Boxxy walked into the branch office of the Order of the Black Wand. It was one of the relatively bigger buildings around town as it had 3 floors, although the interior was rather on the cramped side. Overall, it looked to have considerably less total floor space than the 2-story Mercenary Guild back in Erosa. Though this much was natural since this town barely had 4,300 people living in it. Having an outlandishly large building in a lowly populated place like this would be pretty pointless. Those three guilds back in the village of Carran were basically occupying old houses, so this place was pretty extravagant in comparison.
It wasn’t just in size either. The waiting area immediately beyond the entrance was well decorated and gave off a sense of dignity and class. A plush carpet lined the entrance and led to the receptionist desks some 8 meters away from it. Magical lights adorned the walls and ceiling, making the space just bright enough so as to not be unpleasant. Several framed paintings and portraits adorned the walls, while the fancy stained glass windows displayed a number of strange symbols and sigils. Several benches lined the sides of the room and a Quest Board was visible off to the left. The wall opposite the entrance had 3 counters, each performing a different service. There were several people in line at each of the clerks, all of them draped in cloaks and robes of various colors.
The Order of the Black Wand was one of the largest caster-centric guilds in the country, so it made sense that their clientele would be of a mystical persuasion. This organization was known for handling magical matters that were usually of questionable repute, so they predominantly dealt with Warlocks, Necromancers and Wizards, although the odd Cryomancer or Rogue could be seen skulking about as well. It was the best place for Boxxy to finally advance its Warlock Job beyond Level 25.
The monster disguised as a ginger-haired elf lined up at the far right queue, the one that had a sign that had a quill and parchment drawn on it and a word that was probably ‘Administration’ beneath it. The other two lines of people also had notices hanging from the ceiling above them. The leftmost one seemed like it handled Quest-related matters while the middle one processed the sale and purchase of various magical and alchemical goods. The person immediately in front of Boxxy was a male gnome draped in a black, hooded cloak. His face wasn’t visible from the back, but the Mimic’s magical perception told it that this guy was relatively young, possibly around Fizzy’s age, and had some nasty burn marks on the right side of his face.
Far more interesting than the gnome, however, was the thing that floated directly above him. It was a spherical creature that was about 90 centimeters in diameter. Its skin was a bright red, almost pink hue that was considerably bumpy and wrinkled. It had one massive eye in the middle of its face, and a large mouth filled with needle-like teeth underneath. 10 tendril-like eyestalks came out of the top, sides and back of the head, almost like errant strands of hair. Each eyeball had a different color, although the big one at the front was a rich purple.
This creature was a Beholder, a demon that most likely served as the gnome’s familiar. According to the lore contained in the Summon Familiar and Demonology Skills, Beholders were demons whose main purpose was not combat, but information gathering through observation. They loved hoarding secrets and knowledge for themselves, and made sure to avoid sharing what they knew as much as possible. That didn’t mean they couldn’t fight, however. Although their offensive capabilities were lacking, the various types of eye beams they could fire were capable of weakening, staggering or outright crippling their target. They could also erect magical barriers in order to protect their master and allies, although they probably had to be specifically ordered to do so as demons were quite fickle creatures.
Boxxy ended up staring unabashedly at the Beholder while it was calling up what it knew about its species. This was only the second time the Mimic had seen a demon that wasn’t one of its familiars, the first one being Punchy. Overcome with curiosity, the monster probed the Beholder’s insides, eager to find out how it was put together. As expected, there were barely any internal organs and most of the body mass was just thick muscle. The only things of note were a brain contained within a large skull, a flat, circular organ at the roof of its mouth and an odd body part that looked like three hourglasses were joined at their middle.
Actually that last part seemed oddly familiar. The Mimic suddenly realized that this thing was the Beholder’s Mana Locator Gland, one that was far more advanced than its own. And being able to ‘see’ it meant that the demon could do the same and spot the disguised monster’s own clearly out-of-place MLG. In fact, judging from how the Beholder silently turned around in mid-air to stare back at Boxxy with all 11 eyes, it most definitely noticed something was amiss.
“Well, well, well. What have we here?”
The demon spoke directly into Boxxy’s mind with the voice of an old man, one that hinted of centuries’ worth of wisdom. The disguised monster also felt a slight disturbance in the mana around it, probably due to the Beholder analyzing its body in some way. Boxxy understandably got a bad feeling about this situation.
