“Snack, get ready for the transfer.”
Boxxy’s sudden telepathic communication caught Xera slightly off-guard. She and Kora had been on standby for the past 2 hours, ever since they found traces of life in those decrepit sewer tunnels. Of course, in their case ‘on standby’ meant that the fiend was buried balls-deep in Xera’s ass. However, as fun as it was for them, it was hardly the ideal position for what was about to happen next, so they hurriedly separated and straightened themselves out.
“Ready, Master,” reported the still out-of-breath succubus.
Several seconds passed in silence as Xera braced herself for what was to come. Her body suddenly started shaking, vibrating even. It grew blurry, almost as if it were out of focus, and then grew slightly transparent. There was a soft, barely audible popping noise, followed by a puff of thick, green smoke that came out from around her feet and smelled vaguely of sulfur. The smoke cleared up a second later to reveal that Xera was gone, and in her place was a 130 centimeter tall, black-skinned humanoid with no face.
Boxxy grumbled slightly as it curled up on the floor and wrapped itself in its favorite chest-shaped shell. Even if it had gotten more or less used to humanoid forms by now, this was still far more comfortable. It was just a pity that it didn’t get a lot of opportunities where it could assume this form in peace since it had to work on maintaining its fake identity.
“What should I do, Master?” asked Xera through the telepathic link.
“Stay out of sight until I have to go back. This shouldn’t take long.”
What the Doppelganger pretending to be a Mimic pretending to be a chest had used just now was a Spell called Transfamiliar. It was a type of teleportation that allowed the Warlock and one of its familiars to change places by tapping into the reality-warping energy of the Beyond. It employed radically different principles to the more traditional Spatial Magic, which was why it differed slightly in function and application. And the reason Boxxy knew about this oddly named Spell, was because of its most recently acquired Warlock Skill.
Description: The Warlock’s connection with the demonic realm allows him to tap into the unstable powers of the Beyond.
Requirements: Level 35 Warlock, Demonology
Activation Time: N/A
Effect: Grants knowledge of a Demonic Spell at Level 1, 3, 6, 8 and 10 of this Skill.
Increases the effectiveness of the INT Attribute by 1% per Level of this Skill.
This was the monster’s third demon-related Skill after Summon Familiar and Demonology. It was a natural choice to look for ways to strengthen its familiars further, especially since Snack and Arms were the main way it applied its Warlock Job. Both of them were excellent minions that were just the right combination of dependable, flexible and expendable. And this demonic duo would become a trio within the week, as the Mimic’s Demonology Skill was poised to reach Level 8 almost any day now. It was looking forward to having yet another minion do its bidding and help further its goals.
However, the Demonic Insight Skill didn’t seem particularly useful in and of itself. The rather modest boost to the monster’s INT Attribute was welcome, but the Spells it provided seemed to be oriented towards utility rather than enhancement or offense. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, though.
Transfamiliar, which was gained at Level 3 of the Skill, was quite the convenient Spell, although it did have an obnoxiously long chant. At least that drawback was alleviated somewhat by the Chant Reduction Skill the Mimic acquired at Warlock Level 30. This passive Skill allowed the monster to activate all of its Spells a bit faster by skipping certain parts of their chants without affecting their effectiveness.
“Arms, where’s the prey?” it asked once it had gotten its bearings.
“Over there, behind that rubble.”
Kora pointed towards the collapsed section of the cylindrical tunnel they were in. Boxxy walked up to the pile of rubble and peered through the small, head-sized opening its familiar had made earlier. It saw the swaying, reddish light of torches and heard the distant voices of people. This place was most definitely home to someone, which meant it was a perfect spot for it to feed on people without attracting too much unwanted attention.
Well, that was the plan initially, although things didn’t work out quite as expected. When the Mimic had first arrived here it had sought out some unsavory criminal elements in order to unload the Empire-forged arms and armor it was carrying. And while it did find people willing to buy them without too much trouble, it had a disagreement with them concerning the price.
