“Hnnnngg,” groaned the Mimic. It was gradually growing frustrated. Right now it was trying to work out the correct chant to bring up what Spells it could use. “Uhh, shells!” it yelled. Nothing happened. So far nothing had worked. “Najic!” was also a dud. It had dismissed that fateful Level Up window in haste so that it could double-check its main Status Screen. And now it was regretting that rash decision. It could no longer directly examine the unfamiliar words it saw there.
It had just learned the Shadowbolt Spell. It must have been that mass of darkness the scruffy-looking black-haired male threw at it a few times. It really wished it had paid closer attention as to what he was doing. But it was already too late - his ash pile would not offer any answers. It did absorb the Warlock Job from his corpse though. And since it learned the Spell, the Mimic knew the chant and gestures required to activate it, as well as how to target it.
But when it tried to cast it, nothing happened. So right now it was trying to find out what it was missing, just like the last time it was stumped. But the Shadowbolt entry did not appear in any of the screens and menus it was familiar with, so it was stuck. But surely there had to be some sort of list. There was a Skill List and a Job List so surely there was one for Spells, right?
“… Shell Lisht?”
“Yeshaaaaa!” it yelled in triumph. Its spidery legs did a little tap-dance for a few seconds, commemorating the occasion. If the Mimic actually had lips, they would undoubtedly be curled in a smile.
Requirements: Level 1 Warlock, INT 10
Cost: 40 MP
Range: 25 Meters
Effect: Launches a volatile bolt of darkness in a specific direction.
The force of the Spell will attempt to pull apart the first solid thing it hits, then dissipate.
Grows in power in dark places or at night, dealing up to 50% more damage depending on the environment.
Unsurprisingly, there was no new information here. All of this knowledge had already been transmitted to the Mimic’s mind and engraved into its memory. In a hypothetical situation where it could communicate with others, it would be able to accurately describe the spell as a Projectile from the Ruin school of magic that grew stronger in the dark. The problem was that it would then be unable to answer the obvious follow-up question:
What the fuck was Ruin?!
An offense-focused school of magic that boasts the strongest destructive power, commonly known as Black Magic.
Ruin Spells are unbalanced and inefficient, making them cost more MP than Spells from other schools.
And now it could say that Ruin Spells hurt a lot, but demand high MP to use. Was it really that high, though? Compared to the staggering 150 MP Cost of Cadaver Absorption, 40 almost seemed like a joke. The question was, exactly how powerful was this ‘strongest destructive power?’ The Mimic only had enough MP on it for, like, 3 casts of that Spell. Or was it 4? Wait, how much max MP did it have again? It brought up the Status Screen to double-check.
It had 52/195 MP, so that was 2, 3, 4… Just short of 5 Shadowbolts’ worth of MP. It could probably do 5 in a row if it waited a bit for its MP to recover.
It checked again. 53/195 MP (+0.4/sec). Now that the Mimic had a closer look, didn’t it have 20-something when it first got this Warlock Job? And didn’t it try to use this Shadowbolt spell almost immediately afterwards? It knew the cost was 40 MP, but it didn’t really think to check how much it had at the time. It was simply over-excited at the prospect of gaining a reusable ranged attack. It had given up after several tries and had been poring over its menus ever since.
So, now would be a good time to try again, yes? The monster switched gears and sharpened its focus. It let out a quiet guttural sound that was, in essence, the Shadowbolt chant in Mimicanese. It pictured gathering the shadows around it into a small dense lump while doing so. A 15-centimeter wide black mass formed steadily in front of it. A thick miasma poured out of it in all directions. The dark smog-like substance lingered in the air for a brief moment before dissipating into nothing.
After about a second of that, it shouted “Shatolholt!” while simultaneously imagining the conjured chunk of darkness flying off into a specific direction. And that is indeed what happened! The Shadowbolt flew in a perfectly straight line into the distance with a small hissing noise. It reached its maximum Range of 25 meters in just under a second before fizzling out of existence.
The Mimic had just used its first real Spell. It did another dance for joy. Like this, it would finally be able to fight at range and also increase its Warlock Job Levels.
Any Experience Points (XP) earned through killing things would, by default, feed into the monster’s Main Job - that of a Level 15 Mimic. For it to raise its Level 1 Side Job, it had to murder stuff by doing Warlock-y type things. Like, for example, hurl lumps of eldritch darkness at its prey. If it just continued stabbing and biting everything to death, the creature’s fancy new Job would remain as little more than a Level 1 decoration.
This was the gist of the knowledge it had gleaned from its brief struggle to find out why its Shadowbolt spell failed to activate. Most of that information was given to it freely after it Inspected the terms Job, Main Job and Side Job and Job Level. It also realized that it would need to split XP between the Mimic and Warlock Jobs, but that was not necessarily a bad thing. Those rapid Level Ups were sure to be tasty in their own way. Additionally, as a shapeshifter, it fully understood the benefits of being versatile, so having a means of attacking at range was going to be a huge help.