“A Doppelganger!” it exclaimed telepathically.
Those words sent Boxxy on high alert as its fears had been realized - the demon had determined the shapeshifter’s true nature.
“How nostalgic! I haven’t seen one of your kind in centuries!”
Oddly enough, the demon actually sounded jovial and intrigued. Shouldn’t it be more suspicious that a monster was right next to its master?
“Do not fret, young one. I have no intention of ratting you out to these mortals. In fact, I’m rather looking forward to seeing what you’re up to.”
Ah, that’s right. Come to think of it, demonic familiars didn’t typically care about their masters or mortals in general. It was highly unlikely that this Beholder would warn the gnome or anyone else that a murderous monster was in their midst. Therefore, not alerting the gnome was actually the normal response for a demon.
“I’m sure you won’t mind if I just quietly observe, right?”
The fake elf lightly shook its head in response. If this demon was content to simply analyze the creature in order to sate its own curiousity, then the Mimic would be happy to oblige. Especially since the unspoken alternative was rather clear. Boxxy was so very close to obtaining more power, so it wasn’t about to ruin this chance by needlessly causing a ruckus.
“That gland you have there,” said the demon, “it’s not something typically found in Doppelgangers, right?”
Boxxy shook its head.
“The shape and size looks familiar… That’s a mimic’s Mana Locator Gland, is it not?”
His question was answered with a slight nod.
“Could it be… a Ranked Up mimic!?”
Boxxy nodded once again.
“How unusual! And you’re in this place, then that means- Oh, I see! So that’s how it was! Wah hah hah hah hah!”
The Beholder bared its fangs as it smiled viciously at the elf, its head bobbing up and down slightly as it laughed inwardly.
“Thruumitt!” whispered the gnome underneath the demon. “I told you not to bother anyone in here! Face the front and close your mouth!”
The Beholder, Thruumitt, rolled his near-dozen eyes and turned around to face the front. Technically speaking, Boxxy wasn’t ‘in here’ when the order was given, so he had taken the opportunity to alleviate its boredom somewhat. The gnome merely threw a quick glance at the elf behind him and tossed out a curt ‘Sorry about that’ before turning back to the front.
Boxxy didn’t particularly mind. Far from it, it was actually relieved that its cover seemed to be safe for the moment. However, it had to reconsider how shallow its shapeshifting was. It lucked out this time, but being an elf only on the surface nearly got it in trouble and it didn’t want to repeat that mistake. Reconstructing its entire internal structure was not something it had considered doing before, so it made a mental note to practice it later. It wouldn’t be too difficult since elves were pretty much like humans on the inside except for a few key differences, like how elven hearts were on the right side rather than the left.
And if there was one thing Boxxy T. Morningwood knew everything about, it was human anatomy.
That little ‘conversation’ just now also served to remind the Mimic that it had been a bit complacent lately. The monster’s turn in line was still several minutes away, so it made use of this time to run some final checks before the moment of truth. That’s how it realized that something was indeed out of place.
The monster had accidentally set its fake age as ‘17 fish,’ a leftover from when it played around with the Essence Concealment Skill a few weeks ago. If it wasn’t for that gatekeeper’s machine-like attitude when performing his duties, then this was definitely going to cause trouble. The monster quickly corrected it to display ‘17 years’ and turned its attention towards dealing with the other problem it spotted.
Namely, the eye-shaped insignia on its right shoulder. It didn’t think much of it at first, but Boxxy realized that most of the people on the other two lines to its left had identical insignias that were different from its own. Theirs was a shield-shaped crest that had a short, vertical line across the middle - the same symbol that was engraved on the front door. Boxxy’s shoulder patch, on the other hand, was in the shape of an open eye.
“Snack,” it called out to its familiar, who should still be waiting outside of the town’s ‘wall.’
“What is it, Master?” replied Xera. “Did something happen?”
“Everyone in this guild has the same thing on their shoulder. It doesn’t match mine.”
“Ah, you mean the guild crest?”
“Not an issue. Just say you left that guild due to personal reasons and you should be fine.”
“What was it called again?”
“Brotherhood of the Third Eye, Master.”
“That’s a strange name.”
“Is it? I think it’s a pretty good one to be honest. Definitely better than ‘Order of the Black Wand,’ at least.”
“But what about the other two?
“... Other two what?”
“Isn’t there a Brotherhood of the First Eye Master?”
