Congratulations, you are now a Level 50 Mimic! All Attributes +2.
Boxxy let out a cheer as the Stone Soldier crumbled into bits. It finally reached the maximum Mimic Job Level at the end of the 3rd day of stalking the dungeon’s hedge maze. All that was left now was to get Shapeshift to Level 10 and then the Mimic would finally, at long last, be able to Rank Up.
“Yeah, way to go, Boss!”
“Ahn, darling is splendid as usual ~♡!”
“Nice one, Boxxy!”
The Mimic’s unlikely entourage all congratulated it in their own way. They had been ordered to convene and follow it around ever since it got up to 90% XP. Valeria’s newly-created undead regiment was also skulking around the place. She had gone for a mix of Death Knights, Dullahans and a whole lot of Skeletal Archers, a configuration well suited to hunting wild beasts in the woods. Boxxy also found out that, much to its disappointment, these undead of hers did not yield any XP when slain. It made sense since they were beings that were made up of more mana than flesh, not too dissimilar from the Mimic’s own familiars.
“What happens now?” asked Fizzy.
“Shapeshifting practice,” it answered.
Valeria and Xera’s faces both lit up, almost as if someone had offered their pet dog a treat.
“As you command, Master!”
“Oh, darling ~♡!”
The golem and the fiend, on the other hand, really did not want any part of this. The latter remained steadfast in demanding on being ‘in charge’ as it were, something the Mimic had no intention of allowing.
“Well, in that case,” said Fizzy, “I’m going to go and raise my Level a bit.”
The metal gnome was not even remotely interested in such things. While there was the matter of her trauma, it was also a fact that her steel body had no libido or sex drive whatsoever, much like a certain animate chest. Not even the pleasurable sensation she got from being ‘seen’ could be considered sexual. It was more akin to the feeling of satisfaction and giddiness one would experience after eating a sumptuous meal and drinking a few glasses of wine. Therefore, she saw no reason to stick around.
Unfortunately, Boxxy had other plans.
“Fizzy, I need you for this one.”
The golem’s mind and body froze abruptly. Whatever thoughts she might have been having were now little more than forgotten figments.
It couldn’t seriously mean that, right?
“W-why do you need m-me?” she asked stiffly.
Boxxy began explaining its problem to the four women gathered there. Simply put, it had to try new things if it wanted to keep increasing the Level of the Shapeshift Skill at a steady pace. This was only reason it performed those lewd activities in the first place. The sheer biomass, complexity and movement involved in the act provided it with a lot of proficiency, resulting in a tasty net total of 56% progress towards Level 10.
However, it would appear this method had reached its limit, as Boxxy’s last few training sessions had been extremely disappointing. It had gained merely 1% proficiency after a whole 2 hours of practice, meaning there was little more it could learn from such act. So what it needed right now were brand new directions it could focus its shapeshifting towards. Unfortunately, it lacked the necessary imagination to come up with anything worthwhile, which is why it decided to ask its minions for any suggestions.
The steel golem and the muscled fiend both breathed a sigh of relief when they realized it finished its explanation. The Slobbering Slut Squad, as Kora had taken to calling the other two, were understandably disappointed. Not only because there would be no happy fun times with Boxxy right now, but also due to the implication that there would be no happy fun times with Boxxy ever again.
“You can turn parts of your body into metal, right? Have you tried producing Artificer-made goods from it?” suggested Fizzy.
The Mimic responded by instantaneously covering its faux-wood shell in dozens of Bladeblossoms, demonstrating that it had not only thought of it, but also mastered it. Fizzy was quite impressed with the sheer speed and number with which it reproduced them. Inspecting a few of them with Metallopathy allowed her to grasp that they were very well put together, too. However, these things were of little use. The hundreds of petal-shaped blades would turn back into soft flesh the instant they were separated from the main body, meaning that setting these off would merely cover the area in strips of shapeless Mimic flesh. Something that nobody present particularly wanted to see.
“What about imitating someone who isn’t that dimwitted succubus?” asked Valeria. “Or more specifically, me ~♡!”
Boxxy’s lid flew open and the pure-white replica of the lich’s upper body sprang out from it.
“Humanoids are all the same,” it commented. “There’s nothing more I can learn there.”
