The front door to the Bootlick Craftsman Union’s office was flung open and a ginger haired elf was shoved through it and into the dusty street. A buxom succubus and a 1-meter tall steel golem were also roughly kicked out of the building a few moments later.
“And don’t come back!” came a man’s voice from inside, just before the door was slammed shut.
“Hey!” shouted Fizzy while banging on the door. “What about my stuff?! I paid for those!”
The thick oak door flew open once again with enough force to make the golem stagger backwards. A sealed wooden crate that was almost as tall as her was then roughly tossed through the gap, landing on the dirty ground with a thunderous rattle.
“Watch it, asshole! There’s some delicate things in there!” she complained.
That crate was filled with freshly bought Artificer parts to help further the Mimic’s training. The thought that that brick-headed bouncer might have bent or broken something just now was infuriating, to say the least.
“Should’ve thought of that before you caused trouble!” shouted back the muscular dwarf from inside before shutting the door closed once again.
“Hey, Bo- Chester,” said Fizzy while practically fuming with anger. “It’s okay if I smash this place, right? Because I really want to smash this place right now!”
“While I agree with you that the building could be more on fire,” chimed in the scowling Xera, “this is neither the time nor the place for that.”
Truthfully speaking, the succubus was far more outraged than the childish golem. She wanted to burn not only this wooden warehouse-like building, but turn this entire shithole of a town into ash. How dare they mistreat her beloved Master like that?! Unfortunately, doing so would be counterproductive to say the least. Besides, the Master in question didn’t seem to care, so mass arson would have to remain as just a fantasy. At least for the moment.
“You’re just gonna let them get away with this?!” insisted Fizzy.
“It’s fine, this much is nothing,” said the disguised Boxxy with an oddly cheerful tone. “I got what I came here for anyway.”
The reason why the Mimic had set foot into the Craftsman Union building was to meet back up with Fizzy and get a second opinion on its skull-adorned staff. It had to pay an extra 25 GP for the identification service, but it honestly didn’t mind. At the very least, it proved that the shifty dwarf from earlier actually did his job properly, since the two sets of Appraisal results were identical.
And they painted quite the tasty picture.
An adamantite greatstaff said to have been created by the hands of a demon who crossed into the physical realm under his own power. It is infused with the essence of the Beyond, and only those who have embraced the shadows may fully unlock its potential.
Enchantments: Greater Channeling, Greater Intelligence, Lesser Magic Resistance, Reduced Weight
Estimated Value: Priceless
This was the information recorded on the two pieces of paper the Mimic held in its hands. Of course, it knew very little about what any of these things meant at first, but the female elf that appraised the item was kind enough to teach it the details. Much like the receptionist from earlier, she also seemed to fancy the ginger-haired, plain-faced elf, which slightly confused the socially awkward monster. Still, she had gone out of her way to educate the clueless creature for free, so it decided this behavior was probably a good thing.
To begin with, the Type of the item was rather obvious. Its only real meaning was to make it clear which Mastery Skill would apply to it. Boxxy had already acquired the Staff Mastery Skill by beating several things to death with it, granting it a relatively tiny boost to STR and END. The staff’s heft and hardiness actually made it a surprisingly effective bludgeoning weapon.
The next field was arguably the most important one. Every item could be categorized into one of 8 tiers of Quality, and each tier had its own degree of performance. At the lower end was equipment of Poor, Standard and Uncommon Quality, which made up the vast majority of items. These arms and armor were completely mundane and entirely unmagical in every way. Most foot soldiers and beginner adventurers very rarely had equipment above Uncommon quality.
Mid-range items were those of Superior or Masterwork Quality, which typically indicated one or two enchantments in addition to increased effectiveness. It is said that no regular artisan could hope to produce items that were above these tiers. Producing a Masterwork item usually required inborn talent, decades of experience, months of hard work and the highest quality ingredients and materials, so to go beyond this degree of Quality was widely considered as nothing but a pipe dream.