The succubus sighed through the thought link.
“No, Master, the guild is called the Brotherhood of the Third Eye.”
“Next!” shouted the blonde female clerk at the front, drawing the Mimic’s attention.
The gnome and its Beholder familiar went up to the now empty counter in response. She had to actually lean over the counter in order to maintain eye contact with the tiny Warlock in a rather compromising posture. They spoke briefly about making some kind of appointment, which caused the gnome to become rather irate as the person he was looking for seemed to have left town yesterday. He said a few unkind words before leaving in a huff. Thruumitt shot Boxxy a pleading look that seemed to say ‘please kill this idiot’ as he floated by, but was brilliantly ignored.
The disguised Mimic took a few stops forward and greeted the elven clerk.
“Hello!” it said with a rather cheerful tone.
The monster was inwardly glad this receptionist wasn’t human, otherwise its Butcher of Humanity Perk would have made things difficult.
“Hello there, sir,” she replied with a bright smile that didn’t lose to Boxxy’s. “What can I help you with?”
“I need to see a Warlock trainer,” answered Boxxy.
“Then I will need to confirm a few things. Are you a member of the Order of the Black Wand?”
“Do you have any current guild affiliations?”
“What about past guild affiliations?”
The receptionist craned her in order to get a good look at the ginger elf’s shoulder.
“Ah, Brotherhood of the Third Eye, right?”
“Let me guess - left due to personal reasons?”
“I understand completely, sir. Those humans can be quite insufferable sometimes.”
As expected of Snack, things went quite smoothly.
“Would you be interested in joining our guild, instead? I can guarantee that we are very strict about anti-elven discrimination around here.”
“No, thank you.”
“Ah, that’s a shame,” she mumbled with a slouch of her shoulders. She then straightened herself up and resumed her questioning. “Are you alright with submitting yourself to a Full Appraisal?”
“Okay, and lastly - what sort of Warlock training do you need?”
“I need to get past Level 25.”
“Well, you’re in luck, sir. We have a trainer available right now, so you can get set up immediately. I just need you to pay the training fee of 500 GP and I can send you on your way.”
Boxxy hesitated for a moment. It was obvious there was going to be some fee involved, but 500 GP was much more expensive than it thought. Even if the price was hiked up for non-members, this was clearly too much, wasn’t it? The receptionist seemed to notice what it was thinking and smiled reassuringly.
“I understand it seems a bit expensive, but please understand that finding a Level 50 Warlock who also has a Level 4 Mentor Skill is rather difficult. The individual I will be refering you to is also a Scribe, so he is perfectly capable of performing the Appraisal as well.”
This receptionist had a point. Perhaps it wasn’t so bad considering it was a one-time fee. Especially since this person would never meet with Boxxy under normal circumstances.
“Okay, I’ll pay.”
The monster reached inside its robes and pulled out a rather heavy coin pouch it had prepared beforehand. It counted out 500 GP worth of coins and placed them in the counter in front of the wide-eyed clerk. She was just about to suggest some sort of loan or payment plan since she didn’t expect a young elven lad to have that much gold on him. Her experienced eyes told her the heavy pouch he showed had at least 3, maybe 4 times more money in it. He was quite well off for a stray elf, wasn’t he?
“One moment, please,” she said while scooping up the coins and stowing them away somewhere behind the counter. She then pulled out a small scrap of paper that already had some markings on it and started writing on it. When she was done, she stamped it with the Order of the Black Wand’s seal and handed it to her client.
“Here you go, sir. Just head through that door on your right and enter the third office on the left. Show this ticket to the bearded gentleman inside and he’ll handle the rest.”
“I see,” said Boxxy while looking at the door in question.
“Is there anything else you will be needing today?”
“This trainer is a Scribe?”
“He is indeed.”
“Could he appraise a magic item for me?”
Boxxy was quite eager to find out the exact properties of the fancy skull-staff it picked up in that dungeon. That’s why it had covertly brought it out of its Storage and currently had it slung over its shoulder, although it had covered the intricate staff head in cloth so as to avoid attracting too much attention.
“Of course, although that will be a separate charge of 25 GP.”
At least this fee was more reasonable. Boxxy promptly paid it and was given another scrap of paper half a minute later. It had a bunch of numbers and letters that seemed like gibberish, much like the first one. This was probably some code or shorthand that only the guild’s employees knew about.