The representatives it met with demanded that Boxxy sell them goods in question for the nominal price of ‘fuck all,’ which was obviously unacceptable. Finding themselves at an impasse, the two parties then engaged in an intense bout of negotiation. When an amicable agreement couldn’t be reached, the Mimic kindly requested to meet with the employer of these stubborn individuals so that they could work things out between them like gentlemen. It was a request to which those fellows readily consented.
Long story short, an influential mob boss and 30 of his top men had disappeared without a trace, literally overnight. Word of this shocking event spread through the city like wildfire. That particular criminal was known to have connections to many influential people and was largely considered to be untouchable. He was known to employ corruption, blackmail, hostages and all other sorts of underhanded methods in order to keep the authorities out of his hair.
So it really should come as no surprise that having his mansion ransacked, smashed up and partially burned down would be big news. The dire state his place of residence was found in made it abundantly clear that its residents did not meet with a pleasant fate, even though there was no concrete evidence that they were killed. It was as if a vengeful tornado of violence and anger had swept through it without leaving more than a few drops of blood behind at the scene.
However, that was hardly the end of it. The bizarre event repeated itself the very next day as another allegedly criminal organization had been dismantled completely, including their illegal slavery racket. This was then followed by the news that an underground guild of thieves and robbers was wiped out the day after in much the same way.
Both the citizens and the authorities had become convinced that someone was targeting these criminal elements, likely out of some personal sense of justice or thirst for revenge. It didn’t take long for them to start referring to this mysterious individual or group as ‘the Sandman,’ although the vigilante in question had no idea as to why they were calling it that.
While it was true that the black, dried up ashes left behind by Boxxy’s Cadaver Absorption Skill could be seen as sand-like, the Mimic didn’t actually leave any of those behind. It was planning to stick around here for quite a while, so it wanted to avoid leaving conspicuous remains like those behind. That was why it made a point of carrying a bucket, a mop, and several jugs of clean water inside its Storage at all times in order to clean those up. It could of course simply eat the ashes, but it didn’t want to do that unless it really had to. After all, they tasted almost as bad as Nasty did.
And so, despite its best efforts, the Mimic still ended up causing a commotion. It didn’t like this development one bit, as it had intended to prey on targets that society wouldn’t miss. Surely notorious criminals fit that bill, right? However, that was clearly not the case, and now it had a reputation it didn’t want. Rumors that a merciless vigilante was hunting criminal elements was sure to cause said elements to go into hiding or step up their security, which in turn would make Boxxy’s search for dinner all the more difficult.
At the very least the city of Azurvale didn’t seem to have a clue as to this Sandman’s real identity, which was good. The monster briefly considered lying low for a while, but the damage was already done. Besides Xera had pointed out that this ‘Sandman’ persona might even prove to be useful later on, so there was no real reason for Boxxy to change its habits. Which was why it was currently in an underground tunnel, looking to make lunch out of yet more undesirables.
It was eager to finish things up down here and get back to blending in with the other adventurers, so it momentarily undid its chesty transformation. Once it was back to being the size of a young child, it crawled through the opening in the rubble that Kora had made earlier. It then quietly re-cast the Transfamiliar Spell to get the oversized fiend on the other size of the blockage, as making enough room for the fiend to pass through it would raise too much noise. Boxxy crawled through the hole a second time and assumed its preferred shape once more.
Now that both of them were through, they started walking through the abandoned waterways. The stone brick passage they found themselves in was only about 2 meters tall, so Kora had to move forward while crouching down in order to fit inside. She also had to keep her head low, otherwise her horns might scrape against the low ceiling. Her posture was uncomfortable and awkward, but at the very least this part of the tunnel system didn’t have any stagnant water stinking it up, so there was that.
The two of them steadily made their way along the straight tunnel, towards the flickering torchlight ahead. They arrived at a small T-shaped junction, with the passage splitting left and right. Boxxy commanded Kora to stay put, activated its Stealth Skill, and peered around the right corner - the one the light was coming from. The passage it was in fed into a large cylindrical chamber that appeared to have people in it. It couldn’t quite see them, but it most definitely heard multiple voices coming from within.
