Boxxy walked through the streets of Erosa with purpose. The new Quest it picked up meant it had to visit the ancient dense forest that was visible on the horizon, but that could wait. It had more pressing matters to attend to. As it walked along the city’s crowded streets, however, it once again noticed a pattern. Humans were shying away from it, giving its tall, cloaked figure a wide berth. All things considered that might be the natural reaction to meeting someone tall, dark and masked, but then again, it was only humans reacted this way.
Dwarves, elves, beast-kin and lizard-kin had a much more subdued reaction. They got out of its way and avoided running into it on the street, but their behavior showed they treated the figure as nothing more than a face in the crowd. Humans on the other hand practically leapt out of its way with an apprehensive look on their face, even going so far as to let out a yelp when they suddenly noticed its presence.
It wasn’t just pedestrians, either. Human merchants also seemed unwilling to do business with it and a few outright denied service to it. And while nonhumans businesses treated it with a certain amount of suspicion, that was immediately dispelled when the gold was brought out.
Boxxy had no idea why any of this was happening, but it was clearly not a good thing. Mimics like itself were creatures that wanted to hide themselves in plain sight and wait for unwitting prey to draw close, then strike. Walking around in the open with so many pairs of eyes following its conspicuous form was more than a little stressful for Boxxy. Having humans actively avoid it like that simply drawed a lot more attention to itself than it could calmly deal with.
Thankfully, it reached its next destination without much incident. It stood in front of a small single-story building on the busy market street. The sign above the heavy wooden door read ‘Fizzy’s Fidgety Widgets.’ There was a large glass window to the left of said door that was too dirty for anything but traces of sunlight to pass through. It pushed the door open with a pale hand and went inside.
The interior of the shop was not to different from the general store Boxxy had visited several times before. Immediately to the right of the door was a mostly bare beige wall that had little going for it other than a random picture of what looked to be an orange tabby cat. There was a large wooden L-shaped counter to its front and left, with several shelves filled with various contraptions and parts on the far wall. A half-open door was visible in the far left corner from where the mimic was standing. Weird grinding and whirring noises were coming from the workshop on the other side of that door.
Boxxy closed the door behind it, which caused the door frame to ring the little bell overhead for the second time. It breathed a metaphorical sigh of relief. Being indoors and away from the dozens of prying eyes outside made it feel far more comfortable. No, it was more accurate to say it was a lot less uncomfortable.
“Just a minute!” came a slightly squeaky voice from further inside the shop.
The door in the corner opened up all the way and a creature that was about the height and build of a 9-year old human girl walked out from within. She had a plainly cute face with pink hair tied in twin pigtails. A pair of large leather-bound safety goggles covered her large green eyes. Her brown overalls, gray work shirt and heavy leather gloves were dirtied by many black splotches of oil. There was a steel wrench with numerous scratches in her right hand.
This woman was Cornie Fizzlesprocket, or Fizzy for short. She was a gnome and the owner of Fizzy’s Fidgety Widgets.
“Oh! If it isn’t Boxxy!?”
The Mimic returned the greeting with a nod, which seemed to be a satisfactory response.
“Alright, gimme a sec,” said the gnome while she put away her wrench and took off her gloves and goggles.
It was amazing how much it could get done just by nodding and gesturing. It’s not that it couldn’t speak, it’s just that it needed to work on its communication skills when it came to talking with strangers. The last time it tried to hold a conversation it almost got arrested for asking a street vendor if she was tasty. It had no idea what this ‘sexual harassment’ thing she kept yelling about was, but it decided it would speak as little as possible ever since.
“So what’cha here for, big guy?” asked Fizzy while walking up to her customer on the other side of the counter. Most people would struggle to see anything other the top of her head, but Boxxy’s towering stature meant they could maintain eye contact easily enough.
“Lessons and materials.”
“What, already? Did you practice what I taught you last time properly?”
The Mimic nodded and brought out another Bladeblossom, then placed it on the countertop. Fizzy climbed a small step ladder so her large head and tiny upper body were above the counter and took out a magnifying jeweler’s monocle and a small screwdriver out of her overalls. The gnome then began inspecting Boxxy’s handiwork.
“Not bad,” she commented while rolling the device around in her small fingers and poking at it with her screwdriver. “Triggering mechanism is put together well, springs are coiled properly and the blades won’t clash into each other when activated.”
She kept commenting on the device’s construction while taking it slightly apart.
“You did a great job on the overall assembly,” was her final verdict. She carefully set the slightly disassembled Bladeblossom down on the counter and put away her monocle.
“Honestly, it’s surprising you’re able to do detailed work like this with those large hands of yours. I only taught you how to make these three days ago and you’re already this good! You should be past Level 2 of the Job by now, right?”
They stared at each other in an awkward silence.
Oh right, thought Fizzy, this guy only answers what I ask him and nothing more.
“Uhm, what Level is your Artificer job now?”
It was a bit odd that she had to specifically ask all these rather obvious questions, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. A good Artificer had to do exactly what was required of them. Nothing more, nothing less.
The gnome blinked her huge eyes a few times then smiled up at her student.