“Just give that to the trainer along with the first one,” she explained. “Now, anything else I can help you with?”
The way she asked that last question had a weird undertone to it that Boxxy couldn’t quite pick up on. On second thought, this elven clerk was behaving in a subtly different way from when she spoke to that gnome. She had a bright, natural smile instead of the forced one she wore earlier, and seemed to throw some meaningful looks at the Mimic, even going so far as dropping a wink or two of her golden eyes.
“No, that will be all. Thank you,” said Boxxy in a dry manner, clearly intent on moving on with its day. “”
“Ah… You’re welcome…” offered the receptionist with a voice full of disappointment.
The socially inept monster, on the other hand, had no idea this woman actually found its plain appearance rather cute and was trying to flirt with it. She was usually the one getting hit on and she took pride in her appearance, so having her advances shot down like that was a bitter pill to swallow. Even if it was in her best interest.
Strictly speaking, though, she never even stood a chance. Her attempts at seduction would fail completely even if she threw off her clothes, went on all fours, presented her exposed rear and wiggled her butt at the creature while shouting ‘Do me!’ like a bitch in heat. Which, by the way, was something Xera had already tried a few times with zero success.
Boxxy proceeded to the door in the corner of the waiting area while the clerk yelled out for the next person in line to step up. It walked through it and found itself in a sparsely decorated hallway with a number of doors lining either side of it and a staircase on the opposite end. It went to the third door on the left as instructed and noted the plaque that was nailed to it. The monster couldn’t read the words ‘J. Grimebeard, Warlock Trainer’ on it, but it could at least count to three so it was pretty confident this was the right place. It then followed the common etiquette that Snack had taught it about and knocked on the door.
“Come in,” came a dignified voice from within, prompting Boxxy to enter into the cramped, albeit tidy office.
“G’day, laddie,” greeted the gray-haired gray-bearded dwarf sitting behind the desk in the corner. “Name’s Grimebeard, in case ye couldn’t tell.”
He wore elegant-looking black robes and had a pointed, wide-brimmed hat. His face looked considerably wrinkled, much older than the Scribe Boxxy met at the town gates, yet his voice was oddly full of vigor.
“Hello,” replied the fake elf. “I’m Chester.”
“So what can I do fer ye, Chester?” he asked while putting away the letter he was writing.
“I’m here for some training and an item appraisal,” explained Boxxy while putting the two tickets it got earlier on the desk. The dwarf promptly picked them up and gave them a once over.
“Alright, then we will start with the Full Appraisal,” he said while getting up from his seat and walking around to where the would-be-elf was standing.
“Ah, do ye mind taking a seat?” he asked while gesturing at the chair in front of his desk. “I cannae reach that high otherwise.”
The Mimic wasn’t quite sure what this was about, but did as instructed, putting its eyesight on the same level as the dwarf’s. The Warlock called Grimebeard then placed a hand on either side of the monster’s head and chanted “Full Appraisal.”
Boxxy was expecting to feel the same skin-crawling sensation it experienced when it was still in captivity, but nothing of the sort happened. It instead had the odd feeling of something inside it itching for a bit, signifying that the invasive Full Appraisal had been safely redirected.
|General Information||Attributes||Job Information|
|Summon Familiar||9||76%||Staff Mastery||3||48%|
|Power Overwhelming||8||60%||Ruin Mastery||9||56%|
Grimebeard frowned when he saw this unbalanced Status. Of particular concern were the Summon Familiar and Demonology Skills. He usually told his pupils to avoid picking those since, while powerful, demons would always conspire against their masters. And immortal beings with hundreds, possibly thousands of years of life experience were bound to find a way to indirectly cause their master harm if given enough time.
Still, he held in the urge to chastise what he thought was a foolish youth. Skill counseling was not what this elf came into his office for, not to mention that he was an outsider, a freelancer. Those people always did what they wanted and wouldn’t listen to his sage advice anyway.
“Right, gimme a sec.”
The dwarf walked back to his desk and quickly jotted down the details of the Full Appraisal, including the Attributes and Skill composition, noting the apparent lack of Perks. He then walked back to where Boxxy was sitting and put both hands on its head once more.
“Job Advancement: Warlock!”
A pale blue light engulfed the dwarf, which then flowed through his hands and into the shapeshifted monster’s head. The whole process was over with in a few seconds.