The high-end of the Quality spectrum were items whose origins were shrouded in mystery and often involved some outrageous circumstances. Artifacts like Boxxy’s staff were relics of great power that were truly one of a kind, and supposedly only a few hundred of those existed on the face of this world. Phantasmal-tier items, on the other hand, were even more powerful than that. They numbered in the dozens and each and every one of them was surrounded by a myriad of legends and myths. And the ultimate tier of Divine Quality items were so exceptionally rare and powerful, that countries would gladly wage wars in order to secure them for themselves. In fact, only 3 of them had ever been recorded in the Lodrak Empire’s 640 years of history, and two of them had eventually led to armed conflict.
Suffice it to say, the staff called Voidcaller was an item with outstanding performance that dwarfed the vast majority of its kind. An offensive rating of C and defensive rating of E+ meant if used as a weapon, it would have the same effectiveness as a two-handed wrought iron warhammer if used as a melee weapon. The guild official explained that most staves typically had the lowest possible score of F in both fields, as they were typically used by spellslingers rather than close-quarters fighters, and that both of those ratings did not take any magical properties into account.
The Durability on the other hand was how resistant the item was to being damaged. A weapon with poor Durability, for example, would needed a lot of maintenance and would be extremely prone to breaking in combat. This property would vary slightly depending on the quality of the material and the skill of the crafter, but the deciding factor was the type of material used in its construction. Forged steel, for example, had an average Durability rating of C+. Iron was usually around D level, while mithril was around B+. Items forged out of adamantite, on the other hand, were nigh-indestructible, so Voidcaller having a Durability rating of AA+ was not really out of place.
What was out of place, however, was its Magic Amplification. Most Enchanters struggled to produce staves that went above 15% bonus damage to Spells, so seeing one that provided a 30% amplification was quite extraordinary. The fact that this consisted of a 10% bonus to all magic and an additional 20% boost to Shadow-attuned magic was extremely impressive, as the method to produce this type of compound enchantment had been lost to time. It was truly befitting an Artifact-grade staff.
The number and quality of magical effects did not disappoint either. According to what the Scribe that appraised it said, Greater Channeling reduced the MP cost of all Spells by 10% while Greater Intelligence was what provided that truly tasty boost of +50 INT. Both of these effects were things that Boxxy was able to confirm on its own, but the third one came as a pleasant surprise.
Lesser Magic Resistance provided it with an additional 3% defense against all forms of magic. The Reduced Weight effect, on the other hand, cut down the weapon’s mass down to a third of what it should be, which was a good thing considering it was still much heavier than it looked. Boxxy might manage to handle the raw weight due to its high STR Attribute, but a regular caster would likely injure themselves if they tried to lift that sort of weight.
The reason for this was that, although largely considered unbreakable, the pitch-black metal known as adamantite was also extremely heavy. This drawback was so bad that the Reduced Weight enchantment was something that was pretty much mandatory for all gear made out of this absurd and rare material.
And last, though by no means least, was the revelation that this item came with an Ignition Ability. This was something that many items of Artifact and higher Quality possessed, and was what truly set these priceless treasures apart from the rest. It allowed such arms and armor to produce a one-of-a-kind magical effect when activated, which typically involved supplying the item with a certain amount of MP while chanting the Ignition Ability’s name. There were some instances where a relic demanded specific conditions or reagents in order to properly ‘ignite,’ although such cases were quite rare.
The staff called Voidcaller was capable of enhancing summoning-type magic when provided with 666 MP. Although the exact effects seemed to differ based on which Skill was being used, in Boxxy’s case it meant that it allowed the Warlock to instantly activate the Summon Familiar Skill at no additional cost. And the reason it knew this was that it ‘ignited’ the weapon to try it out immediately after it realized that this was a thing it could do. This caused a bright red doorway of light to appear in the middle of the office and a disoriented Xera to fell out of it, much to the dismay of the elven Scribe at the scene.
The startled girl attempted to chastise the elven boy for doing dangerous, unnecessary things like that, but gave up when she realized that the unrepentant creature was completely ignoring her. The way this Chester Underwood stared unabashedly at the practically naked succubus did not help soothe her ire in the slightest, either.
