Erosa’s officials had put forth their utmost effort to keep the matter concerning a certain nun’s disappearance a secret, but that proved to be in vain. It was now 8 days after that event and pretty much the entire city of Erosa knew about it.
A nun in service to Teresa abandoned her vows, stole a Holy Pearl from the temple and eloped into the night with a stranger.
The cat was out of the bag. There was no way to contain the spread of such scandalous rumors once they had found their way into the general populace. This worrisome notion had just the right mix of fact and fantasy to make people unable to judge whether such a thing was true or not. The purported guilty party was nowhere to be seen and neither the temple nor the guards could in good conscience deny they were not.
And so, rather than let them fester, the office of the city guard decided to take action. Bounty posters were made and a generous reward of 2,000 GP was offered to anyone who brought forth news that would lead to the capture of Lyo Rosero or her accomplice, a man that was identified as Alden Crawford. There was also an ongoing investigation to find out who leaked this particular information, but that was little more than a token effort. Word of mouth was an extremely unreliable trail to follow.
Which is exactly what the person responsible for maliciously spreading that rumor was counting on. In fact, they were also the one who manufactured this now wide-spread untruth, not to mention the actual perpetrator behind the Holy Pearl theft that set this whole situation into motion. And this person did all of this with an evil, shit-eating grin on her face. Truly a rotten piece of garbage that enjoyed watching humans flail about in their ignorance. As expected of a succubus that had a monster for a master.
Xera always hated that stuck-up bitch of a Goddess called Teresa. Pretty much any succubus who knew of that deity had the same opinion. These conniving seductresses were basically the antithesis of everything that Teresa stood for, Her natural enemies. This sentiment was echoed by pretty much all of demonkind, including fiends. It was Kora’s completely unbiased opinion that this so-called ‘Hammer Goddess’ simply needed a good hammering, right in Her divine pussy. As for Xera, she had far more realistic goals and simply stuck to toying with that Goddess’s flock, which included the vast majority of humanity. These mortals sometimes prayed to other Gods as well, but their worship of Teresa was by far the most widespread and common.
So when the opportunity to screw with Her Divine Frigidness presented itself, the succubus leapt on it with truly demonic fervor. And the results were, to put it in her master’s words, really tasty. Not only did she make the populace of an entire city doubt one of Teresa’s clergy through a widespread lie, but she also framed them for a crime that the succubus committed. Add in the notion that she did all this just to bounce on some man’s dick and you had the perfect concoction that was sure to make that suck-up twat throw a hissy fit if she found out.
After all, the Gods were not omnipotent, nor were they omniscient. They drew power from the faith of their followers, but it could also be said that they seemed dependent on them. The question regarding what would happen should a God or Goddess lose every last one of their believers had been a widely debated topic among the faithful.
Would these deities simply disappear? Or would they instead be left powerless and lose their divinity? Or perhaps garnering faith was simply a way for them to enhance their already formidable power? Such secrets of the Gods were very well kept, but their behavior throughout the centuries made one thing clear - they wanted to be worshipped. Which in turn meant that causing people to doubt Them on a large scale would be a good way to rattle their gilded cages.
Realistically speaking, though, Xera’s careful manipulations were unlikely to catch the notice of a big shot like Teresa. She had millions of worshippers, so losing 10 or 20 thousand was unlikely to catch her notice. It still felt good though. Besides, the succubus had other, more practical reasons for forging and spreading that rumor. It served as a good smoke screen to obscure the activities of her and her master, not to mention she found it fun in and of itself.
Spreading such a thing was surprisingly easy, as well. These humans sometimes put too much trust into their superiors. And while that trust was usually well placed, it didn’t account for a devious demoness worming her way into their command structure and poisoning their minds. That lieutenant in particular was easy enough to sway with but a shake of her hips and a kiss on the lips. He eagerly hired her as his new assistant, which put her in a good spot to both ferret out information and spread misinformation as she pleased.
As far as that rumor was concerned, though, her involvement was to simply use her Dreamweaver Skill to implant the suggestion that ‘sister Lyo can not be trusted’ into the subconsciousness of a few key humans. Of course, this wouldn’t be possible had her master not provided a great opportunity like this. She had to admit, that chest had a way of causing chaos wherever it went. All she had to do was nudge those mortals in a way that let them piece together the puzzle she wanted them to see.
After all, the greatest misunderstandings were those that men arrived at on their own.
