“Welcome back, Master.”
Xera greeted Boxxy respectfully upon its return. Her face that had completely recovered from being smashed in by a pissed off gnome thanks to her shapeshifting abilities. Even if the Mimic didn’t particularly care for it, there’s no way she could show such a shameful sight to her beloved Master.
“Hey Boss!” called out Kora. “Anything exciting happen while you were gone?”
“Nope. Got my shiny dagger back without problems.”
“Huh? Where’s the lich?” she asked while looking around.
“Dropped Nasty off on the way,” answered Boxxy. “She is getting her undead together and said she’ll need a while to prepare.”
“Oh. So… can you do something about this now?”
She wiggled her stumps once more, to which the Mimic responded by forcefully dismissing and then re-summoning her. Once the fiend had all her limbs back, the Mimic finally turned its attention towards the gnome. It formed a head and spoke to her.
“Did you sleep well?”
“Wh-what? I mean, yes! I slept very well!”
Boxxy was able to tell that Fizzy wasn’t just saying it either. She looked noticeably healthier than she did yesterday.
The Mimic had done a great deal of thinking throughout the night, mainly about this gnome. It realized that it was simply pushing her too hard. At first it did so because it felt rushed at that Quest’s ambiguous time limit, but this was no longer the case. It no longer saw a reason to be as rough and violent as it was until now, and decided it would take proper care of her.
“From now on,” it continued, “let me know if you feel tired or hungry and I will let you rest.”
“Wh- R- Really?!”
“Yes. It’s only natural.”
After all, even the sturdiest tool was bound to rust and break if one didn’t properly maintain it. Fizzy’s frequent rest stops were simply her maintenance. Granted, the performance wasn’t great, but the Mimic had high hopes for that gnome. She had become a surprisingly formidable fighter during these last few weeks, and it was sure she would continue to grow. If she kept that up and proved herself to be loyal, then it might keep her around even after it was done absorbing all of her Artificer knowledge.
“Then I shall t-t-take you up on your offer!”
Of course Fizzy immediately accepted it. If the monster was speaking the truth, then this would alleviate one of the biggest gripes she had with the way she was treated. And why would it lie? The beatings had gone down drastically ever since the fight with the lich. Except for being mercilessly and brutally raped…
“Also, sorry about yesterday morning.”
The gnome’s eyes widened so much that they looked like they were about to fall out of her skull.
“I got carried away and did something unnecessary. So, sorry about that.”
Of course the Mimic wasn’t being sincere when it said this. It understood that raping Fizzy was not nice, to say the least, but that didn’t mean it felt particularly bad about it. However, it had spoken at length with Xera during the night about step 3 of Operation TASTYCOCK. If it wanted to learn how to fit in with a civilized society, then it had to learn to apologize. Or, more specifically, how to lie when apologizing.
However, the gnome noticed its insincerity almost immediately. She knew this monster wouldn’t never truly repent for anything it had done. Even if it didn’t mean it, the fact it cared enough to at least attempt an apology made still made her feel better. It wouldn’t erase what happened to her, but it was a start.
“Thank you,” she said meekly. “For saying that.”
Seemingly satisfied with her response, the Mimic flashed a goofy smile before reverting to its base form and waiting patiently for Nasty to return. It had learned quite a bit from her about Necromancy during the trip. It had to know about the lich’s strengths and weaknesses if it planned to use her correctly, so it questioned her extensively.
For starters, it would appear that Necromancy, much like Cadaver Absorption, was a Corpse-targeted Skill. It needed both the heart and the brain to be present for the body to be considered viable and extensive damage to the corpse would reduce the strength of the summoned undead. This meant the Mimic would have to share the corpses with the Necromancer, though it shouldn’t be much of a problem in reality. After all, Boxxy’s daily body count was quite impressive.
The second interesting detail was that undead raised with Necromancy differed significantly from those that appeared naturally with the Blight. The latter, often known simply as zombies, were just the reanimated remains of a creature. They were completely feral, couldn’t use any Skills and only had their rotting body to rely on. Their strength depended entirely on the strength of the corpse that they were raised from. And, although Valeria could control them with the Lord of the Dead Skill, it would appear she disliked using them as they were little more than fodder.
The undead created through Necromancy were called hollowed or hollows. The reason for that seemed to be that they were closer to constructs forged out of mana with no free will whatsoever. Calling them ‘flesh golems’ would not be entirely wrong since the corpses used for their creation were nothing more than raw materials. The body’s skin, bone and muscle would become warped, twisted and reforged into a completely different form from what it once was. So while the quality of the corpse still played a role, the majority of a hollow’s strength was determined by its summoner’s Skills and Attributes.
