After defeating the floating undead woman in two hits, Boxxy and Fizzy set about searching the tower. The Quest had not been fulfilled despite having killed what appeared to be an intelligent undead being, which to Boxxy meant that they had the wrong target. Seeing an old prey come back to ‘life’ like that was a bit surprising, but it didn’t have the faintest idea how or why that woman had returned. Therefore, rather than worry about the un-undead, it decided to carry on with its task and search for signs of its actual target.
The two of them started with the ground floor. It was just an empty space, including the back rooms where the Death Knights came out from. This was probably some form of reception area, maybe a guard post to keep unwanted visitors away from the upper levels.
The 1st through 3rd floors were separated into a collection of dorm rooms, closets, pantries and meeting rooms - enough living space for 15 to 20 people to live here comfortably. The 3rd floor had a sort of open central chamber that was probably meant for recreation and large gatherings, maybe even doubled as a lecture hall. All of these rooms had very little of value in them, however. Just old, dusty furniture, ripped up carpets, faded paintings and filthy rags that may have been clothes once.
The only halfway interesting things the two of them found were a set of 5 stone busts. They depicted 4 old geezers and a stern-looking granny, probably some important people. Interestingly enough, those sculptures seemed completely untouched by passage of time. Fizzy, in an effort to appeal her usefulness to Boxxy, told the Mimic that artistic and/or enchanted antiques like this can be sold to collectors and may be worth a small fortune. Needless to say, the greedy monster quickly stowed them away inside its Storage.
The 4th floor was a massive library. Or at least, that’s how this tower’s builders envisioned it. While there were many bookshelves lining the walls, they were all completely empty. Not a single parchment or scrap of paper could be seen, just rows upon rows of empty shelves. The tower’s original residents must have taken all their research materials when they abandoned this place. Either that, or its current residents had thrown them away for some reason.
The 5th floor of the tower appeared to have a number of work rooms or laboratories. However, much like the library, this place too had been completely stripped bare of anything even remotely useful. The gnome, as a craftsman herself, managed to recognize some of the rusty tools left behind as those commonly used by Alchemists, Enchanters and Jewelers.
The 6th and final floor of the tower had a large hall, which connected to 3 large rooms with heavy desks and yet more cupboards and bookshelves. Each of them had an adjacent bedroom, suggesting the bigwigs of this place lived here. All empty, of course. Boxxy recognized the general layout, realizing it was quite similar to the abandoned warehouse office it used as a hideout back in Erosa.
In the end they found no signs of any more active undead or anything else that might be a lich. Boxxy counted a total of 14 ash piles, including the 3 former Death Knights on the ground floor. These must have been that floating woman’s other servants. They’d spent the better part of 2 hours rifling through this place with very little to show for it. The sun had long ago set, and the gnome was forced to rely on a makeshift torch for light.
“Uhm, B-B-Boxxy?” stammered out Fizzy just as the Mimic was wondering what to do next.
“What?” it answered after re-forming a head.
Boxxy had to admit, having to do this every time it had to talk to this woman was becoming a bit irritating. It sorely missed the incredibly convenient telepathic link between itself and its familiars. Heck, it missed having those familiars around to begin with.
“I r-really could use some, um, sl- sleep…”
Her owner only allowed her about 5 to 6 hours of sleep a day, considerably less than the full 8 hours she enjoyed before her life turned to shit. Combined with the constant marching, fighting and now having the Blight sapping her strength made her so tired she felt like she might just keel over from exhaustion. She was also starving and thirsty, but sleep had to come first.
“No,” said the Mimic, calmly.
“You’ll die from Blight.”
It was a fact that, given the gnome’s current condition, she would succumb to the Blight and wither away if she didn’t heal herself every few minutes. She would undoubtedly die if she fell asleep and didn’t heal herself every 5 minutes or so.
“Uhm, I th- think I can just Consecrate a room and it’ll let me recover…”
The gnome seemed to be desperate, but the Mimic was having none of that. Wasn’t worth the risk. It put way too much time and effort into training this gnome to let her die to something silly like a disease. It would be best to leave this place for the moment and resume their search elsewhere.
It kicked her viciously in the face, which sent her flying across the room and crashing into some old chairs. Her increased endurance and vitality allowed it to be even rougher than it was at first when educating her.
“We’re leaving now!”
Fizzy held back the tears welling up in her eyes and gave up on her hopes of getting a good night’s rest ever again.
“Yes Boxxy! Ri-right away Boxxy!”
She hurriedly picked herself up off the ground while responding in a shaky voice. She then healed herself with a couple of Holy Lights and meekly followed the violent box as it made its way back down the steps. However, the Mimic spotted something was amiss just as they entered the empty library on the 4th floor. It armed itself with two daggers and a shield and assumed a sort of fighting stance. An act which prompted Fizzy’s own arm to reach for the heavy wrench on her back, almost as if it moved on its own.
