A rhythmic smacking noise echoed through the dungeon. It was the sound of wood being slammed against stone. The cause of this disturbance was an idiotic box that had just realized its mistake.
The Mimic swayed furiously on its numerous tiny legs and smashed its side into the rock wall for the upteempth time.
You have suffered minor blunt trauma. HP -2.
The familiar message had been repeating itself intermittently over the last ten minutes. The moron in question was punishing itself for being overly eager. Just when things were getting good, it had let an amazing chance slip away. Surely even a single one of that Necromancer’s Skills or Jobs would have given it a tremendous power boost!
“KISHAAAAA!” it yelled and smashed itself against the wall with a bit of extra force.
You have suffered minor blunt trauma. HP -5.
Enough was enough. This behavior was getting it nowhere while wasting valuable HP. It calmed itself down and began cleaning up the mess like usual. It didn’t bother with the numerous giant rat corpses though - those were already crumbling to dust. Another few minutes and they will have completely returned to the dungeon that spawned them.
After its lair had been returned to its former unsoiled glory, it scuttled back to its spot and resumed its disguise as a ‘wounded’ wooden chest. And it waited.
Hours turned to days and days turned to weeks. The Mimic patiently stood there without moving a single muscle. It didn’t mind though. It was pretty much born for this sort of thing. But every living being had a limit to how long it could sit around and do absolutely nothing.
You are hungry. Automatic HP and MP recovery are now halved.
Something inside the Mimic growled. Its bottomless pit of a stomach was running on empty. The most primal need to eat and survive clashed with the Mimic’s natural hunting instinct. Should it abide by its Hider’s Intuition or follow the impulse to seek prey immediately. This was an important decision for this creature. After all, it had never ventured more than a dozen or so meters from its birthplace.
Having made up what passes for its mind, it sprouted its numerous tiny legs and lifted itself off the ground. Lunch was unlikely to come on its own, so it would go find it instead. It scuttled sideways towards the direction most of its prey had come from. However, it paused when it reached the edge of the unnaturally smooth and even ground found around its birthplace. It had tried to walk further once before, only to have jagged rocks and pebbles poke and scrape its sensitive underside. It was not a pleasant sensation. Therefore, its current mode of transportation would need to be revised.
The Mimic put its Shapeshift Skill to use. It could change the structure of its body to a certain degree, but its species - that of Mimic (Lesser) - could not completely abandon its original box-like shape. What it could do, however, was alter the other bits of its body. It sat on the ground and retracted its tiny limbs. After a short while, six smooth, long, spider-like legs grew out steadily from its sides.
While it may not be able shift its body as freely as something like a Slime or Mud Elemental, it did have a natural talent for imitating things. After all, Mimics gotta mimic. And in this situation, it was copying the appearance of a small spider that made its nest directly above the Mimic’s resting spot. Having literally nothing better to do over the last two weeks, the monster simply observed the tiny arachnid with its magical perception. The way its multi-jointed legs climbed up the wall and walked along its thread were thoroughly entertaining, so it ended up memorizing quite a few of those movements. And now would be the time it would put that knowledge to use.
It tried to stand up on its new legs and failed miserably. The stick-like legs were too weak and too long to lift the faux-wood body. After readjusting their thickness and length several times, it finally found the right balance and stood upright. The spider-chest then made a few experimental steps. However, keeping itself from falling over proved to be tricky. Having the legs come out at the sides made the monster worryingly unsteady whenever it moved forward or backwards. It had to learn how to distribute its weight and control its center of gravity for the first time.
Eventually it simply found it easier to change where the legs came out from. Rather than all six coming out from its sides, it spread them out evenly. One on the left, one on the right, two in the front, two in the back. Like this, it could move quickly and comfortably across any terrain the dungeon threw at it. It could even get quite a bit of speed, although stopping itself without the help of a wall or the floor proved to be a challenge.
Proficiency level increased. Shapeshift is now Level 3. AGI +1. DEX +1. END +2.