Of course, the monster was not having lecherous thoughts, but merely confirming there was nothing wrong with the succubus’s body. A summoned familiar’s strength would normally be based on how much MP was used for the summoning, so having the Skill consume a grand total of 0 MP should have meant that Xera wouldn’t even have a body. And yet the succubus was at her full strength, much to Boxxy’s surprise. Then again, the actual method through which she appeared was quite different, so the monster merely accepted it as the Artifact’s magic at work.
Although it was a bit unsure initially, it very quickly determined that this Ignition Ability was incredibly tasty. Not only did it eliminate the activation time for the Summon Familiar Skill, but it also cut down on the MP cost without sacrificing performance. Granted, it could only be activated once every 2 hours, but it was still a major boon in an emergency situation. After all, the Mimic seriously doubted it would have the spare MP and/or time to activate the Summon Familiar Skill normally if it was in the middle of a fight, especially one where a familiar had lost its life and had to be re-summoned.
Actually, wasn’t this weapon too tasty?
This Voidcaller was so perfect for Boxxy that it almost seemed like it was custom made to fit its needs. If the monster had found this weapon before it got captured, it would have attributed the event to good fortune and moved on with its life. However, it now knew about the existence of the Goddess of Chance, so it couldn’t help but notice the possibility of interference. Thinking back on the chain of events immediately prior to its Rank Up, it wasn’t a stretch to say that the only reason it got its hands on this Artifact was due to that guy’s manipulations.
Then again, as the God of Probability himself had said, a prediction is different from a prophecy. The meaning behind those words was that there existed an element of randomness in everything, and that no outcome had a 100% success rate. He also mentioned he doesn’t want to interfere directly too much since it makes things boring. Therefore, it was also possible that Boxxy was overthinking things and that it happened upon this item through blind luck and nothing more.
Ultimately, however, the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of things didn’t really matter. Whether Boxxy got Voidcaller through some divine plan or good fortune was debatable, but irrelevant. Heck, those things were practically one and the same whenever Willy was concerned, so the monster simply concluded it should be thankful to the deity for the tasty stick and moved on with its life all the same.
While it was at it, the monster decided to have two other things appraised as well, one of which was Fizzy’s gauntlet. The gnome had been in the same building for a while, so it quickly found her and dragged her before the still upset Scribe. The female elf was a bit apprehensive about touching a cursed item, but not enough to keep her from performing her job.
Left Hand of the Forsaken Sentinel
An ancient gauntlet from an age long past, forged out of a steel alloy and fortified with magic. It is well made and has survived the passage of time as well as numerous battles with no permanent damage to it. A terrible power dwells within, for it still bears the grudge of its former wielder.
Type: Plate Armor
Enchantments: Curse of the Steelshaper, Enhanced Durability, Self Repair, Well Fitted
Estimated Value: Priceless
It was another Artifact, which was unsurprising considering both items were retrieved from a dungeon. It seemed far less impressive than the staff at first glance, though. The enchantments were mostly self-explanatory and seemed rather low-impact, not to mention it lacked an Ignition Ability. Then again, being able to completely change one’s species was doubtless an impressive feat in and of itself.
A long thrusting dagger. This weapon was forged out of pure mithril by the dwarven smiths of Einharvel. It boasts superior sharpness and durability.
Estimated Value: 550 GP
The monster’s trusty mithril daggers were the other thing it decided to get appraised. As expected, they were completely unenchanted. Seeing this, the elven Scribe immediately offered her services as an Enchanter, but Boxxy decided against it. An item could only be enchanted once, and the process carried the risk of breaking the item completely. The monster therefore said in no uncertain terms that it did not believe the elf was skilled enough to be allowed to work on its shiny dagger.