The Mimic really didn’t want to enter that large round chamber that spanned the entire floor, but it had no choice. The staircase to go down to the dormitory area was on the other side of the floor. It warily entered the room and the gnome followed closely behind.
“H-How?!” shrieked Fizzy. “Didn’t we kill you?!”
Floating in the middle of the chamber, with 6 zombified twin-tailed wolves around her, was the same undead woman from a few hours ago.
“You’ll have to try harder if you want to kill a lich!” said Valeria with a sneer.
She then pointed directly at the pair of intruders in her new home.
“Keep them busy,” she commanded.
The six wolves snarled in response and lunged forward. Fizzy broke out of her stupor and immediately started preparing to cast Consecrate, but the lich had no intention of letting her finish. She bent forward and threw her arms out behind her.. In the next instant, she threw open her mouth and an unearthly, piercing howl radiated outward from her.
The noise was intense, as if a thousand fingernails were scratching a thousand blackboards. It instantly shattered Fizzy’s concentration. The gnome fell to the ground while clutching her ears and screaming in pain, though she could not hear the voice coming out of her own throat. Surprisingly, this had an even worse effect on Boxxy, even though it didn’t have ears. Or rather, it was especially because it didn’t have ears. Its hearing was simply a byproduct of its natural perception picking up sound waves in the air. Coupled with its recently acquired Perception (PER) Attribute, it meant that the lich’s screech was actually almost two times louder for it than it was for Fizzy.
However, rather than curl up on the floor and hope the bad thing goes away like a certain pink-haired girl, it took action to make it stop. The Mimic managed to withstand the sonic onslaught long enough to throw one of its daggers at the loudmouth in the room. It flew true and struck the lich in the chest with enough force to make her stagger and lurch backward a bit through the air, forcing her to stop her scream.
Now that the disturbance was gone, Boxxy was able to move and engage the 6 wolves. It put away its remaining dagger and re-armed itself with a couple of swords. It then beheaded two of them in an instant. They were… much weaker than it was expecting. Even if they were undead under the direct influence of a lich, their base was bad. Boxxy and Fizzy had fought wolves like these regularly, so they should have no trouble mopping them up. The most they could do was, just as Valeria had ordered, keep the Mimic busy for several seconds.
As for the lich, she scowled at the shiny dagger sticking out of her chest, pulled it out and tossed it aside. Not a single drop of blood could be seen dripping from the wound or clinging to the blade. She was surprised that stupid box could manage to not only endure her Sonic Scream, but even mount a counterattack with that dagger throw. Otherwise she would have activated her Ethereal Body Skill to completely dodge the blow. Both of those things were leftovers from her days as a banshee, before she had Ranked Up into a lich. She could still turn incorporeal despite not being a ghost anymore, but maintaining that state rapidly consumed MP.
However, that shrieking voice was hardly her only means of attacking directly. She held a hand up, pointing her open palm at the Mimic that was currently tearing its way through her third minion.
“Frostbolt,” she chanted.
A brilliantly white ball of magic shot out from her outstretched arm. It left a glowing, light blue trail as it flew through the room and hit the Mimic dead on and splashed over it like a glob of water.
Your body has been frozen by magic. HP -351.
This was different from the Cryomancer magic that Boxxy knew of. It didn’t get stabbed with a piece of enchanted ice, but had a part of its body instantly freeze over. Not only did it sap its HP, but also restricted its movement, causing it to slow down. It could barely even feel its right side, where the magic had struck. Wondering where its own magical support was, it briefly turned its attention back to Fizzy, only to realize she had passed out.
It would seem that the gnome had been rendered unconscious by the intense sonic assault. Even if she had it a bit easier compared to the Mimic, she still lacked Boxxy’s well-developed MNT and absurdly high END Attribute. She was therefore unable to withstand the strain of the attack like Boxxy did and had passed out.
A fact which Valeria also seemed to notice. She moved her arm to aim at the obviously more fragile target.
Boxxy instantly disengaged from the remaining 3 wolves and leaped in the way of her Spell.
Your flesh has been mended. HP +160.
Your body has been frozen by magic. HP -288.
After taking the hit, it immediately wrapped a spare tongue around the gnome and chucked it into its Storage. The lich’s eyes went wide for a moment at the sight of the monster seemingly swallowing its companion whole, but quickly composed herself. She had already seen the monster’s Storage Skill in action, so she knew better than to assume it literally ate its one ticket to victory for no reason.
That last bit of her assessment was no empty boast, either. The fact that a monster sacrificed its HP to protect something meant that it was useful. It wasn’t out of charity or kindness, but cold-blooded pragmatism. Which meant that it needed that Paladin in order to fight her. In other words, it had no means of damaging her spectral body. That being the case, she was confident that she could easily defeat this simple creature. All she had to do was be watchful for surprises and carefully manage her MP.