The Mimic had no time to enjoy the slight power-up. Time was ticking! Screwing up its determination, it took its first steps into the complete unknown. Its perception had no trouble penetrating the dark, but the range was limited. So the Mimic could only move slowly and quietly, keeping as low to the ground as possible without scraping its sensitive bottom against the hard ground.
Ideally it would have used Stealth, but moving around under its effects rapidly drained MP. That’s not something it was willing to do considering its stunted recovery speed.
It shuffled up and down the tunnels, passing by its fellow monsters. They were all born from the same 'womb' and thus shared a slight telepathic connection with each other. They were not hunter and prey, but kin. So rather than get in each other’s way, the different species of monsters simply exchanged curt greeting-like gestures as they walked past each other.
The Mimic kept searching the tunnels, actively hunting for prey. But it never found any. In fact, all this moving around simply made things worse.
You are ravenous. Automatic HP and MP recovery are now disabled.
While waiting in ambush, Mimics enter a sort of suspended animation. This not only allowed them to better preserve their energy and stamina, it also meant their presence was thinned out. So having a shut-in like that suddenly move around would make it tired without question. The frustrated monster had every right to wonder why it had to go through all this hassle just for a meal.
In reality, this sequence of events was more or less the natural order of things.
Every dungeon had something called Minimum Monster Level. This depended on the quality and quantity of mana permeating through the air and ground. Monsters sprang forth naturally over time in such places, birthed from seemingly thin air by the abnormally high concentrations of magical energy. Denser mana would naturally give birth to more powerful monsters.
For example, the Black-tier dungeon known as The Staircase To Heaven was home to vicious creatures that surpassed Level 100. The air on that mountain is so thick with mana that it was outright lethal. If anyone or anything that was under Level 70 tried to challenge it, they would simply choke and drown as if they were underwater.
However, that mystical substance did more than simply give birth to monsters of a certain Level. It also sustained its ‘children,’ allowing them to ignore basic needs such as food, water or, in some extreme cases, sleep. And these creatures would inevitably grow in strength as they repelled invaders. If they became too powerful, then their home would no longer be able to sustain them and they would have to either leave the dungeon or starve to death. That was what dictated the Maximum Monster Level of a dungeon.
And this was exactly what was happening to this particular Mimic. Although it had been born as a measly Level 1, it had grown to Level 15. The Green Zone of the Litigar Dungeon Complex had a Maximum Monster Level of 6, meaning this particular individual had long ago outgrown its home. Its dormant state and steady supply of blood and meat had staved off its hunger so far, but something had changed. The meals-on-legs stopped coming entirely. And the Mimic’s exploration soon revealed the answer as to why.
“Huck!” it cursed. Part of the dungeon was sealed off. Vertical and horizontal steel bars were welded to create a formidable grate. It blocked off the 2-meter tall circular tunnel, cutting off any and all foot traffic through the passage.
After Valeria’s mysterious disappearance, the nearby town simply decided to seal off the highly dangerous area and let nature take its course. Anything that could take down a Level 20 adventurer was clearly over the Maximum Monster Level and would just starve to death. Even something like eating its fellow monsters wouldn’t save it - their bodies would just disappear into raw mana before they could be digested.
Also, quarantine was ultimately cheaper than issuing a subjugation quest. So what if 20% of the Green Zone was sealed off? The newbies could still hunt leisurely in the remainder of the maze-like dungeon.
The Mimic knew very little about such circumstances, but it recognized this mass of metal as the source of its dilemma. Even it wasn’t dense enough to fail to realize this abnormality and the sudden lack of prey were linked. The question was - what could it do about it? It desperately needed to get past it, so it tried several things.
First it tried pushing its body through the gaps in the grate, but they were too small. Although it could shapeshift, it was still a Lesser Mimic that couldn’t abandon its chest-like body shape. Only something like a Slime would be able to pass through these. Impossible things were impossible, so it gave up on that and decided to try brute force.
It spit out a sword from its Storage and gripped it with a red tentacle-like tongue. It swung its weapon repeatedly against the grate. The metal-on-metal impacts caused bell-like noises to reverberate through the cave while sparks pierced the darkness. But, as expected, the forged steel bars did not budge a single bit. If anything, it was the iron sword that was getting bent out of shape instead.