“What about skin color, Master?” pointed out Xera.
“What about it?”
“Pigmentation is important for infiltrating a city. We talked about this before, remember.”
It had nearly forgotten that particular lesson in blending in. Truthfully speaking, the main reason it kept creating chalky-white skin was because coloring it was not only tricky, but also a gigantic pain in the lid. It’s not that the Mimic was lazy, it’s just that it found it unnecessary to put that much effort into something that didn’t seem to be necessary. It didn’t even bother to color in the skin of its half-chest half-human form back in Erosa because its height was already much too conspicuous anyway. But, as Xera had pointed out a few days ago, getting the coloration of the skin, eyes and hair right was extremely important towards fitting in with humans..
Come to think of it, the only case where Boxxy had attempted to fully color itself in was that one time it had to pretend to be Fizzy inside her shop, and it had messed up quite badly. Its skin was slightly too tanned, the eyes were an unnatural yellow and the hair was closer to purple than pink. The only reason it managed to fool that human was because he was a random passer-by rather than the gnome’s acquaintance
And so Boxxy decided to give pigmentation a try. Splotches of beige started appearing on the imitation of Valeria’s body. They expanded outwards across the pure-white skin, as if globs of ink spreading on paper. The twin-tail hairdo on its head gradually turned black, much like Valeria’s original appearance.
“How’s this?” it asked once it was done.
“It could… use some work, Master.”
The succubus’s words were an understatement. Objectively speaking, her master’s attempt at skin pigmentation had failed horribly. Various patches of skin were a subtly different color from others, giving it the freakish appearance of skin that was sewn together from multiple corpses. Even the hair was noticeably darker and shinier on one side rather than the other.
“Okay, I’ll practice this later,” said Boxxy.
Shapeshift proficiency aside, this was something it had to master if it wanted to successfully blend into a city. It was quite pleased with Snack’s input, though. She sure knew her stuff when it came to infiltration. As expected of a conniving, backstabbing bitch of a succubus.
As for Valeria, she was at a loss for words. Having her physical appearance stolen and then toyed with was nowhere near the vaguely romantic gesture she seemed to have in mind when she made that request. In fact, she looked to be quite disturbed by it. Well, seeing a parody of her old human form like that was bound to strike a nerve. Xera was in pretty much the same boat back when Boxxy first started using her mirrored image to cast Spells, but she had gotten more or less used to it since then.
“Oh, I know!” shouted Kora. “How about combining things?”
“You know, like a whatchamacallit! A chimichanga?”
“... Do you mean a chimera?” offered Xera.
“What’s that?” asked Boxxy.
“It’s an artificially grown species of monster, Master,” explained the succubus. “Its most common appearance is a four-legged beast that has the head and forelegs of a janther, the body and hindlegs of a goat and a snake for a tail.”
“So it can be other things?”
“Is it a shapeshifter?”
“Not exactly. It’s just that those elves and humans do weird experiments all the time and sometimes produce different combinations. I think those gryphons this Empire uses might be a type of chimera. I mean, they certainly weren’t around 150 years ago.”
“Oh, I see. So a chimera might be something like this?”
Boxxy transformed the naked humanoid body sticking out of its maw into a ghastly creature that had four spider-like limbs for arms, a Murk Dweller claw on each ‘hand,’ a horse’s head with curved ram horns, a scaly lizard-like tail, a pair of goblin legs instead of nipples, and short brown fur covering everything else.
“Okay. I was not mentally prepared for that,” said Fizzy.
“I… don’t think any of us were.”
The two demons nodded to show they agreed with Valeria’s statement. It was hard for any of them to call the Mimic’s current form anything other than horrific or disturbing. And this was coming from a group of monsters, which meant that regular people would probably end up involuntarily evacuating their bowels if they ever laid eyes on it. In fact, the steel gnome was silently thanking her God that she no longer possessed such functions, otherwise she might have seriously put that claim to the test.
At the very least it seemed like her weird stripping habit was under control, though. After all, Boxxy could see right through her dirty peasant clothes and sturdy steel hide alike. The subconscious part of her must have realized that stripping herself was pointless, given the circumstances. In fact, just knowing she’s within its passive perception range was enough to satiate her exhibitionistic tendencies. She had the strangest feeling she could tell when the Mimic was focusing its attention on her.
