Boxxy ordered its minions to prepare for combat. It had finished its preparation and was ready to face whatever awaited it on the other side of those doors. Kora and Xera stopped their antics and got in position to support their master along with Valeria. Fizzy had prepared herself as well and seemed strangely fired up. She just wanted to hit something, over and over again. Smashing up golems had turned out to be a surprisingly effective outlet for her pent up anger, though perhaps not the healthiest one.
The Mimic told Kora to open the heavy double doors. The obviously enthusiastic fiend place two hands on each door and pushed them ajar. She was prepared to really put her back into it, but that seemed to have been a fruitless effort as the large stone slabs opened practically on their own.
The group found themselves at the edge of a large, circular chamber. The walls, floor and ceiling looked much like the black staircase the five had climbed to get up here. However, there were several key differences.
For one thing, the walls were lined by a total of 20 black stone statues, each one standing on a fittingly dark marble-like pedestal. While they were all human in shape, each one was unique in its own way. Some had spears and shields, much like the Stone Soldiers outside. Others were armed with a variety of weapons, such as staves, bows, daggers, swords, axes and even one woman wielding a pitchfork. They were currently inanimate, although that was bound to change given the nature of this dungeon.
The second thing to catch the group’s attention was the sheer size of this place. The room was easily 30 meters in diameter - considerably wider than the black Spire it was supposedly in. A chamber this large would undoubtedly be visible from the ground and would give the Spire a mushroom-like shape. Provided this was actually the top floor. Boxxy was quite certain it had ascended for over 90 meters during the climb earlier, which made very little sense considering this tower looked to be 40 meters tall, 50 at best. In short, this room’s very existence made no logical sense.
Yet here it was. What’s more, the thing that was most likely responsible for creating this impossibly warped space was in this very room. A 1-meter wide crystal sphere floated just under the center of the 5 meter tall, circular ceiling. It glowed with a bright blue-tinted light which lit up the entire room as if it were a miniature sun. The bright glow pulsed slowly, releasing a wave of mana that washed over the group with every ‘heartbeat’ of the magical core. Those waves were so heavy with magic that even the magically deficient Kora could feel them pass through her. This was undoubtedly the dungeon core of the Spire of the Jade King.
And sitting directly underneath it in a large stone throne was the Jade King himself - a bright green and slightly transparent statue of a bearded old man with a crown on his head. The slightly undulating light from above shimmered brilliantly across the surface of his sculpted, fancy-looking clothes.The jade statue’s eyelids slowly opened, almost as if he was waking up. A pair of glass-like eyes regarded the five strange beings that had intruded into his royal chamber. His polished and intricately detailed body slowly stood from its seat.
He drew the longsword that was sheathed on his left side and pointed the heavy blade directly at Boxxy and its group. The arrogant posture and regal demeanor were truly befitting of a mighty ruler. The 20 black statues in the room moved in unison and knelt down before their sovereign out of respect and/or fear. The invading group of 5 immediately raised their guard, but the stone golems didn’t move further. They hadn’t even gotten off their pedestals.
The Jade King spoke slowly without moving his lips. His deep, groaning voice echoed in the large circular chamber, giving off the illusion that it was coming from all around at once.
“Intruders. In. My. Realm,” he continued. “I. Shall. Show. Thee-”
The Jade King’s speech had been rudely interrupted by a small glass-like object hitting him in the forehead. It bounced harmlessly off his shiny skin and fell downwards, but the 3-meter-tall golem reflexively caught it in his free left hand.
A very poor decision, given the Spell sealed inside that apple-sized Spell Crystal.
Your target has sustained massive injury. Target HP -760.
The force of the blast shook the entire room and sent green shards flying off in every direction. Boxxy didn’t even wait for the dust to settle before throwing the other four Big Bang Balls it had prepared in rapid succession.
Your target has sustained massive injury. Target HP -712.
Proficiency level increased. Crystallize Magic is now Level 6. INT +2. WIS +2.
Your target has sustained massive injury. Target HP -684.
Proficiency level increased. Power Overwhelming is now Level 7. INT +4.
