The Mimic’s party started their escape by pushing the dungeon core down the stairs and following after it. While it’s true that Kora could have easily carried it, that didn’t mean she had to. Not when gravity would be more than happy to help out. Boxxy determined it would be better to conserve stamina whenever possible, as the group would most probably get attacked by a legion of Stone Soldiers once they made their way out of the Spire. They would then have to rush like mad in order to escape the dungeon before the core went into meltdown.
However, it soon realized there was no reason to rush whatsoever. The dungeon core had been completely inert ever since Kora knocked it out of its magically affixed spot and showed no signs of overloading or raising an alarm. It didn’t even ask anyone if they wished to be the dungeon master.
There was also the fact that defeating the Jade King had made the golems in this place much less hostile, just as that notification had said. They no longer attacked on sight and only fought when provoked. The Stone Soldiers also remained surprisingly indifferent to the Mimic’s ongoing theft of their dungeon’s core and showed no reaction when the blue orb was being transported right in front of them. If anything, they seemed to actually be avoiding Boxxy’s group. As a result, the Mimic’s party had to fight off only 8 of these golems on their way out. A far cry from the 100 or so they had killed on the way in.
So all things said and done, there was no mad dash for the exit, no hordes of monsters on their heels and no calamity being thrown at them. What the party went through instead was like a peaceful afternoon stroll through a park. Almost exactly like that, actually.
“Tch, this is boring,” said Kora with a click of her tongue.
The party had almost completely exited the dungeon and she didn’t have much of a chance to smash stuff. Being ordered to carry the core around on her shoulder combined with the lack of enemies meant she hadn’t had her fill of violence. First she got hyped up to fight the Jade King and then she got excited about pummeling a whole army of Stone Soldiers, but ended up being blue-balled on both accounts. This understandably made her quite irritable.
“The first time was a lot more fun,” she added.
“Why? Because you liked having your head between my thighs?” teased Xera.
“No! … Well okay, maybe a little. Them’s some wonderfully meaty thighs…”
“S-So I take it the core won’t suddenly explode and kill us, right?!” asked Fizzy while glancing up at the object in question.
“Hm? Nah, it’s probably fine,” said Kora. “It’s not getting bigger or flashing or anything so I think we’re in the clear on that.”
“Oh thank Bob,” exclaimed Fizzy in relief. She really didn’t feel like she could actually outrun a Calamity.
“That’s a shame,” said Valeria. “All that death and destruction you told me about sounded incredibly romantic ~♡! I really wanted to witness my darling’s glorious fireworks first-hand ~♡! ”
“Gonna witness my fist up your ass if you don’t knock that shit off already,” growled the fiend.
“R-really?! Nooo, don’t tempt me like that! I couldn’t bear to cheat on my darling Boxxy ~♡!”
The group spent the next few minutes chatting back and forth until they made it out of the hedge maze at their leisure. They walked for a dozen or so more meters until they had crossed the invisible border to the dungeon’s territory and had officially exited it.
You have left the Spire of the Jade King.
Feat of strength performed! All Attributes +10.
Boxxy was glad that at least this part proved to be consistent with its expectations.
“Wuh- Grand Theft Arcana? Plus 10 to all Attributes?! That’s insane!”
“My, what a wonderful gift! Thank you ever so much, darling ~♡!”
It would appear that, based on their reactions, Fizzy and Valeria had also gotten the Perk and the associated Attribute boost. Boxxy quickly checked on its familiars, but it would seem neither of them had gotten it, as expected. Well, it wasn’t a big deal. The sizable boost to Boxxy’s INT Attribute meant their conjured bodies would grow stronger on their own. While it wouldn’t result in a +10 across the board, they would still benefit somewhat from it.
You are now the owner of dungeon core PT-5484-BM.
All functions of dungeon core PT-5484-BM are currently unavailable.
Please establish a dungeon to unlock them.
And here came the other set of messaged the Mimic was waiting for. Thankfully without the notification that its newly acquired core was going into meltdown. So it would appear that either Willie decided to let Boxxy run free with it, or it belonged to someone else who was less of a sore loser. Come to think of it, maybe dungeon cores blowing up was the exception rather than the rule. It was entirely possible the Mimic was mistaken and that this peaceful walk is how core heists normally went. Though, technically speaking, the fact someone would actively look for dungeon cores to steal was already way outside of any norms.