After a while, it gave up. Wasting stamina like this was counterproductive. If only it could eat this obstacle, then it would be killing two Goblins with one Fireball. But since it couldn’t even chew up the solid iron armor and weapons in its Storage, something like forged steel was way out of its league. It tossed the slightly chipped blade into the air swallowed it back up, sending it to-
So far, it could just ‘swallow’ whatever it couldn’t eat. The obstacle before it was something it couldn’t eat. Therefore, why not try to ‘swallow’ it instead?
A special action has been performed. WIS +1.
Now this was promising! Since the WIS stat rose, then this was undoubtedly the ‘special action’ of getting a brilliant idea!
It backed off from the grate, turned around and opened its mouth. A swirling purple abyss appeared inside and started spewing out dozens of items, one after the other. It was about to swallow a circular mass of steel 2 meters in diameter, so it needed the extra room in its Storage. By the time it was done, the Mimic had created a pile of bloodstained metal that was almost as tall as it was. All that was left in its pocket dimension were three swords and a dagger.
It faced the grate again and tipped forward on its spider-like legs. It opened its maw and put both its lower and upper sets of teeth up against the steel rods, as if it were trying to bite it. It mustered up part of the MP it had remaining and opened a Storage portal so that it overlapped with the metal bars. But try as it might, the swirling hole refused to grow larger than about 40 centimeters.
“HUCK!” it cursed again while still clinging onto the infuriating metal rods. Being as dumb as it was, it failed to realize the obvious difference in size. Disappointed, it pulled itself away from the troublesome cage, causing the Storage portal to abruptly collapse.
And then a sharp pain permeated through the monster’s entire being. The Mimic hissed and screamed with a high-pitched howl as it thrashed about in agony. Every part of its rectangular faux-wood frame convulsed violently, as if it was trying to rip itself apart.
Your Storage spell has backfired due to improper use. Your body suffers from the feedback. HP -100.
Magic is not a toy. Improper use of it could carry dire, sometimes lethal consequences. And something like ripping open a hole in reality was no exception. In fact, it was especially true for spatial manipulation spells like Storage. What the Mimic unintentionally did just now was equivalent to trying to shut a door with its metaphorical foot in the way. If this sort of thing happened with more powerful spatial magic, such as the Teleport or Gate spells, there would have been very little left of the poor thing.
It’s not like this moron actually understood the basic principles of magic. It had simply accepted the Storage portal opening inside its jaws as ‘a thing that happens when I want it to.’
“Heeh. Heeh. Heeh. Heeh.” it panted. The Mimic had collapsed next to the pile of discarded weapons and armor, still reeling from that unbearable moment of pain. The monster then felt anger wash over it. Why did this stupid hard thing have to be in its way!? In a fit of rage, it stretched out its tongue and wrapped its tip around a small round shield out of the pile. It then flung it with full force at the steel bars, completely oblivious to the fact that it only had itself to blame.
The iron-reinforced wooden shield flew horizontally like a frisbee, crashing into the steel grating and falling down to the ground, making an awful racket in the process. Then a part of said grating slowly fell backwards, making a small clanging sound as it also hit the stone floor.
The Mimic was speechless. Not that it could actually speak properly in the first place. The newly made hole was just over 40 centimeters in diameter. The steel rods looked like someone had severed them with an extremely clean sword strike. In truth, the Storage portal did actually remove some of the forged steel grating. The gateway’s sudden collapse practically disintegrated a very small amount of matter around its edge, cutting through a portion of the metal rods. Since that one area of the blockade was technically no longer attached to the rest of it, it just needed a small jolt to tip over. Something that the Mimic’s rage-fueled shield throw inadvertently made possible.
A special action has been performed. LCK +1.
If the Mimic was aware of the concept of dumb luck, it might have been insulted at this message. Instead it was simply happy at the sudden, albeit completely inexplicable, Attribute gain. It picked itself up off the ground and turned itself sideways to squeeze through the gap. It then continued on its way with a spring in its step and a smile on... whatever it had that passed for a face.
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