Although it then immediately realized something. The Shapeshift Skill was, in a way, this monster’s main weapon. The legs, tentacle-tongues and even that one eye it sprouted were all possible because of this Skill. But at the same time, it had somehow ended up neglecting it. Until now, it couldn’t really morph itself while waiting in ambush. Nobody in their right mind would assume a wiggling chest was the real thing, after all. That much it already knew by instinct.
But now was different. Now it would be taking a more active role that went against such gut feelings.
As a matter of fact, those very same instincts had steadily been getting quieter - even before its connection to the dungeon had been severed. If at first they were like a loud ear-piercing scream, right now they were closer to a murmur. It knew what they were telling it, but it could easily ignore them if it wished to do so. It wasn’t actually a slave to such things, it didn’t necessary have to obey them. It was odd that it took it this long to realize that simple fact. This was probably due to the dungeon’s compulsions anyway. There really wasn’t much point in worrying about it now. Besides, its natural urges appealed to it at a base level, so it would still end up indulging them every now and then. The difference was it could now make the choice whether it would do that or not.
And right now, it was making the decision to improve itself. Outside of this dungeon was the complete unknown and it needed to be ready. Therefore, it would need to train up its Shapeshift Skill so that it would be better prepared. After all, the speed and range of transformations it could do went up noticeably every time the Skill Leveled Up.
For starters, now that it had sight, how about increasing its field of vision? While not as accurate as its magical perception, it was still wary of being ambushed from a distance. Those humans with their front-facing eyes were clearly idiots. If they could see towards their backs and sides without turning their heads, they might not be such easy prey. Such pitiful creatures.
Over the next several seconds, about 20 additional closed eyelids grew from the monster’s wood-like shell. It needed that many to cover all possible angles it could think of, after all. Even if a few of them were redundant, it was good to have backups. When the eyelids were properly formed, it then began working on the hollow eyeballs under them. Since it had already figured out the proper structure, it just need to repeat it over and over.
Proficiency level increased. Shapeshift is now Level 4. AGI +1. DEX +1. END +2.
As expected, Shapeshift went up. It seemed that it would grow faster from massive changes rather than small, delicate ones. The Mimic gained quite a bit of Proficiency while it was figuring out how to make its new legs work. Growing them just right demanded it shift a lot of its biomass around, after all. And just now it was recreating a considerable number of delicate organs on its surface.
Still, the Proficiency didn’t seem to climb as rapidly as it did while the monster was creating its first eyeball. Its leg and tongue manipulation had practically stopped increasing its Proficiency altogether. Ultimately, it seemed that it would have to create new and unique things from its malleable flesh if it wanted to reach the pinnacle of shapeshifting. But that would come later.
Right now, it had finished growing its new eyes. And it opened them all at once.
Your mind has been overwhelmed. HP -10.
You are Stunned for 5 seconds.
And then immediately fell on its underside. Its legs sprawled out from under it like someone had squashed it with an oversized fly swatter. Its eyelids drooped over its eyes while the magical perception was cut off. It was now in a world of complete darkness. It was unconscious.
Simply put, its fragile mind was completely unprepared for the sudden influx of information. A total of 21 eyes plus the monster’s magical perception overloaded what passes for its brain. It was so harsh that it actually felt physical pain as its HP took a small hit. Even though the surroundings were almost completely pitch black to the imitation human eyes, it still proved entirely too much.
You are no longer stunned.
After snapping back to reality, it reflexively fluttered open its eyes. Not the wisest of decisions.
Your mind has been overwhelmed. HP -10.
You are Stunned for 5 seconds.
A special action has been performed. MNT +1.
It was so intense that its own body recognized it as a mental attack from the environment. And because its MNT Attribute was still low, it was completely under the influence of the Stunned abnormal condition. If its Mental Fortitude were high enough, it would be able to at least remain in a groggy, dazed state rather than completely blacking out. Although that also meant that it would be trying to process 21 eyes’ worth of visual information while it was Stunned. Whether it was able to close them under such conditions was another question entirely. The worst case scenario would be it becoming a prisoner in its own body. Its own perception would be overloading its brain while it could not cut off the feed. What passes for its brain would then probably leak out of its gaping mouth as it quietly passed away.
You are no longer stunned.
And again, its eyes opened up before its consciousness could stop them.
Your mind has been overwhelmed. HP -10.
You are Stunned for 5 seconds.
It wasn’t until the loop repeated itself several more times and earned it another point of MNT that the Mimic was finally able to keep its eyes shut after waking up. Reeling from the intense something-ache, it quickly retracted all of the extra eyes back inside its body. It was now back to having a single ocular organ in the middle of its front side, just under its gaping maw. If it were an actual chest, that’s probably where its lock would be.
Overdoing it with the shapeshifting was clearly a bad idea. The Mimic had gotten full of itself and suffered for its stupidity. No matter how plain a creature was, it would quickly learn from such an ordeal. Painful things were painful, after all.