However, it would appear there was a limit as to how many hollows a Necromancer could actually control at any given time. Each hollowed creature demanded upkeep, which manifested itself as reducing their master’s maximum MP, and even then the Necromancy Skill could only take up to 80% of that in total. The exact amount of MP needed varied depending on the strength and species of the undead and would be restored when the creature was defeated or dismissed.
As for what species these hollows actually were, it depended on what the Necromancer chose to create. Skeletons were versatile as they could be brought forth as soldiers, archers or even casters. Specters could be called forth to serve as scouts that terrorize the living. The tough and agile Ghouls could be used as shock troops to quickly overwhelm an enemy with a surprise attack.
There existed also high-class hollows such as the tough and tenacious Death Knights and the headless powerhouses known as Dullahans. Both of these undead warriors were well versed in martial combat and fought with skill and precision rather than attack wildly. Their weapons and armor were items manifested from the Necromancy Skill, which is why their MP upkeep was significantly higher than that of lesser undead.
So it would seem that Necromancy was a Skill that demanded a good amount of tactical thinking and foresight. Choosing the right configuration of one’s personal army of the dead and properly commanding them was vital to ensure success. After all, these hollows were completely incapable of making decisions for themselves. If the situation changed rapidly, then they would be unable to adapt to it in the same way that a Warlock’s familiar or a Monster Tamer’s pets would. Therefore, success or failure would depend almost entirely on their master’s ability to command.
Which was something Valeria seemed to be struggling with. Even if she was a lich with powerful Skills and Spells, she was still inexperienced when it came to matters of strategy. Back in the tower, she showed herself at the start and directly confronted the invader to satisfy her own ego. It was a foolish approach in Boxxy’s honest opinion. If their positions were reversed, then the Mimic would send wave after wave of undead to tire out its opponent before they even met face-to-chest.
Granted, the Mimic was no expert on the subject of tactics either, but it had still learned quite a bit from all the fights it took part in. Whether it would be engaging a party of adventurers, fighting alongside its familiars or coming in to sweep up both sides of an ongoing battle, it had steadily accumulated a certain amount of experience. That’s why it was able to give Valeria some pointers on the matter.
And judging from the undead she brought with her when she rejoined the others, she took that advice to heart. How could she not? Her bizarre infatuation with the Mimic, or more accurately with its sexual prowess, meant that she was quite open to any suggestions it had.
So, rather than fill up her Necromancy capacity with nothing but Death Knights like she had done before her reunion with Boxxy, she actually diversified her undead this time. She had a total of 10 sword-and-shield using Death Knights to serve as the vanguard, 6 plate-armored Dullahans wielding huge warhammers and 8 Skeletal Mages for additional magical support. This platoon of 22 undead was her limit for the moment, but would gradually increase as long as she kept raising her INT Attribute. As for their fighting strength, it ranged from Level 20 for the skeletons all the way up to Level 30 for the Dullahans and Death Knights.
Boxxy was rather satisfied with this amount of undead. Frankly speaking, they were little more than a head start to help penetrate the dungeon’s outer defenses. After all, if this place had nothing but golems, then it would be impossible for Valeria to replenish their numbers. And these hollows would eventually be whittled down and destroyed. Even if the undead did not tire, it was also a fact that their HP would not recover on its own unless they were in a land infected by Blight. The same was true even for Valeria, although her nature as a lich was able to compensate for that.
So after confirming everyone’s preparations were ready, the group of 23 undead, 2 demons, a monster and a gnome began their invasion of the Spire of the Jade King and entered the hedge maze. Xera was ordered to fly overhead and guide the ground-based group while they made their way towards the Spire itself.
They tried simply bulldozing their way through the walls of green at first, but that proved to be a fruitless effort. No matter how much the vibrant green hedges were crushed, slashed, ripped apart or burned away, they always grew back in less than a second. At least there was plenty of room to fight in since the corridors appeared to be about 6 or 7 meters wide. Otherwise the armored column of undead would have difficulty putting their numbers to use. As things stood, however, the 6 Death Knights and resident fiend would be able to form a solid front line that would be impossible for the Stone Soldiers to flank.
Not even a minute after entering the maze, they encountered the first of its resident guardians. Just like Valeria and Kora had said, it was a walking statue of a naked man with a helmet covering his face. A tower shield big enough to hide his entire body was in his left hand, while a long stone spear was held at the ready in his right. He was significantly taller than a human, to the point where his line of sight was actually slightly higher than Kora’s.
“Arms, show me,” commanded Boxxy.
“Alright!” cheered the fiend while smashing her fists together. “This is gonna be fun!”