Which made her glad she decided to practice using these relatively new Spells of hers. Valeria was rather proud of her Frostbolt accuracy in particular, as evidenced at how she landed the third consecutive hit on the Mimic. It had tried to dodge the Spell by leaping to the side, but was hampered by having part of its body encased by ice.
Your target’s body has been frozen by magic. Target HP -288.
It once again took a good chunk out of its HP. However, the damage was significantly lower than what Valeria expected. The last time she attacked a living being directly, it dealt about 390 damage, so how come it was doing almost a quarter less?
The answer was, as expected, because of the monster’s Skills. And while its Level 9 Natural Armor was doing good work, the main source of its resilience against magic was the final Skill granted by its Mimic Job.
Description: Shapeshifters are notorious for how rapidly they can adapt to their environment
Requirements: Level 45 Monster Job, Shapeshift, END 200, 4 Attributes above 100
Activation Time: N/A
Effect: Taking elemental damage temporarily increases your damage resistance to that element by 10%.
Increases the elemental resistance granted by this Skill by 3% per Level of this Skill.
The duration of this Skill’s effect is equal to 1 second per Level of the Shapeshift Skill.
Can only defend against 1 element at a time.
Unfortunately, it didn’t get as much opportunity to develop this as much as it wanted, which left the Skill at only Level 2. Still, reducing the power of a spellcaster’s magic by a sixth was nothing to sneeze at. It’s a good thing it decided to hide Fizzy away, otherwise she would have died in two hits of this stuff, maybe three if she was lucky. As for why it chose to protect her, it was because that gnome was the best way it had of actually killing that lich, much like the person herself had deduced. Although, such an outcome was rapidly becoming an impossibility. After all, the best way to fight a Caster was to kill them before they even realized it was there. Therefore, Fizzy was necessary to ensure the successful completion of this quest.
That’s when the monster had an epiphany as it used a shield to block the next Frostbolt. The monster needed some time to think, and it couldn’t do that in its current situation. It had to run, but the stairs leading down were all the way on the other side of the decrepit library. So it leapt backwards and skittered up the steps back to the 5th floor and kept going all the way until the 6th. It entered into the wide hall that connected the 3 offices here.
“Did you think you can get away?”
But Valeria was already waiting for it. She must have phased through the floors to block it off. And her pets were clearly clambering up the steps behind the Mimic, as evidenced by the sound of claws scraping against stone.
The lich resumed her magical assault, but Boxxy hopped nimbly to the side and narrowly avoided the magical projectile. Those few seconds it bought while climbing up had allowed Boxxy to fully recover its HP and regain most of its mobility. It needed to avoid getting slowed down again, otherwise it was sure to get bogged down and turned into an ice cube.
Its opponent used a different Spell, which covered the ground under Boxxy in a thin sheet of ice, clearly intent on forcing the monster to slip. The Mimic had no such intentions and jumped onto the wall before the slippery ice could fully form. It crawled steadfastly along the vertical surface while making sure it kept dodging the Frostbolts that the lich was sending at it. After circling halfway around the edge of the large hall, it ducked inside one of the offices on the side. It went into the adjacent bedroom and onto its balcony, then jumped off into the night. It sprouted a pair of bat-like wings, but was unable to properly gain control of its fall and slammed into the ground anyway.
You have suffered blunt force trauma. HP -218.
It took a moment to dig its rectangular body out of the dirt and started circling around the tower, looking for something.
The nature of its earlier revelation was rather straightforward. That floating woman was indeed the lich it was looking for, or at least so she claimed. Which meant she was the target of its Quest after all. However, the task in question said it had to defeat her, not kill her. It had assumed those two things were synonymous, but that clearly wasn’t the case. If anything, outright killing her had only made things worse.
Taking these precious few moments, it quickly realized another thing. The way she came back to ‘life’ in perfect condition with her memory and Skills completely intact was eerily familiar. Not to mention that body of hers that made no sense on the inside. It was highly likely she was a being somewhat similar to demons. Something with a conjured physical form and an immortal soul. Even if it killed her again, there was a good chance she’d be able to come back anyway.
Besides, it had to defeat her.
After doing three quarters of a circle outside the tower’s base, it finally spotted what it was looking for - the set of heavy steel doors that led into the basement. It really should have realized it earlier, but this tower was identical to the building where it had its Jobs taken from it. Which meant that it had a basement filled with various magical reagents and ritual markings. If the source of that lich’s rebirth was to be found anywhere, it would be here.
Boxxy hopped backwards and away from the doors the instant it heard the chant. Valeria was directly overhead and floating gently downwards as she prepared yet another Spell. She had found the Mimic quickly. Too quickly. It was likely she possessed a way of tracking it down and was obviously intent on keeping it out of the basement. The Mimic needed some way of distracting her long enough to get through that door. It reached into its Storage yet again and tossed something directly at her. Valeria didn’t see exactly what it was, other than the fact it was a small, handheld metal cylinder. She immediately turned ethereal again, wary of being damaged by that.