The maximum Level of your Warlock Job has been increased to 50.
The maximum Level of your Ruin Mastery Skill has been increased to 15.
The maximum Level of your Domination Mastery Skill has been increased to 15.
Congratulations, you are now a Level 34 Warlock! INT +18. MNT +18. END +18.
You have learned a new Spell: True Darkness
You have learned a new Spell: Massive Rejection
“... What?” blurted out the Mimic.
“Hm? Something wrong, laddie?”
“I just… gained Warlock Levels… out of nowhere…”
“Ah yeah, that’s natural. Yer Job keeps gathering XP even if it’s capped out,” explained Grimebeard, “so it’s not that strange to gain one or two Levels after the cap gets raised.”
“Oh! That’s pretty convenient!” noted Boxxy. It was quite pleased that all those things it killed with Spells so far hadn’t gone completely to waste.
“Eh, not really. Even if it keeps accumulating, the XP ye get this way is hugely reduced. Ye’d probably have gained at least twice the number of Levels by now if ye had advanced yer Job right away.”
The dwarf didn’t mind saying this much since it was directly related to the elf’s request. Besides, the truly clueless face that young man was making was quite pitiful, so the old teacher couldn’t really help himself.
“I see. Thank you.”
“Yer welcome, laddie. So let’s see this magic item ye brought.”
Boxxy stood up and unwrapped the staff on its back, then presented it to the dwarf. Grimebeard stared wide-eyed at it, unable to contain his shock and surprise. He reached out a trembling hand and placed it on the handle.
“Identify, Appraise Item, Detect Enchant,” he chanted with an almost quivering voice.
Information about the staff’s properties flowed into his mind. A strange glint appeared in his eye as he smiled at the elven lad. He opened his mouth to speak, but the young mister Underwood had beaten him to it.
“Bad things will happen if you lie to me, old man.”
The elf’s unveiled threat immediately cut off the dwarf’s train of thought. He bit back his words and silently admitted that this dopey-looking kid was sharper than he looked. The dwarf was about to try and deceive him that this was item was just a decorative walking stick and not even a mage’s staff, then offer to buy it off him for ‘a good price.’ But his little scheme had been sunk before he even attempted it. The guild was sure to have his ass on a platter if he was caught falsifying Appraisal results again, so he decided to change his approach.
“I wouldn’t even dream of it, laddie! I was just shocked since it is quite the excellent item! Here, let me write the details down for ye!”
The dwarf hurriedly returned to his desk, pulled out a form of some kind and started writing down the staff’s information. Boxxy carefully observed him as he did so, keeping watch for any more suspicious behavior. The monster may be oblivious when it came to matters of romance, but it was an expert in the field of greed. There’s no way it would fail to notice the way this dwarf was blatantly coveting its shiny thing.
Of course, the nature of its threat was a very direct one. ‘Lie to me and I will eat your face’ is pretty much what it meant. In fact, it considered doing that anyway, but gave up on it since it would probably cause more trouble than it was worth.
Once Grimebeard was done, he handed the sheet of paper to Boxxy, who looked it over while nodding to itself.
Yup, can’t read a single word of it.
Its education regarding reading and writing was practically non-existent at this point, so it rolled up the appraisal results and stowed them away inside its robes. Snack or Fizzy should be able to tell it what the paper said, although its validity was questionable. The monster decided it would get a second opinion on the staff and find another scribe to Appraise it. It wrapped up the valuable item, slung it over its back and curtly left the office on its way out of the building.
Grimebeard sat in silence for about a minute after the door to his office was slammed shut. Once he made sure that elf was gone and nobody was listening in, he reached under his desk and pulled out crystalline cube that was about 8 centimeters on all sides. He tapped its topmost side 3 times, causing it to flash in response. He then brought it up to his face and started whispering into it.
“Iretta. Chosoros. Elemus. Crokara. Ronbus. Epiporia. Afurte. Mekon.”
The cube flashed again and its insides flickered to life. The slightly transparent image of a face obscured by a thick hood was projected in the air, directly in front of Grimebeard. The figure carefully observed the stern-faced dwarf and spoke with a distorted voice that came out of the cube itself.
“You’re contacting us way ahead of schedule.”
“I know, but I have an urgent job for you. One that both of us are bound to profit from.”
It wasn’t every day that an Artifact-grade item crossed Grimebeard’s desk, and he wasn’t about to let it go so easily.