“Hmm? I’m sorry, I think I misheard that. Could you repeat yourself?”
“My Job is Level four.”
“Holy- Four?! But you only started a week ago!”
The cloaked figure tilted its masked head.
“So? SO?! It takes most people 2 months of practice to get up to that Level! Just how many- Wait, didn’t you say something about materials? Did you already use up all the parts you bought last time!?”
She got a nod in response.
“B-b-b-but there were enough bits in that toolbox you bought to make 100 of these!”
“Well-! I mean-! How did you assemble them so fast!?”
If the person in front of Fizzy really did reach Level 4 of the Artificer Job, then it’s highly likely all of his creations were as well-built as the sample she just examined.
“Show me how you put one of these together!”
Boxxy didn’t really want to do that since it would mean revealing it was a Shapeshifter. If this truth got out, then it would no longer be able to stay in town and take advantage of the various goods and services that only civilization could provide it with. So if Fizzy were to somehow catch wind of it, she would have to be… dealt with.
“Come on! I’m super curious!”
The persistent gnome, however, wouldn’t give up so easily.
“I swear I won’t spill your secret!”
The Mimic hesitated for a brief moment. If this little thing did that, then surely it would be okay. However, it then remembered Xera’s helpful hint for blending into civilized society.
The little gnome was getting more and more petulant.
“I have to know! I need to know!”
She slammed her tiny fists into the counter with more force than one would expect from a tiny body like that. It actually shook the wooden counter somewhat, which caused the Bladeblossom that was still on top of it to clatter against its surface.
There was the briefest moment of silence before Fizzy and Boxxy hit the deck as fast they could.
40 tiny blades shot out from the steel rose-looking contraption in all directions. Some stuck into the ceiling, others into the wall, a couple broke the window and a number of them hit the various metal bits and pieces strewn about the shop.
“YEOOW!” screamed Fizzy. One piece of shrapnel had ricocheted off something and stabbed her in the back of the arm, which started bleeding profusely.
“Son of a bitch, that hurt! Oh no, Boxxy!”
The realization that there was another person in the shop dawned on her in the next instant. The thought her carelessness might have killed someone sent her practically flying up to the counter in order to check up on her customer.
“Hey! Are you… oh… kay…”
She tiny gnome had lucked out and only been hit once, but the towering figure that was also in the shop was not as lucky. It had failed to duck out of the way in time and its head was hit by two blades. One in the forehead, and another in the eye. It casually stood up and reached a pale hand up to those foreign objects, then pulled them out without uttering so much a peep.
“What… are you?” mumbled the dumbfounded gnome.
That’s when she noticed the viscous yellow blood oozing from the wounds. The gnome’s already large eyes became the size of dinner plates. Only monsters had disgusting blood that like that.
She tried to call for help, but was silenced when Boxxy lunged forward over the counter and put a hand over her mouth. The flesh of its palm and fingers swiftly reformed into a gag that kept the gnome from mustering anything other than an extremely muffled scream. She struggled, kicked and clawed at it while tears welled up in her eyes, but she was unable to so much as injure her assailant.
The Mimic climbed over the counter and got closer to its still thrashing captive. A tendril shot out from under its cloak and picked up a steel chain that was nearby. This was quickly wrapped around the tiny prisoner, binding her hands and feet together.
Fizzy watched in abject horror as her freedom was robbed from her. Next the person- no, the monster in front of her produced some cloth scraps and lodged them in her mouth and throat, forming a more permanent gag. It then casually carried her off into the back room, further away from any prying eyes.
This room was about the size of the storefront and was quite frankly a mess. A tiny table had been turned into a workstation on the right, and a plethora of tools lined the wall around it. Numerous crates and boxes all filled with various parts and pieces were strewn about haphazardly. A small hearth and anvil were in the far right corner of the room, the place where the captive gnome forged any custom parts she couldn’t acquire for herself. A pile of iron, copper, bronze and other common metal ingots lied next to it. The far left corner had a set of stairs leading upwards, most likely into the gnome’s bedroom, and between it and the door were a line of cabinets stuffed with failed inventions, ruined prototypes, broken contraptions and other random scrap.
“Hey! Are you alright in here?!”
A man’s voice came from the storefront. It would appear someone noticed the commotion and stepped inside to check. The ginger-haired young man saw the devastation caused by the Bladeblossom as well as what appeared to be bloodstains on the counter, but didn’t see a person, living or otherwise.
“Oh gods!” he exclaimed. “Hello?!”
A pink haired female gnome leaned out from behind the door in the back. Only her large head and upper body were visible.
“Yes hello!” she yelled back with an oddly chipper voice.
“What happened here?!” he asked, gesturing at the walls and ceiling.
“I see blood! Was anyone hurt?!”
The young man thought something was off about that gnome’s tone of voice, not to mention her attitude was a little bit suspect. She was way too happy considering her shop was just wrecked.
“... You sure you’re okay?”
There was also the weird sense of dread the young man felt when she looked into her large yellow eyes.
“I see. That’s good.”