Unfortunately for her, that wasn’t something designed to inflict damage. It was a flashbang, a leftover from Boxxy’s Artificer days.
It popped open with a sharp sound right in front of the lich’s transparent face, bathing the area around the tower in a brilliant white light.
“Gaaaah!” she screamed, then covered her eyes with her forearm. Even if she was incorporeal, she still relied heavily on eyesight. And where there exists a sense, there’s a way to confuse it. It took her several seconds for all the weird shapes and colorful blotches impeding her eyesight to disappear. By the time she did so, the Mimic had already picked the lock on the doors and entered the basement. Using her Detect Life Skill, she was able to track the Mimic’s life force through the walls and was able to confirm it had already went inside and was already running around the interior.
“No…” she muttered. “Noooooo!”
She glided forward with all her might, desperate to intercept and stop that monster. However, her speed was low. She could only move at about a low-leveled human’s running pace, which was much, much too slow when compared with that eight-legged freak. The hastily-raised undead minions she left as a last line of defense were being taken out one after the other. If she still had control over the 5 Death Knights she left down there, then they would’ve easily stopped that stupid box, maybe even killed it.
In the end, that was merely a what-if. Her rash actions to seek vengeance over being murdered had made her slacken her preparations. She had underestimated her opponent. Not its fighting strength, she was still confident she could beat it when it came to a fight. However, that simple-looking monster turned out to be a lot more resourceful than she thought, and avoided battling her with all its might. She desperately rushed into the basement and headed for the far corner of the large chamber. She arrived just in time to see the Mimic coil its tongue around the shiniest object in the decrepit room.
It was an egg-shaped object that was about 10 centimeters wide and 15 centimeters tall. Its smooth, gem-like surface was a rich blue color that would put even the brightest sapphire to shame. An intricate golden pattern ran across across it, depicting a series of thorns, several crows, some skeletons holding scythes and other macabre imagery. These golden shapes his roughly half of the egg’s brilliant surface, and only added to the item’s luxurious atmosphere. The 6 centimeter tall golden skull depicted on one side of it had a duo of shining, blood-red gems faceted inside its eye sockets.
This expensive-looking thing had been held upright on a clearly custom-designed three-legged silver stand, which had been placed on a waist-high stone pedestal. Its extravagance and pride of place clearly marked it as an object of some importance, while the bright red jewels in that golden skull signified some sort of relation to the lich.
And it was indeed both those things. This was her phylactery, the vessel that held her undying soul. It was through this object that she was able to regenerate her physical body as many times as she wanted. However, it was also her weakness. Not only would her power weaken if she strayed too far from it, but breaking it was the only way to truly destroy her. So it was only natural that having the lynchpin binding her to this world taken from her was nothing sort of checkmate.
Just how the hell did that moronic box suddenly figure out her weakness? It clearly didn’t know about it before, so how come it suddenly made a beeline for it? And how come it was able to unlock that damned door so quickly?
A series of questions rushed through her head during the split second that it took for Boxxy to toss the shiny thing into its open maw. And all of those could be answered with a single word.
However, that would be the wrong answer. The correct word to answer all of her unspoken queries was ‘experience.’
The lingering knowledge concerning demons, the traumatizing experience of having its Jobs and Skills severed from it, the insight granted from the Lockpick Skill, the time it spent as an Artificer, its aptitude for confusing and befuddling its opponents and its instinctive lust for coveting shiny things all led to this singular point in time.
The Storage portal inside Boxxy’s maw shut close, stowing away its prize. Having the link between her soul and body severed like that caused Valeria’s physical form to fall limply to the ground. It then started crumbling, turning back into the dust from whence it came.
As for the Mimic, it had absolutely no idea exactly why that happened. There’s no way it could have deduced the true purpose of that phylactery, and had no idea it was vital to the lich’s survival. It’s just that this basement had been left completely barren, much like the rest of the tower. It came here looking for some sort of ritual circle or glowing sigil, like the ones it had used during demonic rituals. Failing to find anything like that, it instantly decided to pocket the shiny thing while it had the chance, then run away with all due haste.
Therefore, seeing the lich instantly collapse and pass away like that caught it more than a little off-guard. Although not unwelcome, this sudden development was something completely outside of its scope of understanding. However, it suspected that a certain deity had this very same outcome in mind when he sent Boxxy on this Quest. That last part was relatively easy to guess though.
Because the ‘Defeat the lich’ Quest with a difficulty rating of six turtles was now marked as complete-
-and the Mimic once again found itself sitting at a table in an endlessly white room with Jill the Goddess of Uncertainty for company.