The important part is that the monster was now in possession of its very own dungeon core.
“Uh, B-Boxxy?” stammered Fizzy. “What’s going on with the Spire?!”
The MImic turned its attention towards the black tower in the distance. It was shaking back and forth while sizable chunks were falling out of it. A few seconds later it violently split apart and collapsed in on itself like a house of cards. The large obsidian chunks hit the ground hard, kicking up huge clouds of dust and debris as they did so.
“Huh,” said Kora, “How come that thing suddenly fell over on its own?”
“Could be structural weakness or something? We did mess it up quite a bit on the way down,” suggested Fizzy. She was probably referring to how the dungeon core had left multiple cracks and dents as it bounced down the stairs and off the walls.
“Isn’t the Spire simply bowing down to darling’s greatness ~♡?”
“No, you airheaded fuckslut!”
Valeria’s inane prattle caused Xera to snap at her. As if a stupid delusion like that could be the reason. The succubus pointed at the core on the fiend’s shoulder before beginning her explanation.
“It’s because we took that. The absence of that controlling unit destabilized the spacial distortion that kept the Spire in place, causing it to to unravel, which in turn lead to a cascading failure as the enchanted medium broke apart under the strain of- You guys aren’t getting any of this, are you?”
“Nope!” answered the fiend with three hands on her hips and a proud smile on her face.
“The space was warped?” asked Valeria with a tilt of her head. “I didn’t even notice.”
“S-sorry, Snack. I don’t really get that muh- magic stuff…” mumbled Fizzy.
“Are mediums tasty?” inquired Boxxy, full of curiosity.
The succubus sighed in exasperation. She forgot that she was surrounded by idiots for a second there. That’s the reason she normally avoided the urge to show off her knowledge of magical theory.
“Look, no core means no fancy tower.”
“Ohh!” answered the other 3 women with enlightened look on their faces.
“So are mediums tasty?”
“... No, Master. Mediums are not particularly tasty.”
Boxxy rapidly lost interest and instead turned its attention towards acquisition. The dungeon core was still as inert as it had ever been. If it wasn’t going to blow up like the last one, then the Mimic could use it for its own benefit. Of course, it had no idea how to actually establish a dungeon and had no plans of doing so right away. This was still that man’s country so it had no intention of settling down here.
“Dungeon Management,” it chanted.
|General Information||Basic Functions||Advanced Features|
|Owner||Boxxy T. Morningwood||Name||Status||Name||Status|
|Core ID||PT-5484-BM||Dungeon Expansion||Ready||Guardian Assignment||N/A|
|Core Status||Dormant||Item Allocation||N/A||Nexus Access||N/A|
|Dungeon Master||N/A||Mana Collection||N/A||Prison Management||N/A|
|Integrity||92%||Monster Spawner||N/A||Terrain Sculpting||N/A|
|MP||11,153/20,000 (-1.6/sec)||Surveillance Net||N/A||Trap Construction||N/A|
A long list of mostly disabled functions and features, just as expected. A lot of these were rather obvious as to what they did, others not so much. As for the status of the core itself, it seemed like it was somewhat damaged. Come to think of it, the core should have been inside the blast radius of those Spell Crystals that annihilated the Jade King, not to mention the rough way the Mimic and its minions were handling it. It really should be no surprise it got damaged as a result of all that.
And yet its Integrity had only been reduced by 8%. Which meant that it could take quite a lot of punishment before breaking apart, even if it wasn’t as indestructible as the Mimic had assumed it to be. Which was a good thing to know if it planned on repeating this feat over and over. However, it would appear the dungeon core was ever so slowly leaking mana. Whether this was because it was damaged or because Mana Collection was inactive was hard to say. What was certain was that it would run out of MP in a few hours. Boxxy simply regarded this revelation with a dismissive ‘can’t be helped’ attitude and left it be for the moment. It had plenty of time to study this thing later.
Right now, it wanted to double check the effects of the other thing it acquired inside that tower - the enchanted shield-gauntlet. Boxxy wanted to confirm the effects of its curse as soon as possible. However, it was likely the gauntlet would permanently fuse with its wielder and would be impossible to remove without drastic measures. Thankfully, the Mimic had just the right disposable guinea pig for the job.