The temples were, unfortunately, less prone to supernatural manipulation. Sneaking into the building while pretending to be an out-of-town nun on a pilgrimage and absconding with one of their Holy Pearls was easy enough, but anything further than that would be ill-advised. Priests and Paladins had Skills that fortified them against mental attacks, such as Domination Spells or Xera’s Dreamweaver Skill, not to mention the power to cleanse such afflictions from others.
However, that wasn’t to say these holy men and women hated demons for wanting to spread misery, death and destruction. That was like hating a fire for spreading in the woods or resenting the rain for causing a flood. Priests and Paladins were of course wary of unbound demons or those ordered to commit atrocities, but such faults ultimately lied with their master. Many Warlocks and Witches that chose to use the power of a summoned familiar only did so for noble reasons. It was hard to deny that one could do great things if they correctly applied a fiend’s capability to protect others, a succubus’s natural aptitude for magic, a beholder’s talent for sensing and scouting out threats, a hellhound’s tracking and hunting ability or a stalker’s resourcefulness and flexibility.
There were, of course, those who misused or lost control of that power. Much like a bound demon’s achievements were attributed to their master, so too would any crimes they commit be the sole responsibility of the one holding the leash. A demon running wild was hardly that different from a Rogue robbing everyone in town or a mad Alchemist dumping poison into the river. Therefore, Warlocks that used demonic servants were not automatically reviled by the populace. For the most part, anyway. They were not exactly liked either, but at least they didn’t have it as bad as Necromancers.
Well, that probably was irrelevant for Boxxy. It pretty much let its demons do as they pleased so long as they produced results and didn’t inconvenience it.
“Responsibility? Guilt? What are those? Are they tasty? … They’re not? Then I don’t need them. Go bring me tasty things!”
The Mimic that seemed to spread chaos and confusing by its very presence simply stuck to its routine for this past week.
It visited the Mercenary Guild in the mornings to take on or turn in Quests. One would think this would be an impossible thing for an illiterate monster like itself, but it really wasn’t. There were many adventurers who could not read, and this flaw seemed ever more pronounced in the type of people that frequented the Mercenary Guild. Which is why the notices posted on its Quest Board were made with that particular tidbit in mind.
Quest postings always bore a small stamp that denoted the type of objective. Subjugations and hunts were marked by a pair of red crossed swords, escorts were a blue shield, collection and gathering ones had a green basket and so on and so forth. The difficulty rating was marked with an equally easy-to-understand star rating and every mercenary worth their salt knew at least to read numbers, so there would be little dispute as to the money that changed hands.
This arrangement allowed anyone to instantly pick out an appropriate assignment with a satisfactory reward and bring it up to the counter. The bartender-cum-receptionist would then use the magic item known as a Quest Logger to relay the contents of the specially prepared parchment directly into the adventurer’s mind. The person could then confirm the details and choose whether they wanted to take the quest or back out if it seemed too troublesome.
This convenient and simplistic flow completely eliminated the need to actually read any of the Quest notices before taking them off the board. In fact, it was so streamlined that even literate mercenaries sometimes skipped reading long-winded requests for themselves and brought them straight to the counter.
After finishing its business at the Mercenary Guild, Boxxy would then move onto practicing its Artisan Job, either by itself or by taking lessons from Fizzy. So far it had made a plethora of mechanical gadgets that relied on Clockwork Expertise, such as a few high-quality retractable blades, about two dozen simple clocks, two basic repeating crossbows, several ‘pick proof’ locks and a disturbingly high number of music boxes. Selling these mechanical wonders proved to be remarkably easy, especially when it came to the better-than-average door locks or the plainly entertaining music boxes. These sales were the point where Boxxy recovered a sizable chunk of the money spent on parts, but was still suffering a steady loss.
It was worth it, however. The Mimic’s Artificer Job had gone all the way to Level 12, which also unlocked the next Skill in the series - Explosives Handling. Flashbangs and dynamite were the basic explosives that could be made based on this Skill alone, but when combined with Clockwork Expertise the Artificer could also give birth to nasty surprises such as time-delayed explosives, landmines and tripwire bombs. There was even an evolution of the Bladeblossom called the Bladeboom. It worked much the same way, only it used the far more potent power of Blast Powder rather than springs to form a rudimentary fragmentation grenade.
But even though Boxxy was improving steadily as an Artificer, its Warlock Job was still stuck at Level 25 and looked to be that way for a while.