However, if she says she’s okay, then she’s okay. Even if she looks like a kid, she’s still an adult that can take care of herself. Probably.
“Sorry for intruding.”
“I’ll be going then.”
“Ah yes… goodbye…”
Well, that response was definitely weird. The young man simply concluded that the rumors he heard saying all gnomes had few screws loose wasn’t entirely fictitious.
He left the store and went about its day, trying his best to put the incident out of his mind. After making sure nobody else was coming to investigate, the imitation Fizzy hid itself from view, slamming the door to the back closed. As for the actual Fizzy, she was already in a state where she was earnestly hoping she had gone mad. A myriad of scenarios appeared in her head when she was bound, gagged and dragged into her own back room by what appeared to be a male stranger, but none of them were even close to this.
What appeared to be a man that who stood at over 2 meters tall was revealed to be a chest that was 40 by 50 by 90 centimeters in size. It had grown legs on one end, a head on the other and arms from its top and bottom, near the head. The heavy cloak and baggy clothes underneath did a good job of obscuring its chest-shaped, uh, chest.
When the good samaritan just now called out across the shop, it abandoned its veneer and reverted back to a chest in an instant, with eight nightmarish legs sticking out of the bottom. Its lid opened up all on its own to reveal two rows of terrifying, jagged and misaligned teeth. A massive red tongue then stretched out of its maw and licked the bound and gagged gnome across her face and hair. She pointlessly struggled against her bindings and rivers of tears flooded out of her eyes when she reached the conclusion she was about to be eaten, but that assumption also proved to be wrong.
The fleshy red tongue morphed before her very eyes. Its tip had morphed into a twisted reflection of herself, absolutely perfect aside from the stupid grin and yellow eyes. The Mimic then poked its new ‘body’ through the crack in the door and made her last hope of being rescued go away by using a few words with a voice that was not her own. Once that was done, it undid all its transformations and sat down in front of her.
And just waited.
Fizzy hyperventilated. Her throat never once stopped trying to scream, her eyes didn’t even dared to blink. But right now, she felt more terrified than she had ever been before. Not because there was a monster in front of her. Well, there was that, but her biggest fear arose from how… ordinary it looked.
She knew full well what a mimic was and had little doubt the creature in front of her was undoubtedly one of those. And yet, it didn’t look out of place. A random wooden chest laying around haphazardly in the middle of her workshop where it would undoubtedly get in the way was bound to be an eyesore, right? So then how come it seemed like this chest was always there?!
A monster was sitting right in front of her, and yet some part of her didn’t find that odd.
It was at this moment the gnome desperately wished she truly had gone insane.
Just when she was about to discover new depths of terror, the front door’s bell rang out.
It slammed shut and a set of footsteps could be heard along the wooden floor. Fizzy struggled and tried to scream with renewed vigor, desperate for something, anything to save her from this hell. The footsteps drew closer and the door to her workshop creaked open. A woman dressed in a nun’s habit walked in like she owned the place.
“Mmph! Hrlf mmfff!”
The nun looked at the gnome, then at the chest, then back to the gnome, then at the chest again.
“Really now,” she said in a clearly displeased tone of voice while looking at the out-of-place-yet-not wooden box. “This is the third time already!”
The gnomish tinkerer went quiet for the first time since she was captured.
“Of course I can fix it, but you need to be more careful. Her brain’s going to turn to mush if I keep wiping her memory.”
The nun walked over to the captive woman and placed a slender hand on her head.
The gnome started struggling valiantly once more, but try as she might, there was no escape for her. Her skills at constructing gadgets had caught the interest of someone who barely even knew what compassion, mercy or kindness even meant.
“Sleep,” chanted the nun.
Fizzy’s consciousness began to slip away from her. She instinctively tried to stay awake, but her world turned dark. The next thing she knew, she was screaming while climbing over the counter.
“Hey Boxxy! Are you okay?!”
“Fine,” said the well-over-2-meter-tall adventurer. It looked like he had gotten off unscathed from that unfortunate accident just now.
“Oh thank god! I’m really sorry about that! I don’t know what came over me! An Artificer of my Level setting off a Bladeblossom like that, it’s inexcusable!”
“No, I insist I make it up to you!”
“Then teach me.”
“You’re sure? Even after what I did?”
Boxxy nodded. This girl was still the best (and only) Artificer trainer in town. She was the one that taught the Mimic the Artificer Job in the first place.
“Alright!” she exclaimed, her voice full of vigor. “I’ll make sure to teach you everything I know! Free of charge, of course!”
She leapt down from the counter and headed towards her workshop in the back, but stopped momentarily at the door.
“Huh? That’s weird…”
The completely shut door. The one she never fully closes because she can’t hear the door bell otherwise.
“Well, whatever,” she said dismissively, then waved her guest over. “Right this way, Boxxy! Let’s see how well you handle blast powder!”
|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||43%|
|Metal Mimicry||2||76%||Ruin Mastery||8||27%|
|Summon Familiar||7||42%||Domination Mastery||5||75%|
|Power Overwhelming||6||30%||Shield Mastery||3||32%|
|Dark Explosion||Mind Blast|