Your target has been ripped apart by explosive force. Target HP -743.
Your target has been obliterated. Target HP -705.
Proficiency level increased. Ruin Mastery is now Level 9. INT +2. WIS +1. END +1.
Each of them released a deafening blast of destructive force as they tore through the Jade King’s body.
The final guardian of the Spire of the Jade King has been slain.
Feat of strength performed! You have unlocked a new Perk: Rare Golem Dismantler - Jade.
To the victor go the spoils.
The dungeon’s monsters will become more docile for the next 48 hours.
The resulting silence was deafening. Xera, Kora, Fizzy and Valeria all stared dumbly at the cloud of dust in front of them with their jaws hanging wide open. Once the dust cloud cleared up, the four of them were able to confirm that the Jade King had indeed been annihilated. His body could not withstand the sudden burst of over 3,500 damage and had been blown literally to smithereens. They could scarcely believe their eyes, but the pile of jagged green pebbles scattered all over the place were undeniable proof. Some of them were even embedded in the wall on the opposite end of where they were standing.
“Well,” spoke up Boxxy, “that was easy!”
“That’s an understatement,” said Xera.
The literal king of this place was taken out so quickly, he didn’t even get a chance to finish his speech, let alone order his Obsidian Retainers to assist him. Those black statues still remained in their kneeling position, even after their king was reduced to debris right in front of them. Apparently they were the type that would never move without orders.
“Wow! Darling is so strong ~♡!” cooed Valeria. “You should celebrate by ravaging me until dawn comes ~♡!”
Such lines were commonplace by now, so the rest of the group just ignored her and left her to her own delusions. It was plainly obvious the Mimic thought of such things as more of a chore rather than a pleasure.
“I guess Boxxy didn’t need all those other bombs, huh?” commented Fizzy.
It would be a lie if she said she didn’t expect something like this. The Mimic had just dumped 30 minutes’ worth of MP on that golem. Rather, the fact there was anything left of it at all was the real surprise.
“Aw man! And I was just about to really cut loose,” complained Kora with a pout. “It was the perfect chance to take my Berserk Rage for a spin!”
Description: A Berserker’s unyielding rage is both a blessing and a curse
Requirements: Level 20 Berserker, STR 100, END 100
Activation Time: Instant
Cost: 0 MP
Effects: Increases the effectiveness of the STR Attribute by 20% per Level of this Skill for 1 minute.
Reduces physical damage taken by 50% for 1 minute.
Reduces all damage caused by 50% for 15 minutes once the initial effects of this Skill expire.
Increases physical damage taken by 25% for 15 minutes once the initial effects of this Skill expire.
This Skill may not be activated more than once every 12 hours.
Her master had forbidden her from using this Skill whenever she pleased. While the boost in combat prowess was great, the drawbacks were also quite significant. Boxxy had made an exception and given her permission to activate it if this fight demanded it, but there was clearly no need for anything like that. Heck, there was barely even a fight to begin with.
Honestly speaking though, the Jade King’s untimely demise had been his own fault. If he had been more quick witted, he would have dodged those Spell Crystals with all his might. Sure, he looked tough and seemed to have a good deal of resistance to magic, but simply standing there and letting them attack first was a terrible idea.
Overall the Mimic was unimpressed with him. Of course that green old guy would get taken out if he not only gave invaders an opportunity to prepare, but also wasted time on posturing and speeches rather than fighting. Was he an idiot? Did he pay no attention to his opponents at all? He was probably an idiot, right? Why didn’t he attempt a surprise attack on the invaders like those gargoyles did?
Boxxy considered all the evidence confidently concluded that the Jade King must have been an idiot. After the final boss’s idiocy had been established, the Mimic moved towards the center of the room. The golden chest that undoubtedly contained the reward for defeating that jade golem was sitting there, right next to where the corpse would have been if it was still intact. It had popped up out of the solid stone ground almost immediately after the victory notification.