The fiend walked up to the similarly-sized golem, who immediately put his rectangular, door-like shield between them while keeping his stone spear trained on her. Kora also assumed a fighting stance and rushed the creature. She avoided the spear aimed at her midsection and swung her metal-clad fists at that thick shield.
“Ora! Ora ora ora ora ora!”
The Stone Soldier withstood the shower of punches without sustaining much damage, but his shield did not last long and soon became covered in cracks and chunks of it started falling off. He took a long hop backwards, his heels dragging along the smooth stone path of the maze upon his landing. Having once again obtained his optimal range, the Stone Soldier once again stabbed at Kora with its spear when she charged it once again. This time it managed to gouge out part of her shoulder, but the fiend ignored the relatively minor wound and resumed her assault. This time she managed to completely break the shield before its wielder could back off, leaving the Stone Soldier much more vulnerable to her attacks.
The golem had not expected its shield to be broken this easily. It staggered backwards for a step as it was momentarily thrown off balance. Kora took this opportunity to draw back one of her right arms all the way behind her, clearly intending to throw a big punch from below.
“Uppercut!” she shouted while swinging her fist in an upward motion.
Just as she said, it was a flawless uppercut right into the human-shaped statue’s jaw. However, the sheer speed and ferocity with which she delivered the blow was completely unexpected, even when taking her literally idiocy-powered strength into account. Her fist also seemed to glow with a dull red light at the moment it made impact with the golem’s face.
As a result, the nearly 700 kg heavy Stone Soldier was knocked off his feet and hit the ground hard, landing on its wide back. The fiend immediately moved above it and raised one of her legs high in the air while keeping the foot firmly above her opponent’s chest.
Her armored boot came down on the prone Stone Soldier like a miniature comet.
A loud noise almost like an explosion echoed through the area. Dust and rocks were sent flying in every direction, completely drowning out the small flash of red light that Kora’s leg was momentarily draped in. The golem under her heel was broken into several large chunks and even the stone path underneath was covered in cracks with a spiderweb-like pattern.
Kora took her boot out of the remains of the clearly demolished golem and smiled fiercely at the others who were watching the spectacle from some 10 meters away.
“Later tonight…” mumbled Xera, her imagination already running wild.
“P-p-please don’t use that near me! I’ll die for sure!” pleaded Fizzy, her imagination running wild in a completely different direction.
Valeria was too busy staring longingly at Boxxy to give a flying fuck about Kora. Not that the fiend cared. Two have seemed to have instantly formed a pact of mutual indifference. Just because they worked together didn’t mean they had to like each other.
“Shiny,” said te Mimic, clearly impressed by the demonstration. And to think both of those tasty-looking attacks came out of a single Skill, courtesy of Kora’s Berserker Job.
Description: There’s an art to everything and punching things in the face is no exception
Requirements: Level 15 Martial Job, Level 4 Brawling Mastery, STR 100
Activation Time: N/A
Effects: Grants knowledge of a new Brawling Martial Art at each Level of this Skill.
Increases the effectiveness of punches and kicks by 2% per Level of this Skill.
Although Boxxy knew of the existence of Martial Arts, this was the first time it had been able to witness them firsthand and understand their function. In essence, if Caster Jobs like Pyromancers or Warlocks had Spells, then Martial Jobs like Berserkers and Warriors had Martial Arts. They both consumed MP to produce a magical effect, although the method for their activation was quite different. Where Spells required forging a certain mental image and speaking a chant, using a Martial Art required moving the body in a very specific way.
In the fight just now, Uppercut was a blow that didn’t necessarily do more damage, but allowed the user to easily knock their opponent off their feet. War Stomp on the other hand was a technique that sent tremors through the ground that caused all ground-based targets within 6 meters to stagger and lose their balance. It also did a bit of damage, but that was negligible. Well, not unless it was applied directly to one’s body. The pile of rocks that was once a golem already spoke volumes of how deadly such shockwaves could be.
Satisfied with the demonstration and making a mental note of finding out how to obtain dagger-based Martial Arts later on, the Mimic ordered the rest of the group to advance. It wasn’t long before they started running into groups of Stone Soldiers. While a single one was relatively easy to handle, it was a completely different story when fighting 2 or 3 at once. In fact, the further inside the maze they ventured, the larger the groups of golems became. Fighting up to 6 or 7 of them at once became the norm by the time they were halfway through the maze.
But, just as planned, the combination of Kora and 6 Death Knights was able to completely seal them off and keep them away from the back line. Having been tied up in melee combat, the towering Stone Soldiers were then peppered by ranged attacks from the back line. Their large size actually proved to be a disadvantage as Valeria’s Frostbolts, her Skeleton Mages’ Ice Shards, Xera’s Fireballs and the Mimic’s streams of corrosive acid flew harmlessly over the heads of the vanguards.