There existed two methods for raising a non-Monster Job’s Level cap. The first, easiest and most commonly used method, was to find a suitable teacher. For example, in order to become a Level 1 Artificer, Boxxy had to find a another artificer that was at least Level 25 and had the Mentor Skill. Fizzy was rather overqualified for this position, but that wasn’t a bad thing. Since she was a Level 56 Arclight Artificer she could also break the Level 25 limit on the relevant Job, provided her Mentor Skill reached Level 4 before that. One would then need to find a Level 75 teacher with a Level 7 Mentor Skill to break past 50, and a Level 100 teacher with a Level 10 Mentor Skill to progress above Level 75.
So in other words, the Mimic had to find the appropriate Warlock trainer if it wanted to further its only Spell-slinging Job. And therein lied the problem. The vast majority of combat-oriented Job trainers all belonged to one guild or another and refused to teach anyone who wasn’t part of their organization. And joining such an organization meant undergoing a full Appraisal to verify their capabilities. Needless to say, they would probably not accept Boxxy’s application once they found out it was a monster in disguise.
The other method for furthering one’s Job was much more difficult and was known simply as a Breakthrough. In order to accomplish this, an individual had to diligently train all of that Job’s unlocked Skills until they reached the maximum Level 10. A stringent and rigorous training regime would be necessary to achieve such a feat and attempting this path was likely to take months, maybe even years of hard work. There was also the hidden caveat that, while Leveling these Skills, it was highly unlikely for an adventurer to progress in Job Levels, leaving them in a bit of a rut.
A fact which made many people shy away from this path. Why would they have to spend an exorbitant amount of time like that on something that could be achieved in an afternoon with the help of a trainer and a sack of gold? Breakthroughs were thus usually left behind for only those who couldn’t access a trainer or were unable to muster up the training fee. Usually the former.
Thus, at least for the moment, Boxxy’s Warlock Job was stuck at being Level 25. Therefore, rather than obsess about it, the Mimic decided to turn its attention towards improving the things it could. The Artificer Job was progressing steadily, but seemed to require slightly more expensive components as time went on. Fizzy herself confirmed that the necessary material costs would steadily climb due to the scarcity or difficulty of obtaining such materials. Even with the discounts she gave her ‘star pupil,’ it still proved to be a considerable strain on Boxxy’s wallets, and had no signs of letting up.
At least, not until the Mimic decided it had had enough and cashed in on its ‘investment.’
In the meantime however, its Mimic Job had actually stagnated for a while. Boxxy had spent perhaps a bit too much time focusing on widgets and gadgets and not enough on murdering the shit out of things. Both this, and its immediate monetary concerns, could be solved by completing Quests via the Mercenary Guild. Which is why the monster was currently out here in the Whispering Marshes in the middle of the night.
This area was a wide, depressing swampland that had formed as a result of the Whispering Canal’s extra-wide delta. The deep and narrow river became shallow and wide and split up into dozens of outlets as it approached the ocean. As a result, this entire area was perpetually wet, overgrown with reeds and tall grass, and always seemed to have a thick mist that limited visibility. The main two gripes adventurers had with this place, however, was that it smelled horribly and hid several annoying species of monsters. The former wasn’t particularly a problem for a chest with no sense of smell, and the latter was the main reason it was here in the first place.
The Mimic scuttled along slowly across the muddy ground using Stealth to minimize its presence. Its normally narrow spider-legs were uncharacteristically tipped with small disks that increased their surface area and prevent the monster from sinking into the soft mud. It then suddenly stopped and planted all eight of its legs firmly on the ground and, for the lack of a better term, crouched.
The black slender limbs then uncoiled suddenly as Boxxy leapt up into the air, reaching a height of about 3 and a half meters. The spidery limbs on its side disappeared back inside its body and four long, narrow metal rods with pointed ends popped out from its underside. It fell like a brick into a nearby puddle, driving the four oversized nails deep into the ground with a splash, a squish and a crunch.
Assassination Skill triggered. Your attack has dealt 350% more damage. Target HP -253.
Proficiency level increased. Assassination is now Level 8. AGI +2. DEX +1. STR +1.
The puddle the Mimic landed in erupted as a gigantic, 3-meter long gray lobster emerged out of it. It thrashed about wildly, trying to shake off the stubborn box that had nailed itself to its back. But it couldn’t, because Boxxy had already expanded the tips of its makeshift spears to form something akin to fishhooks. It had already firmly anchored itself to the raging crustacean’s backside. Its unwilling mount attempted to reach back and pry the damnable box out of its back, but its long, powerful pincers simply could not bend backwards to that extent.
Boxxy opened its jaw and produced two fleshy tendrils, wrapped around its favorite shiny things - a pair of mithril daggers take from a dead dungeon master. It swung them downwards in a wide arc, easily penetrating the amphibian monster’s outer shell and gouging out its flesh.