That sensation wasn’t just her imagination though. The miniscule waves of mana Boxxy subconsciously releases to keep track of its surroundings caused a very slight interference with the magic that permeated the steel golem’s body. This was something her nucleus picked up on and relayed to her consciousness as the strangely empowering ‘feeling of being watched,’ which drove her to stick as close to Boxxy as she could. She was a bit worried she might get irritable or tense if she were to be apart from it for too long, though.
It was this legitimate worry that caused a rather troubling thought to cross her mind.
“Hey, Boxxy,” she called out. “Can I ask you something?”
Realizing that a croaking horned horse head was not ideal for communication, the Mimic undid its bizarre transformation and reverted back to a simple chest with Xera’s face poking out the front of it. It would resume this ‘chimera’ concept later since the idea seemed to have some potential, though it wasn’t sure whether it would gain much proficiency from it.
“What is it, Fizzy?”
“Your species won’t be a mimic variant when you Rank Up, right?”
“Will you still be able to see things the same way as you do now?”
The golem was wondering whether the monster’s magical perception ability would disappear. It was mostly a selfish concern, though. She was worried her perfectly put together body might not get the appreciation and attention it deserves if the Mimic could no longer observe it with the same invasive level of detail.
“... I don’t know,” came the belated answer. “Maybe.”
That question caused Boxxy to be gripped by a sudden foreboding, almost melancholic feeling.
Its species would change with the Rank Up.
This was something it knew full well. However, this time it wouldn’t turn into a variant of what it was, but a completely different type of monster. This, again, was something that it was aware of. Yet it hadn’t really considered the implications of it until Fizzy brought it up.
The former gnome had gone through an event which wasn’t too dissimilar from a Rank Up. As a result, she had undergone a series of radical changes over the last few days, both mentally and physically. In fact, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that she was still adapting to her new self. And while many things were gained, seemingly just as many were lost.
Her newfound numbness to pain came at the cost of her sense of touch, smell and taste. She no longer required food or water, but also lost the ability to ingest healing potions - something the Mimic had already confirmed using a relatively cheap 25 GP healing potion it had lying around. She had gotten a deeper understanding of metal through Metallopathy, but at the same time lost the flexibility and dexterity of a flesh-and-blood body. Even if that last part was alleviated thanks to the effects of a Skill, one could also interpret it as Fizzy having to give up a Skill in order to retain her old mobility.
Looking at the former gnome’s rather extreme case, combined with that excellent point she raised, caused Boxxy to suddenly start having second thoughts about this Rank Up. Losing its magical perception would be a huge blow to the monster. It really couldn’t be understated how invaluable something like that was to a creature that primarily fought at close range. Let alone how incredibly convenient it was when practicing its Artificer Job.
And yet, even though those were all valid, practical concerns, the Mimic’s biggest gripe was that it may need to give up its chesty disposition. Unlike a certain horribly abused woman, it didn’t feel comfortable letting go of its current form. It had only recently started truly experiencing a sense of self and establishing its identity as an individual, and it loathed the idea of abandoning those things up so easily.
“But you’ll still be a type of shapeshifter, right?”
The woman in question continued with her line of questioning, completely oblivious to the Mimic’s inner turmoil. That distraction was hardly a bad thing, though. It helped Boxxy realize that it still had no idea what Rank Up options would be made available, nor what effects they would have. It quickly decided that worrying about it before it knew all the details was a waste of effort. It wasn’t putting off a potentially life-changing decision just because it was afraid of the unknown, okay?
Besides, the gnome was right. It’s not like a mimic could suddenly become a harpy, after all. No matter what, it should at least continue being a shapeshifter of some kind. Just like how Fizzy would undoubtedly still be a golem and Valeria would remain a caster-type undead regardless of how many Rank Ups they experienced. The Paladin’s drastic transition from gnome to golem was caused by a powerful curse rather than the natural Rank Up process, so it couldn’t even be called an exception. It was an entirely different scenario.
“Probably,” answered Boxxy.
“So then, can’t you just grow back the thing that gives you that magnificent sight?”
“I mean, did you have any eyes when you were born?”
“But you can make them with shapeshifting.”