And so the group made their way through the huge hedge maze without much difficulty. Even if those golems were good at absorbing physical damage, magical attacks were another story. The barrage of Spells and acid was able to easily bring them down while Kora and the undead kept them at bay. The fiend herself was also quite formidable in this formation. Having Fizzy around to heal her wounds and being able to receive a Dark Infusion from her master meant she could fight as recklessly as she pleased.
But this wouldn’t last forever. The undead vanguard had began to thin out, just as expected. Even if Death Knights were a defense-focused species and their opponents were reduced to dust in less than a minute, there was still a limit to how much punishment they could take. That’s why Boxxy had instructed Valeria to bring so many of them. The instant an undead warrior fell, another stepped up from the back to take its place.
The host of 22 undead had been reduced to just 1 Death Knight, 2 Dullahans and 4 Skeletal Mages by the time the group made it through the hedge maze. They must have defeated about eighty Stone Soldiers in the process, so the fact that any of the undead survived at all was rather impressive. The rewards for fighting through so many of them were quite good, as well, as the Mimic reached Level 48 while Valeria was at Level 43 and well on her way to Level 44. Fizzy was unable to get any Paladin Levels, but at least her healing-related Skills had gained a lot of proficiency.
However, Boxxy was not pleased. Even after getting so much tasty XP in a short amount of time, it still had a significant gripe about the situation. Once they reached the wide open courtyard at the base of the black Spire, it confirmed there were no immediate dangers and promptly assumed its Spell-casting form for the first time today. It relied heavily on concentrated Acid Spray and throwing rocks during combat in order to raise its Mimic Job. If it used Spells then all that tasty XP would have fruitlessly went into its Warlock Job. The same could be said about Stone Soldiers beaten by its familiars, but it wasn’t particularly angry about that. Some compromises had to be made in order to ensure a safe hunt.
No, it was angry at one very specific person.
The cube-shaped magical attack flew out of the simple staff in Boxxy’s hands and hit Kora squarely in the back of the head, forcing her to bend over and nearly fall down from the impact.
“Hey!” she shouted. “What gives, boss?”
“Your information was bad.”
“No it wasn’t! I told you everything I found out about those guys last night!”
“Then how come they became enraged so much?”
One reason so little of the undead made it this far was that the Stone Soldiers would sometimes became enraged seemingly at random. When that happened, they would throw their spears at the back line, over the armored targets at the front, and take out some short swords seemingly out of nowhere. At that point, they would abandon defense and attack much more ferociously.
“I already told you they would do that!” she answered back. “It’s not my fault those things got broken with all the attacks flying around!”
“But if their spears were broken, then how come they were able to throw them?!” countered the Mimic.
The Stone Soldiers’ sword slashes were quite dangerous, but could be dealt with relatively easily. It was those spear attacks that were the real problem. The large stone projectiles were powerful enough to take out a Skeleton Mage in one hit and even managed to bring down Xera that one time. Such things brought down the group’s ranged firepower, meaning they would take longer to defeat the large golems, which in turn meant the front line would take more damage.
“Spears?” said Kora, while raising an eyebrow. “What do spears have to do with anything?”
“Everything!” screamed Fizzy. She also had a few misgivings over the fiend’s scouting since one of those projectiles nearly took her head clean off. “You said th-th-that they ‘get super pissed and start attacking like mad’ if you break the shaft of their spears! B-b-but almost all of the ones that came flying at us were in pristine condition!”
“Very good, Fizzy,” commented Boxxy, satisfied its tiny protege had been paying such close attention. “So, Arms? Anything to say for yourself?”
“Uhm. Okay, maybe I could’ve worded that better.”
“Worded it better?”
Boxxy tilted its head in confusion.
“I wasn’t talking about spear shafts,” said Kora.
And indeed, the thing that had to be broken to trigger the Stone Soldiers’ enraged state wasn’t their weapon. Those golems had one more shaft on their bodies. One that no male in their right mind would want to be damaged.
“I was talking about their dicks.”
|General Information||Attributes||Job Information|
|Name||Koralenteprix Khusuuszun Caonthioxxaa||Name||Value||Name||Value||Name||Level||Progress|
|Demonic Armaments||6||40%||Bloodlust||5||81%||Idiotic Strength||4||52%|
|Second Wind||5||22%||Brutal Fervor||4||53%||Brawling Mastery||5||83%|
|Demonic Carapace||4||17%||Face Smasher||3||21%||Projectile Mastery||4||90%|
|Demonic Leap||3||86%||Berserker Rage||1||2%|
|Martial Art List|