The Mimic colored its chest-shaped shell a dark gray to match its surroundings and crept steadily forward, making sure to remain on high alert. Once the spider-chest reached the end of the tunnel, it pressed itself against the right side of it and took a good look around. The chamber appeared to be some sort of old cistern or water reservoir, as it was at least 30 meters in diameter and had a height of about 7 meters, although any water that was once here had long ago dried up. Several columns of light shone down from round holes in the ceiling - likely old wells that had been sealed up by metal grates. However, the things that provided most of the visibility down here were numerous torches that lined the far edge of the room and were placed around the numerous stone columns that kept the ceiling from collapsing.
And in that lit-up portion of the room stood a group of 9 elves. Five of them were huddled around a small bonfire with a metal pot on it, preparing what appeared to be some type of soup. The other three were lying down on some makeshift bedding, while the final one was off to the side with his back turned towards the rest and appeared to be taking a leak. Judging from their clothing and depressing atmosphere, not to mention the torn up tents that barely provided any shelter, these 9 appeared to be nothing more than simple hobos squatting down here. Upon closer inspection, the Mimic spotted a frayed rope ladder was dangling from one of the well openings overhead, likely their way in and out of the place.
Boxxy then suddenly had an epiphany. Thinking back on its brief stay in Erosa, the monster realized it had killed a large number of bums, and yet it attracted zero attention. Which meant that those people right there were the ones ‘society wouldn’t miss.’ The poor, destitute and homeless existed in every major city, and were largely ignored by the vast majority of citizens, so nobody of importance would care if they disappeared. If it had just preyed on these guys rather than go after notorious criminals, then that questionable Sandman rumor would never have started in the first place!
Well, it didn’t really regret doing that. Attacking those criminals provided the monster with a sizable chunk of XP and were quite delicious in their own right. These bums, on the other hand, were barely even people as their bodies were skinny, disease-ridden sacks of stringy flesh. The most Boxxy could do with their corpses was to use them as fodder for its Cadaver Absorption Proficiency, as even a success would likely yield very little. Right now though, it would probably just devour them. Even if they weren’t particularly tasty or filling, they were still very much edible. Not to mention that they would serve as a good source of proficiency for its newly acquired Demonic Insight Skill.
Boxxy went out of the tunnel it was hiding in and stealthily climbed the walls. It then crawled along the ceiling, making sure to stick behind the supporting pillars whenever possible so as to hide its body from view. Once it got close enough, it started chanting the Spell it got at Level 1 of Demonic Insight. Being under the effects of Stealth allowed the monster’s Arcane Assassin Perk to kick in. It muffled the sound of its voice, allowing it to cast the Spell in total silence, albeit at a significantly higher MP cost.
The Mimic finished invoking its Spell a few seconds later with a silent utterance of ‘Implosion!’
There was a flash of blinding green light accompanied by a high-pitched wail that sent all 9 of the homeless elves into a panic. The inexplicable phenomenon had occurred directly over their little bonfire, so the 5 sitting around it were losing their shit at a rapid pace. They managed to calm themselves down for a moment when they realized they weren’t actually injured, but that relief disappeared just as quickly as it had arrived.
A large number of high-pitched, squawking voices filled the chamber, as the elves found themselves surrounded by nearly 30 squirrel-sized monsters. The tiny creatures resembled miniature satyr due to their humanoid upper halves and furry, goat-like lower bodies. Their bodies and their fur came in all manner of colors, although most of them were either a dull yellow or a dark red. Their pointy horns, long noses and ears, and thin, rodent-like tails poking out of their backsides gave them a strangely comical appearance.
These things were imps, the demonic equivalent of rats. These otherworldly vermin barely had any self-awareness or strength of their own, which made them wildly unpredictable. They cackled and pranced about randomly, as the elves were too shocked by this sudden turn of events to even scream. For the briefest moment, it seemed like these strange creatures would just go away as long as they stood perfectly still.
But that wouldn’t last. All it took was for one of the elves to inhale a bit too sharply, which somehow sent every last one of those tiny demons into a frenzy. Some of them started clawing and biting at the unfortunate bums, while others bombarded them with volley after volley of tiny Firebolts.
However, almost none of their ‘attacks’ actually did any damage. Their tiny hands and short teeth could barely even draw blood, while the puny magical power behind their fiery projectiles would at most singe the filthy rags these homeless elves draped themselves in. Their assault was painful and annoying, but by no means lethal.