The gilded treasure chest flung open on its own when Boxxy approached, much like the previous one. The Mimic put forth its entire being in order to stop itself from worshipping that divine form, and instead focused on the item that popped out of it and floated in mid-air. It was a piece of armor, a left-handed plate gauntlet to be exact. The brilliantly polished steel made it look quite sleek and shiny in its own right. Putting this oddly bulky metal glove on would protect one’s entire forearm, from their fingertips to their elbow. It also appeared to have several layers of metal plates attached to the outside, meaning this was intended for actively deflecting blows like a shield, although it appeared to be quite restrictive on the wrist and finger joints.
The usability of this item was practically zero to a monster with no hands, but Boxxy still reached out to grab it. Enchanted gear was expensive, so there was no reason to-
The Mimic was just about to touch it when it let out a rather harsh hissing noise. The outstretched tentacle recoiled in disgust and its owner took a few steps back.
“Master? What’s wrong?” called out Xera.
“The item is nasty!”
“Something’s wrong with the gauntlet?”
The succubus approached the treasure chest and stared at it from up close. She was no expert on armor, but she knew a thing or two about magic, and this item practically reeked of it. Her mana-sensitive master probably felt disgusted by the vile energy coming out of it. The succubus could only think of one reason for this phenomenon.
“Master, I believe this item is cursed.”
Those words put Boxxy into quite the foul mood. Finding out that the reward for going through the whole dungeon was tainted was extremely dissatisfactory, so to say the least.
Cursed items were a topic it had heard about before its cover had been blown wide open. They differed from regular magic items in two major ways. Firstly, although their enchantments were far more powerful, they also carried with them negative, sometimes debilitating effects. Both the good and the bad side would often correlate with each other in some way. For example, a cursed ring that allowed its wielder to become invisible would also rob them of their eyesight.
Which led to the second, more worrying aspect of cursed items. They seemed to have a mind of their own and permanently bonded with their user in some way. Armor and jewelry would fuse to the skin while weapons would come to life and attack their wielder if they went neglected and unused for too long. The only way to rid oneself of cursed gear was to have it purified, although doing so would either dispel or greatly weaken the enchantment itself. Of course, there were those who gladly bore the curse in exchange for power, but nutjobs like that were in the minority.
“Cursed, you say?” called out Valeria. “Let me take a look!”
The lich floated over to the treasure chest and brazenly grabbed the item out of the air. She then started flipping it and turning it over between her hands, although with a bit of effort. That thing was heavier than it looked.
“Yeah, it’s cursed,” she said after several seconds. “This is a pretty strong one too, based on what I know from Hexcraft. Huh? Why are you all looking at me like that?”
She just noticed the two demons and the gnome were cringing at her. The lich’s face went stiff as realization dawned on her. She looked down at the Mimic, only to see an extra-thick tentacle hurtling toward her face.
The blow literally sent her flying into the ceiling. It forced her to drop the magic gauntlet, which fell to the ground with a loud clang.
“Don’t touch what is mine!” growled Boxxy.
Valeria had laid her hands on the Mimic’s thing without permission. So what if it was a cursed item that the monster had no intention of touching, let alone using? That didn’t mean it wasn’t going to keep it.
“She’s so lucky. I should have grabbed it first,” lamented Xera.
“Nice swing, boss!” said Kora, clearly enjoying Valeria’s misfortune.
“She r-really should know b-b-b-better by now,” muttered Fizzy under her breath.
The Mimic calmed itself down somewhat after administering that punishment. At the very least it learned that simply touching the thing wasn’t going to trigger the curse. Therefore it could safely order the succubus to pick it up. Well, just because it was safe to touch it didn’t mean the Mimic wanted to. Its loyal minion did as instructed and assisted in stowing the gauntlet inside Boxxy’s Storage. The monster would deal with that thing later as there was still the matter of the dungeon core suspended underneath the ceiling.
Boxxy wanted to take it. Of course it did. Doing so would allow it to power up through Grand Theft Arcana. Ah, speaking of which, that victory message earlier said something about a new Perk, didn’t it? The Mimic got so preoccupied with the phantasmal treasure chest that it almost forgot about it.
Grand Theft Arcana
Butcher of Humanity
Hero of Chaos
Rare Golem Dismantler - Jade
Rare Golem Dismantler - Jade
Description: Some people just have a knack for breaking things.