Those crass words really hurt the elven woman’s pride, which proved to be the last straw. Even if she thought this elf was attractive, there was only so much rudeness she could forgive. First, he abruptly and without warning ignited his weapon, an act that would be considered hostile under normal circumstances. He then proceeded to shamelessly ogle the slutty demon it called forth, not to mention how he stood up and left without saying a word, only to come back with a befuddled steel golem. The elf woman was willing to look past those incidents as misunderstandings, but having her abilities as an Enchanter blatantly insulted like that was the one thing she would not tolerate. Especially since she was nice enough to educate this moron on things that should have been common sense.
Which is when she signaled for security, at which point the Mimic was ‘escorted’ out of the guild building. Boxxy had already gotten everything it needed out of this place, so it simply went with the flow and let the brick-headed bouncer show it the way out. It wasn’t about to cause a scene over something as minor as being shoved about a bit, not to mention it was in a considerably good mood.
That’s how it found itself in the middle of the street, with two of its minions and a crate of parts. Come to think of it, did that golem fulfil her duty?
“Fizzy, did you find out if you can get your Paladin Job advanced?” it asked matter-of-factly.
This was one of the things the golem was told to check out. She was given a bag of gold and told to stay out of trouble while she did so, then meet up at the Bootlick Craftsman Union.
“I did better than that!” exclaimed Fizzy. She put her hands on her hips and thrust her chest out with pride. “You’re now looking at a Level 28 Paladin!”
“Wait, you got past the Full Appraisal already?”
There were quite a few out-of-place things on her Status, so Boxxy was certain she would be denied outright. It was unlikely they’d attack her since these people seemed far more accepting of a talking golem than it anticipated, which is why it let her go on her own.
“I told that Paladin trainer how my life was saved by the obscure God of Probability, which is why I champion his name in return,” she explained. “I also fed them some line about how ‘bearing this horrible curse is penance for my past sins’ or whatever.”
“And that worked?”
“Oh yeah, they ate that shit up! I just listened to Snack’s advice about how those righteous types were suckers for self-sacrifice and repaying debts. Oh, right! Here’s the leftover money you gave me! Thanks ever so much for this!”
Fizzy pulled out a coin pouch from her trousers and handed it to Boxxy with a wide smile.
“... There’s more gold left over than I thought,” noted the Mimic as it put it away inside its robes.
“Yeah, I got a good price for the parts since I’m technically still a member of Erosa’s Craftsman Union.”
Every major city and many towns had their own version of a Craftsman Union guild. The reason for having multiple sister organizations instead of one big one was that, unlike adventurers, artisans very rarely travel around. Each settlement’s production and manufacturing community was different, so each place needed their own policies and standards. It just made management much easier on a whole, not to mention that smaller guilds got a slight tax break from the government.
“What about the Paladin training fee?” asked Boxxy.
“Well, that did cost quite a bit, but the people over there were super-impressed by my sob story and glorious steel frame, so I got it discounted to from 230 to 200 GP.”
What was with this unfair treatment?! How come Paladin training was less than half the price of Warlock training? Such blatant favoritism and discrimination was surely against the rules!
But on the other hand, that did mean that Boxxy didn’t have to shell out a whole 1,000 GP for training. Having the cost on both the Job advancement and the Artificer components reduced was definitely a good thing, especially since the monster had begrudgingly accepted those as necessary expenses for getting stronger. Honestly, if the gold coins weren’t so wonderfully shiny, it wouldn’t even bat an eye at spending them, but it didn’t have much choice. One typically had to use the power of money if they wanted to obtain something in a civilized society.
And speaking of society, the one Boxxy was a part of right now was currently taking a healthy amount of interest in the monster and its two companions. There were already 14 people who had stopped to stare at the odd trio, and more would gather without question. Causing a scene here was the exact opposite of ‘blending in,’ especially if any of those strangers had overheard the girls’ intentions of wrecking the guild building next to them. Which is why the monster-in-disguise immediately gave the order to leave the area.
The golem effortlessly picked up the heavy crate by lifting it above her head, then followed the other two as they made their escape. The crowd of curious onlookers kept their eyes on them for several seconds more before moving on with their lives. The monstrous trio ducked between some buildings and kept walking through the quiet alleyways until they found a good spot that was away from prying eyes.