“Snack,” it called out.
It was about to order its pet succubus to put on the cursed glove, but had a sudden realization which changed its mind.
“Can curses affect your soul?”
That was something Boxxy had to consider. If it went through with this experiment and something bad happened to Snack’s soul then it was highly possible that it would lose its contract, maybe even its life. Both of those outcomes were very much not tasty.
“No, Master. A curse is incapable of such a thing, no matter how powerful it is.”
“Are you sure?” butted in Valeria. “There should be curses that affect the spirit in addition to the body.”
“Such things will have no effect on a demon,” stated Xera with a hint of pride in her voice. “Our souls are much more powerful than a regular mortal’s. Only magic that stems from the Beyond or the Gods themselves can ever hope to truly harm us.”
“Good,” said Boxxy. “Then put this on.”
The Mimic opened its maw and opened its Storage portal. It was still very much hesitant to touch the nasty thing, so it ejected the cursed gauntlet with a bit of force. The item flew through the air and landed at Xera’s feet.
The succubus didn’t even bat an eye as looked down at it. She had more or less gotten used to being the resident test subject, so saying she wasn’t expecting this was a lie. In fact, she was rather curious about it herself.
“Oof,” she grunted as she picked it up off the ground. “Quite heavy isn’t it?”
Xera turned it over in her arms and held it shakily with her right hand. She then slid her slender left hand into the much-too-large opening. The enchanted item seemed to detect the presence of a living thing and reacted by changing its size. The steel plates let out a small grinding noise as it shrunk down to a perfect fit, as if it was custom-made to fit the succubus’s extremely feminine arm.
This was a somewhat generic feature that a lot of commercially available enchanted equipment had. It was simply common sense that nobody would buy a prohibitively expensive item if it didn’t fit right. Of course, there was a limit as to how much magic an item could hold before it broke apart under the strain. Royal knights, well-off adventurers and other big-shots would often order custom-made gear that was made to fit and then have it enchanted. Doing it that way was often more expensive and time-consuming than simply buying one from a merchant, but the end result was a magic item that was notably more powerful than those on the market.
“Hey bubble-boobs, you feeling okay?” asked Kora.
Xera had been standing there silently for several seconds now and the fiend was worried if the curse didn’t affect her soul after all.
“Yeah, fine. I just expected this to go down differently.”
“How’s your arm?”
“It’s fine, Master. It doesn’t hurt or anything.”
“Are you sure? It’s turning all shiny.”
The succubus looked down at her left arm with a raised eyebrow. The Mimic’s choice of words was always a bit confusing, but she found out, much to her surprise, that this time it meant that literally. Her questioning look turned into a wide-eyed stare as she watched her blue skin fall off in palm-sized sheets to reveal shiny metallic plates underneath.
Her flesh was steadily turning into steel, like an infection that was spreading from the gauntlet. The transformation had gone halfway up her bicep without her even realizing it. It only seemed to accelerate once it went past her shoulder and spread to her torso. Her breasts, collarbone and upper back were enveloped in an instant. Her head, her teeth, her lips, even her hair and eyes all turned to steel as the curse took hold of her.
The leathery bat-like wings sprouting from her back turned to huge sheets of steel between long metal rods. The succubus’s legs gave out once the transformation had enveloped her right arm and started encroaching on her flared hips. She fell to the ground, her body no longer able to support its own weight. It was only a few moments later that the metal coating of her body had spread all the way to the tips of her toes.
You have been afflicted by the Curse of the Steelshaper.
“So, how is it?” asked Boxxy, full of curiosity.
“Master, I- Ack!”
Xera was startled by the sound of her own voice. It sounded oddly tinny, as if she were speaking through a metal tube. Which, now that she thought it, was probably what her throat had become.
“It… wasn’t painful or anything,” she continued. “But my body feels really heavy.”
Xera put her palms on the ground in an effort to push herself up, but froze when she realized something. She could feel neither the dirt underneath her palms nor the clothes on her body. Practically no sensations passed through the thick armor that had replaced her sensitive skin. She couldn’t even smell the faintly rotting stench of that lich’s undead body anymore. She hurriedly scooped out some dirt and put it in her mouth, only to find that her sense of taste had disappeared completely.