You have inflicted a minor stab wound. Target HP -84.
You have inflicted a minor stab wound. Target HP -103.
Yes, a minor stab wound. Relatively speaking, stabbing something this large with daggers was like stabbing a person with a nail. It would take far more than 2 strikes to bring down something that had around 1,500 HP. Which is why the Mimic withdrew its daggers and struck again and again.
You have inflicted a minor stab wound. Target HP -136.
You have inflicted a minor stab wound. Target HP -122.
It didn’t help that it was hitting only muscle, rather than anything vital like a heart, neck, lung or skull. Then there was also the fact that these things seemed to have some sort of defensive Skill that greatly reduced physical damage, like a more powerful version of the Mimic’s own Natural Armor.
You have inflicted a minor stab wound. Target HP -92.
You have inflicted a minor stab wound. Target HP -103.
The oversized lobster didn’t exactly sit still, either. It thrashed about wildly, even going so far as rolling across the ground in an effort to shake off its attacker. All that did was simply drive the stubborn box’s steel legs deeper inside itself. It’s not like simple mud or water would do anything to discourage a killer of Boxxy’s caliber.
You have inflicted a minor stab wound. Target HP -115.
You have inflicted a minor stab wound. Target HP -87.
Growing desperate, the amphibian monster reared up and threw its head back, then sprayed droplets of a deep green liquid into the air. That corrosive acid then promptly rained down atop the violent chest currently attached to the lobster’s back. But Boxxy had already retrieved a large rectangular bronze shield that had a special anti-corrosive coating applied to its surface. It blocked most of the acidic deluge, but some of it still splashed onto the Mimic’s body, melting parts of its flesh.
You have been burned by acid. HP -124.
Boxxy’s prey, however, seemed to be completely unfazed by this. Its own corrosive spit simply washed over its gray shell as if it were water, but the relentless barrage of stab wounds didn’t slow down one bit. So it kept spewing acid all over itself as much as it could.
You have inflicted a minor stab wound. Target HP -70.
You have inflicted a minor stab wound. Target HP -93.
You have inflicted a minor stab wound. Target HP -105.
You have been burned by acid. HP -64.
You have inflicted a minor stab wound. Target HP -86.
You have inflicted a minor stab wound. Target HP -113.
You have inflicted a minor stab wound. Target HP -124.
You have been burned by acid. HP -186.
You have inflicted a minor stab wound. Target HP -79.
The large crustacean’s four legs finally gave out. It collapsed in the shallow waters of the marsh, its green blood flowing freely from the numerous holes in its lifeless body. The Mimic had no room to celebrate its victory, however, and immediately retreated from the body. The spot where it had been mere moments ago was then bathed by 4 streams of acid that shot out from beneath the surface of the murky water that surrounded the body.
Such an attack might have worked against a lesser opponent, but this one came armed with a 10-meter wide magical perception. It didn’t rely on simple eyesight to watch out for ambushes, and sneaking up on it was highly unlikely. It was a bit ironic that a monster that instinctively relied on deception and camouflage was so well equipped to deal with enemies that used the same approach.
Boxxy quickly skittered away from the scene, retreating with all due haste. It was confident it could take down one of those things in open combat. Two were also doable if it put its Warlock Job to work, although that would mean less XP would go towards the Mimic Job. Four of those, though? That was simply too much. It was far better to apply hit & run tactics when fighting this particular species of monster, at least in Boxxy’s personal opinion. Granted, that meant it would take a while to fulfil the quota for its Quest, but it’s not like it had a time limit anyway.
Slay 20 Murk Dwellers
Deposit: 50 GP
Reward: 400 GP
Description: The population of Murk Dwellers that inhabit the marshes to the south of Erosa has increased once again. Lord Osorlov has commanded that these creatures be reduced in number.
Well, it’s not like it was its only method of fighting. It still had a number of special surprises waiting inside its Storage, not to mention that Xera was currently circling overhead and would provide cover if needed. It didn’t want to use either of those options unless necessary. Killing a Murk Dweller and then escaping its inevitable backup was easy enough since they were horrible runners and had no chance of catching the multi-legged chest. The succubus was there just in case something unexpected popped up.
And judging from that racket that was coming from the thick mist behind the Mimic, something did indeed pop up. Although Boxxy would be hard pressed to call that unexpected considering it was already looking for one of those.
Slay 1 Murk Dweller Queen
Deposit: 50 GP
Reward: 600 GP
Description: The population of Murk Dwellers that inhabit the marshes to the south of Erosa has increased once again. Lord Osorlov has commanded that the source of this infestation be culled.