Boxxy quickly stowed away the heavy crate of parts inside its Storage, while Xera shifted her appearance into that of a nondescript elven girl who wore a light leather outfit and changed her fake staff into a fake bow. While Warlocks walking around with their familiars out wasn’t exactly illegal, it wasn’t very covert, either. Masquerading as a group of adventurers was much more subtle, to say the least.
The Mimic then decided it was going to leave this place behind. It had already accomplished everything it wanted to do here, so lingering was pointless. Dangerous, even. Fizzy’s Full Appraisal would have left a record of her name and would serve as undeniable proof she had passed through here. Even if Appraisal results were strictly confidential, someone with an important-sounding title like Spymaster was sure to sniff them out eventually.
However, it would appear that the monster’s plans to head north would be slightly delayed. First it had to deal with those strangers who were blocking the alley’s exit. All five of them were male dwarves, clad in slightly matching light armor. Other common traits included strange tattoos around their eyes and on their cheeks, not to mention that they were quite well armed. The two identical ones on the left held compact crossbows that were already loaded. The one on the far right was unhooking a pair of axes from his hip, while his friend immediately to the left was licking the blade of his dagger. He was probably trying to be intimidating, but only made Boxxy wonder if that steel knife was particularly tasty.
The dwarf in the middle - the one carrying a large two-handed axe on his shoulder and was likely the leader of this little posse - took a few steps forward.
“Pardon me for a moment, sir,” he called out with mock politeness, “but would you be willing to donate to the Bootlick Charity Drive for Starving Orphans?”
The ginger-haired elf stared dumbly at this odd man, unable to comprehend what he was talking about.
“I don’t follow,” it said.
The thug-in-chief flashed an evil grin, showing a few of his gilded teeth.
“What, it’s no big deal. We’re just going relieve you of your excess baggage in order to help those in need. Namely myself and my compatriots.”
The other 4 thugs chuckled grimly, but their leader’s roundabout way of speaking only served to confuse the Mimic even more.
“Excuse me, Master,” said the disguised Xera through the telepathic link, “but I do believe these people are trying to take your shinies.”
“You’re trying to rob me?” said Boxxy to the would-be-thieves.
“That’s such a nasty way of putting it,” said the leader with a smirk. “‘Forced donation’ sounds so much better in my opinion.”
“Oh, how nice!” exclaimed Boxxy, much to everyone’s surprise.
“Really?” said Fizzy. “How is any of this ‘nice?’”
“I’ve never been mugged before,” said the strangely excited elf, “so I always wondered what it would be like!”
The thug’s attitude turned rotten when he saw his mark’s carefree attitude. The information he was given said that this guy was a clueless Warlock with more money than brains, so he wanted to toy with the boy a little. However, he had underestimated just how idiotic this elf truly was. This whelp clearly had no idea as to how deep the shit he was currently in truly was.
“You two,” he mumbled to the dwarves on his right. “Fire some warning shots. Into his face.”
The identical twins armed with crossbows didn’t hesitate in the slightest and fired a bolt each at the smiling elf’s head. One of them hit his right eye while the other pierced his forehead, striking with enough force to cause the young man to fall over backwards. The thug-in-chief scoffed mockingly at how easy that was. Now they just had to get rid of that familiar and the tiny golem, and they’d be practically rolling in it.
What should have been a corpse suddenly spoke up, sending the five criminals on high alert.
“Level 25. 30 at most. Way too weak. Only good as afternoon snack.”
The ginger elf stood up slowly while saying some ominous things with a monotone voice. The wooden bolts embedded in his skull fell out on their own as what should have been fatal wounds closed themselves up in a matter of moments. The thugs felt chills going down their spines when they saw this clearly unnatural creature before them. Nothing in the briefing said anything about this! Their nervousness turned to fear and then to panic as they watched what should have been an easy mark transform into a whirlwind of steel, teeth and flesh which descended upon them like Death incarnate.
The town of Bootlick was about to experience a drastic spike in murders, followed by a period of unnaturally low crime rate.