Requirements: Clear the dungeon known as the Spire of the Jade King.
Effects: Increases XP gained from defeating golems by 5%.
Well, this was interesting. The wording on it seemed to imply there are other Rare Golem Dismantler Perks. However, calling that deduction tasty would be hard since Boxxy had no intention of looking for rare golems whatsoever. In fact, it could barely stand having to do so much work and not even have a tasty corpse to seek its teeth into at the end of the day. Still, this dungeon was a decent hunting ground that could get it to Level 50 without too much worry, so it’s not like the Perk was completely useless either.
“Fizzy,” it called out. “Did you get a new Perk?”
“Eh?! Ah! Y-yes! I did! Perk List,” she chanted. “... Ruh-Rare Golem Dismantler, right?”
So it would seem their entire group was credited for clearing the dungeon, despite Boxxy doing all of the work at the end there. Well, familiars were unable to gain Perks, so only Fizzy and Nasty would have gotten it. As for the lich, she was still slightly embedded in the ceiling and hadn’t come down yet, so it didn’t bother asking her. At the very least, it seemed likely that all three of them would be able to benefit from Grand Theft Arcana. Which was probably a good thing.
“Arms, go shake the shiny ball loose.”
“Sure thing boss!”
The fiend briskly walked off towards the edge of the room. Once she reached the wall, she took a running start, leaped through the air, spun around and delivered a high-impact flying dropkick to the dungeon core.
Your attack has been repelled.
However, it was no easy task to dislodge it. Kora was thrown off violently due to the recoil of having the force of her blow redirected and fell down to the ground hard. Valeria, who had just recovered from being lich-slapped, stared at the spectacle with wide open eyes.
“Uhm, darling?” she asked with a stiff face. “What- what is it you’re trying to do?”
“I’m taking the shiny,” came the monotone answer.
“... You can do that?”
“Oh yeah, you can,” said Kora while she was getting in position for another run. “Last time was a lot of fun, you know!”
“Ah! Boxxy!” shouted Fizzy. “Won’t Charlie be mad if you take his dungeon core again?!”
She remembered the God of Consequences mentioned something like that during their face-to-box-to-brick meeting.
“... Arms, hold on a minute.”
That’s right, pissing off Willie would not be a good thing. That God may have been somewhat understanding because of the Mimic’s cataclysmic actions, but that was the past and this was the present.
“Master, that is a baseless worry,” said Xera. “I do not think this dungeon belongs to the Progenitor. It’s way too… orderly.”
“Oh, you do have a point there,” admitted Fizzy. “I would think a dungeon owned by that guy would have all sorts of monsters in it and would probably be really hard to navigate. If a God does own this place, it’s probably Goroth rather than Pedro.”
“What’s a Goroth? Is it tasty?”
“Goroth if the God of the Earth,” explained Fizzy. “He watches over artisans, craftsmen and artists. Actually yeah, this dungeon is most probably Goroth’s work. Legend says he created the first golems by giving life to the truly beautiful sculptures of his disciples.”
“Hooh, you sure know a lot about him,” said Xera.
“W-well… he’s highly regarded where I was born. There’s no gnome or dwarf alive who doesn’t revere him you know. It’s said he rewards those who earnestly work towards mastering their craft with his divine protection.”
The gnome’s expression turned a bit dark as she stared off beyond the horizon.
“And yet the God I was forced to serve is such a-”
“Watch your mouth, worm!”
Xera’s ice cold voice caused Fizzy to recoil and brace herself out of reflex. However, it would appear this was not going to be a physical beatdown, but a verbal one.
“You should be thankful my Progenitor chose to give an insignificant bug like you some direction in life!”
“D-direction?! That’s what you’re calling what he did to me?!” protested the gnome.
“Of course! If it wasn’t for my Master and the Progenitor, then you would’ve spent the rest of your days in miserable solitude while clinging to the ghosts of the past! Knowing you, you’d probably end up enjoying a sad, boring life like that!”
“What makes you think you know anything about me?!”
“I was inside your head! I’ve rooted around in there so much that I know you better than you know yourself by now!”
