together 6 basic hand grenades and 3 satchel charges. That’s when it realized it still had plenty of parts that could be put together with Clockwork Expertise and decided to raise its Artificer Level by making some music boxes. It was simply more productive than sitting around doing nothing while its MP recovered.
The demons diligently carried out their orders and kept an eye out for enemies while humping each other. When questioned, Kora simply stated that she didn’t have eyes on her dick, so it was fine if it was buried in Xera’s ass. Boxxy consented that the fiend had a point and let them do as they please so long as they were vigilant.
Valeria stared at the two go at it with wide eyes. She had no idea that the tall, muscled demon had one of those hidden away. The sudden reveal of the huge cock was a huge shock. At least at first. It wasn’t long before she started touching herself while watching them go at it. She threw a few longing glances at Boxxy, but the Mimic did not even register her existence. It had already given Valeria her daily dose of ‘Shapeshifter training’ on the way back from the dagger retrieval run. Otherwise it would have rejoined the others 3 hours earlier.
Fizzy also stared intently. However, her gaze was not captivated by the horny duo and their fuckfest. In fact, she didn’t even seem to realize what they were doing. No, what demanded her attention was Boxxy.
So this is how it gained Artificer Levels so rapidly…
A veritable storm of screwdrivers, wrenches, tweezers, hammers and wire cutters were putting together clockwork contraptions before her very eyes. It wasn’t just the number of tool-tipped appendages, either. The mind-boggling speed and pinpoint precision with which they worked was absolutely fascinating to the gnome.The display in front of her was so fantastic, so mesmerising that she could do little more than stare at it open-jawed. She could scarcely believe this brutish thing was capable of such delicate movements, but it made sense. After all, they so expertly flicked and teased her sensitive spots yesterday.
The realization she just complimented her own rapist on its technique snapped the gnome out of her reverie. That was the one thing she could not forgive, the one thing that truly hurt her in a way that was very different from the beatings. Or the kidnapping. Or the memory wiping. At least she understood why the Mimic did those things. But that was different.
Wait, was it?
Thinking back on it, the Mimic never truly showed any animosity towards her. Well yeah, it was understandably upset with her that it got captured at first, but it would seem it has shifted the blame for that onto the Gods. None of the abuse was because it hated her. The fact it had gotten considerably kinder lately proved that much. If anything, it actually looked after her, didn’t it?
No, that traumatizing event from yesterday was different after all. It completely crushed her identity as a woman. It had left the gnome feeling utterly disgusted to be in her own sullied body. She barely even felt like a living thing with thoughts and emotions anymore, and had been regularly contemplating suicide ever since that event.
It would be so… easy to do that. She had both the means and opportunity to end her own life and escape this living hell. And that blasted chest would be powerless to stop her.
But she would not, nay, could not do such a thing. The desire to live stayed her hand. The biological drive to survive led her to sleep, eat and drink whenever possible. The irresistible urge to cling onto her fragile existence with all her might was something the Mimic had thoroughly ingrained in her mind and he body. It wanted her to live. And if there’s one thing this tortured woman could not defy, it was Boxxy.
Even attempting a rebellion was foolish. After all, that thing was basically a natural disaster in the shape of a chest. It appeared without warning and for no discernible reason and then proceeded to do whatever it damn well pleased, caring nothing for those it hurt along the way. It didn’t matter how its victims tried to beg, plead or resist, they were powerless to stop it. From Fizzy’s point of view, standing up to that thing was completely futile. Even if the gnome survived the attempt, she’d simply be left homeless, destitute and drenched in various fluids, as if she had challenged a typhoon.
Almost exactly like that, actually.