“Master!” she cried out with a mouthful of dirt. “I can’t feel a single thing! It’s like my whole body has gone numb!”
This lack of sensation was similar yet different from what it was like to be in the Beyond. It was actually somewhat worse since the succubus actually felt trapped, imprisoned inside her own body. It was not a pleasant situation, to say the least.
“Really? Then, does this hurt?”
Boxxy walked up to its shiny familiar and hit her in the thigh with a tentacle coated with Metal Mimicry. The impact let out a gong-like sound and left a small dent on her new skin.
“N-no. That didn’t hurt, Master,” commented Xera, her voice oozing with disappointment.
“What about this?”
It reformed the club-like appendage into something closer to a spear and stabbed the succubus through her midsection. It had to use a bit more effort than it was expecting. This cursed steel skin wasn’t just for show.
“So you feel nothing at all?”
“Well, I can tell something is touching my body, but I can’t tell its texture nor its temperature. And uh, if you don’t mind me saying Master, having that appendage inside me gives me a really strange feeling. I can’t quite put it into words though.”
“Is it a tasty feeling?”
“I… don’t know, Master.”
“Can you stand?”
“I think so.”
The succubus desperately pushed herself off the ground. She struggled immensely and shook furiously, but managed to get up on her feet.
“Huff, huff,” she panted. “My STR Attribute is too low to deal with this much weight. Huff, huff. It’s like I’m wearing a set of full plate armor that I can’t take off!”
“I see. Okay, that’s enough for now.”
Your familiar has been dismissed.
The metal-covered succubus disappeared into thin air, leaving behind only a shiny shield-bearing gauntlet. The cursed item that was suddenly without a host shook a few times before resuming its original form. Boxxy then re-summoned its familiar, who appeared in her original body, much to her relief.
“Master, I do not believe we can sell that item. Like, at all.”
“Why not? It makes you tougher and you don’t feel pain, so it should be very tasty, right?”
“But Master, you also lose the ability to smell or taste, and your sense of touch is almost completely dulled. It doesn’t let you enjoy tasty things if you put it on.”
“Ack! So it’s garbage?!”
“I’m afraid so, Master. No mortal in their right mind would willingly give up their body’s sensations to become a golem.”
“Become a golem?”
“Yes, Master. I believe that is essentially what the curse does.”
It made sense, in a weird sort of way. The ultimate reward for clearing a dungeon centered around golems was an item that turned the conqueror into one. Even the thoroughly dense Mimic was able to grasp this was no mere coincidence. It also understood exactly what Snack was getting at. After all, it also lost feeling in limbs coated with Metal Mimicry, but didn’t think of it as a big deal since it was handy to do that during combat and it was a temporary thing. Imagining a situation where it had its entire body permanently covered like that was quite disturbing. Especially since it would also eliminate its sense of taste, which was one of the main things it derived pleasure from.
So, all things said, Boxxy had to begrudgingly agree that nobody would really want this. And if nobody wanted it, then the Mimic wouldn’t get a good price for it, which in turn meant it would hesitate to sell it. And since the monster wasn’t going to sell this cursed item, then how about trying to find a use for it.
“Arms,” it called out. “Try putting that gauntlet on.”
Surely having its tough frontliner become even tougher was a good thing, right? Then again, Arms could cover herself using Demonic Carapace whenever she wanted, so this sort of thing might prove to be redundant or even interfere with the Skill somehow.
“Whatever you say, Boss. Would take a lot of the fun out of fighting if I can’t feel someone else’s blood on my face though.”
The fiend walked over to where the gauntlet was left on the ground and was about to bend over to pick it up when she realized someone else had beat her to it.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing, pipsqueak?”
Fizzy was currently holding the oversized gauntlet and staring at it intently. She turned her eyes towards the Mimic and screwed up her courage.
“Boxxy, do you insist on having Koralenteprix use this?”
Her uncanny determination and oddly steady voice left the Mimic stunned for a moment. This was the first time she had ever glared at it unflinchingly like this. There was no stutter in her words, no meek subservience in her demeanor and no fear in her eyes.
“... Why?” it asked.
“Because I want this.”