“Well- What’s wrong with living a peaceful life?!” countered Fizzy.
“Hah. You call that living? A boring day-to-day routine where nothing changes? Fuck, even that lich over there is more alive than you were when we found you!”
“Hey! Don’t bring me into this!” protested Valeria.
“Shut it!” shouted Xera and Fizzy in unison.
“I’ll have you know,” continued the succubus, “that our Progenitor did not act on a whim and had some sort of plan in mind. He is a wise and just being, more so than any of those other so-called Gods!”
“Just? JUST?! So forcing me to be his Champion for his own amusement is somehow fair?!”
“But it is. It’s not like you didn’t benefit from it, you know. Do you honestly think you would have survived this long if you didn’t have the Paladin Job? You would have definitely died in the Blight otherwise. Hell, it would have been a miracle if you lasted even a week in these mountains without it!
“You-! … Okay, I admit you have a point there. But why did it have to be- No, he already answered that. Or rather, I answered it myself, didn’t I?”
There was no reason it had to be her, specifically. She just sort of happened to be there.
“Wait,” mumbled Fizzy. “What if it wasn’t me? What if someone else had been dragged along by Boxxy?”
The succubus looked down at the gnome with a cocky smile on her face.
“I believe you already know the answer to that, Champion of Chaos.”
That’s right, she did. If someone else had been in Fizzy’s place, then Lucius would have treated them in much the same way, regardless of who it was. Knowing that guy he’d probably make even a dumb critter like a rabbit or alley cat into his Champion if the Mimic brought one of those along. It was simply in his nature.
Because Rick the God of Unpredictability was not cruel or evil, nor was he particularly kind either. He simply was. The only reason Fizzy saw him in a negative light to begin with was because of her own preconceptions. The succubus was right, the gnome owed her life to that deity. For better or for worse, she had been made to be his Champion, and she was alive right now because of it. This wasn’t the random act of whimsy that it appeared to be, either. It was a well-calculated move that served to bring about a very specific outcome.
For the first time in her life, the pint-sized Paladin felt like her existence had a purpose. So what if it was something inane and seemingly worthless like serving as entertainment to a bored God? At least she had one and knew what it was, and that knowledge alone seemed to bring her troubled mind no small measure of peace.
“Yeah,” she mumbled after a long, hard think, “this Paladin thing might not be so bad after all.”
Proficiency level increased. Champion of Chaos is now Level 7. FTH +2. LCK +2.
She then turned her attention away from the smugly smiling succubus and towards the resident muscle-brain who had fallen on her ass once more.
“By the way, exactly why are you hitting that dungeon core over and over again?”
“‘Cus the Boss said so,” came Kora’s simple answer.
Boxxy had told its Arms to resume her assault on the core ever since the earlier conversation determined that this dungeon did not belong to its benefactor. As for the lich, she seemed to have recovered from her little trip to the ceiling and was currently fawning over Boxxy.
“But I thought we were trying to take it, not break it?” continued the gnome.
“Just gotta knock it loose first,” said Kora while walking back to the edge of the room.
“What, with brute force? I don’t mean to disrespect Boxxy, but I doubt violence is the answer here...”
Surely some magical ritual or perhaps a clever application of-
“Of course it is,” said the fiend while interrupting Fizzy’s thoughts. “It worked last time.”
“... So how come it’s not working now?”
“I just haven’t used enough of it yet!”
She took yet another run up and dealt a flying dropkick to it for the upteempth time. This attempt seemed to do the trick as the meter-wide pale blue ball was suddenly sent flying off into the wall of the room. The fiend landed on her feet and smiled proudly at the dumbstruck gnome.
“... Well. That just happened,” noted Fizzy. “What now?”
“Now we roll it down the stairs and bring it outside the dungeon as fast as possible,” explained Boxxy.
“Is… Is there a reason why we need to rush?”
The Paladin took a deep breath and prepared to ask the next question. One that she would probably regret asking.
“What would that reason be?”
“It will explode and kill us if we don’t hurry.”
Fizzy had guessed right. She regretted it immensely.