For now It would try to take things slower for the moment. Something simpler, like slightly morphing its appearance as it walked around. But how much would it need to do for it to be enough to train its Shapeshift Skill? It wasn’t quite sure what counted as ‘shapeshifting’ and what counted as ‘moving its body.’ Still, it would just need to try.
And so, after considering its options, the monster went to work. The treasure chest stood up on its spider legs like it was the most natural thing in the world. Its faux-wood shell began rippling and shivering slightly, almost like the surface of a puddle being disturbed by a harsh wind. It wasn’t morphing into anything in particular, it just twisted its flesh around a little. After keeping an eye on its Status screen and confirming the desired Skill Proficiency did indeed go up by 1%, it was satisfied. This ought to be enough to casually raise the Shapeshift Skill as time went on, right? Yep, sure looked that way. Then, while maintaining this state, it took a confident step forward, towards the future.
You have suffered minor blunt trauma. HP -2.
Which, as it would appear, was the floor. It had stumbled and face planted into the stone ground.
Shapeshifting actually took quite a bit of focus. Such a thing as ‘casually morphing its flesh’ simply wasn’t possible. It had to make a conscious effort into restructuring its own body, after all. It also disturbed its center of gravity, meaning it had even more trouble keeping balance on those six thin legs it had. Even if it could walk, it’s not like that was an automatic process that happened on its own, either.
After all, it had these legs for less than a day. The fact it could actually run and fight like that was in itself impressive. It wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t precisely mimicking an actual spider’s actions. But in the end it was just imitating something else. It’s not like it had mastered these movements quite yet. As a result, it hit the limit on its concentration and fucked up its gait. It simply did not have the capacity to Shapeshift and walk at the same time.
So would it stay put and train or head out? Frankly speaking, it had very little desire to linger here. It felt somewhat scornful at having been almost literally chased out by its own parent. Not to mention the prey here were clearly unable to help it grow its Job Levels further. It was also slightly worried about those five identically dressed people it murdered. Everyone else it had killed, while looking similar, was still unique in some way. But that bunch felt different, like they belonged to something bigger.
Oddly enough, they reminded the Mimic of the dungeon’s giant bats. That particular breed of monster had a habit of fighting in groups. If too many of its kind were killed, the survivors would focus on escaping from battle. But rather than a surrender, this was more of a tactical retreat. They wouldn’t forgive anyone who dared to slay their kin, so if they got away they would come back minutes later with an entire flock of their friends.
It was something the Mimic had witnessed a few times as adventurers ran past it while being chased by dozens of the flying rodents. Since they were already in full sprint, the Mimic had to regrettably let them pass through its lair. It couldn’t keep up with humans that ran with all their might. If they didn’t approach it or linger around its spot, it had no chance of getting close enough to ambush them. And those panicked individuals certainly did none of those things. After all, what sort of idiot would stop to check a treasure chest when he was about to be overwhelmed by large numbers like that?
But still, it was a scenario that was entirely possible with those shiny people. Even if none of them escaped, it was likely that their friends would come looking for them. Therefore, the Mimic would need to swiftly and surely evacuate before it was hunted down and killed. Picking itself up off the ground it scanned the distance with its one eye. It spotted the slightly lit opening that its recent quartet of victims had come from and headed off towards it. The draft it had felt earlier became more and more noticeable as it closed in on that exit.
You have left the Litigar Dungeon Complex.
Somewhere along the way, it was told it had officially left the dungeon once again. Not like it cared anymore at this point. Dismissing the message, it approached the narrow hole in the otherwise vast cavern. A silvery light poured in from the 2-meter tall and 3-meter wide passage. The Mimic screwed up its courage and passed through the threshold, setting foot into the wide open world for the first time.
And it saw many strange things.
The first new sight the Mimic beheld was grass. Green blades of fiber that swayed gently in the breeze. They glistened with moisture as the air shoved them around for no particular reason. They actually looked soft and might be pleasant to sit on, unlike that hard stone floor it was used to.
Next it saw trees. It somehow recognized them as being made of wood. After all, it was the very material it was imitating. Not to mention its teeth had crunched plenty of wooden staves and bows into splinters. Unlike steel, they weren’t hard enough to pierce the insides of its maw, so it had no trouble gobbling them up. It wasn’t a particularly tasty or nourishing material though. It just ate them to get rid of them, so it had no desire to chomp into those bland tree trunks. Those colorful bits on top of them were another story. They actually looked like they might taste good!
And as its gaze went up the tree, it finally beheld the night sky. It stared blankly at the black void that seemed to stretched out into infinity. Countless stars sparkled and twinkled from far, far away. The unobstructed view of a star-filled night sky was a romantic, almost sacred thing. It was, in some ways, a shame that the denizens of this world did not take time out of their daily lives to stop and appreciate its natural beauty. Tonight was even a rare occasion when all of its moons were visible at the same time. The three celestial bodies that passed each other idly by as they hurtled through space. Their combined silver glow bathed the surroundings in an almost eerie light.
The mysteries of the cosmos seemed to spread out before the Mimic and its one lonely eye. And all it could think about was how come it was so damn bright in this new cave it had found.
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