“So it should be possible for you to recreate the ‘eye’ that lets you see all around you after you Rank Up, right? I mean, in case you no longer have it.”
“... But I don’t know how to do that.”
“That’s why I’m suggesting you start practicing now, while you still have the chance!”
“Oh, I see! That is a very tasty idea!”
The steel golem made an unnaturally adorable smile and giggled delightedly at the Mimic’s words.
“Ack!” gasped Valeria. “When did the short one become a love rival?!”
Fizzy wonderfully ignored the worthless whore of a zombie and simply continued basking in the afterglow of being praised. This was one of the few genuine compliments she had gotten from Boxxy, so she wasn’t going to allow such a ridiculous insinuation to ruin it. She most definitely did not ‘love’ the mass-murdering man-eating monster. How did that even make any sense? What she held was a feeling of respect towards her superior and her caretaker. Boxxy was Fizzy’s mentor as a monster, so its words naturally carried extra weight. Therefore, the fact that she got super excited whenever those words were even the tiniest bit flattering was simply a matter of course. Yes, that must have been what this was.
“Okay then,” said Boxxy. “I will give it a try.”
The Mimic made Fizzy’s suggestion a top priority. It had a feeling what it was about to attempt wasn’t going to be easy, which meant that it would probably lead to a sizable increase in its Shapeshift proficiency. It turned its gaze inwards, focusing its attention on the very center of its magical perception.
A mimic sensed its surrounding by employing a body part that was surprisingly common among monsters, something this world’s scholars had named the Mana Locator Gland, or MLG for short. The curious thing about this organ was that it varied wildly between different species. Janther whiskers, gryphon beaks, treant roots and dragon horns were all examples of this gland. They were all sensitive to changes in the ambient mana, although each worked in slightly different ways. A janther’s whiskers, for example, could detect when a Spell was being cast and be used as a countermeasure to illusions, invisibility and other magical trickery. A treant’s roots worked in much the same way, except they sensed magic through vibrations in the soil and would be quite useless against flying threats.
However, none of these creatures’ MLG could compare to that of a naturally sightless monster, like a mimic, slime or primordial golem. Those species typically had no other senses with which to navigate their surroundings, so it was only natural that their MLG would be far more advanced. And while, say, a dragon’s horn provided enough information to be called a second sight, it could only encompass a conical shape that expanded backwards from its head. It was how those mighty wyrms were able to protect their blind spots as well verify their body’s condition without having to turn their long necks around. And yet certain Spells and materials were simply outside the scope of the horn’s detection and would slip past its second sight.
In short, it could be said that Boxxy’s 360-degree all-scope MLG performance was top of the line. But no matter how first-rate a sensory organ was, it was impossible to perceive itself. Like an eye trying to look inwards or a nose trying to pick out its own scent, it was simply impossible for the Mimic to observe its MLG. Although Boxxy knew where it was, it had no idea as to what it looked like, much less how it was put together.
But it refused to give up that easily. If it could figure out a way to make an organic wheel, then it should be able to find a way to look at the source of its magical perception by employing that very same sense. One obvious solution was to find another mimic and use it as an example. Ah, but would that organ be exactly the same? Boxxy was a Greater Mimic, so it was highly possible a Lesser Mimic would have a more degraded version of it. Well, that notion was not particularly relevant as Boxxy didn’t have the slightest idea where it would find others of its kin.
This was frustrating. If only it had a second MLG, then it would already be-
Boxxy was struck by a flash of inspiration. It had gotten an idea that just might work. It went completely silent while it started thinking of ways to go about accomplishing it. A plan was slowly being put together. A dangerous, extreme, and unquestionably painful plan, but one that was necessary if Boxxy wanted to make sure it didn’t lose one of its most valuable assets due to the Rank Up.
It was a difficult thing, but it was certain it would find a way. This was far from the first time it had researched its own body, after all. It just had to put all of its limited knowledge to good use and it was bound to achieve a result. Even a failure was useful as the monster could learn from it. Just like the first time it tried to grow a set of wheels only to have them violently snap off. Or that one case when it nearly killed itself by overloading its sensory capacity with eyes. There was also the time it fell off a 50 meter tall cliff while it was trying to learn to fly.
On second thought, perhaps some moderation was in order. You know, just this once.