It didn’t take long for the bums to rally and start kicking them around, stomping them underfoot or smashing them with whatever blunt object was at hand. They had no idea what the hell was going on, but they weren’t about to just roll over and die this easily. Not that there was any chance of that happening, though. Imps were so pathetically weak, that they probably wouldn’t even beat a 9-year old kid in a fight unless 6 or 7 of the demons ganged up on it. So this situation of 30 of them taking on 9 fully-grown males was a foregone conclusion.
However, Boxxy wasn’t done quite yet.
There was another loud bang and blinding flash as the Mimic used the misleadingly named Implosion Spell yet again. Another 30 or so of the demonic vermin popped out from the rift that momentarily opened to the Beyond, bringing the total number of imps up to about 50. The new arrivals happily joined the fray as the homeless elves kept trying to fight them off.
Yet another 30 imps appeared out of nowhere, but they still wouldn’t be enough to actually defeat those elves. Not that he one that called them really cared about their chances though. Boxxy was currently busy training its Demonic Insight Skill, so having those people struggle against the effects of its Implosion Spell was exactly what it wanted. The aforementioned Skill’s Proficiency would steadily go up just so long as the imps it summoned had someone or something to play with. It would keep using the Spell as many times as its MP would allow, which wasn’t a lot considering it consumed 10% of its maximum MP and was paying an extra 25% of that in order to cast it silently.
This oddity struck the Mimic as strange at first. Typically speaking, Spells appeared to have a fixed cost and would increase in power with the related Mastery Skill, the INT Attribute and any Magical Amplification gained from items. However, these Demonic Spells worked by their own rules, and did not seem to actually have a related Mastery Skill. In fact, they weren’t even recognized as an official school of magic, considering how the monster’s Spell List had categorized them as ‘Other’ rather than ‘Beyond’ or ‘Demonic.’
But the monster quickly realized that this was simply how Beyond-related magic worked. Looking at the Summon Familiar Skill or the Offering rituals, it was obvious that the strength of the magical effect was directly proportional to the amount of mana used to invoke it. In the case of the former, a higher amount of spent MP would result in a stronger familiar. For the latter, it wouldn’t affect the power that the summoned Overlord could exhibit, but supplying the demonic big-shot with more mana would allow them to maintain their physical form for longer. As for the Implosion Spell, it would increase the number of imps called forth from the Beyond at a rate of 1 imp for every 10 MP spent.
However, unlike the ritual or the Skill, the Mimic could repeat this Spell as many times as it wanted, which was precisely what it did. It was actually starting to enjoy watching the spontaneous hobo-imp war that had broken out. There was just so much going on that it was impossible to keep track of everything and made for a surprisingly entertaining show. In fact, the imps were so numerous by now that the idiotic creatures had started fighting one another since they couldn’t really reach the elves with all their kin in the way.
As for those homeless bums, it appeared they were already at their limits. Their bodies were covered in scratches, bite marks and burns, their feeble stamina was quickly running out and their faces were gripped by despair. Even if the enemy was pitiful in comparison, they had no chance of winning against what appeared to be a never-ending sea of enemies. And the Mimic had every intention to prove this.
Chaotic energies swirl around you. You will be teleported in a random direction within the next 5 seconds.
However, it would seem that the Chaotic Disposition Skill would disagree. Boxxy didn’t even have time to react as its chesty body suddenly vanished with a flash of blue light and reappeared some 15 meters from its original location with another flash. The place the Mimic appeared in was in midair, and directly above the cacophony of bum-on-imp combat. It fell right in the middle of the melee with a loud thud, crushing a few of the imps underchest. The elves were so preoccupied with their struggle, that they completely failed to notice the spider-legged box that appeared literally out of thin air.
The monster calmly picked itself up off the ground and let out a sigh. It had gotten perhaps a bit too carried away, as it suddenly remembered it had places to be and things to do. Deciding not to waste any more time, it sprouted four long whip-like tentacles covered in tiny blades. It then spun around in place like a horrific weedwacker, severing the lives of imp and elf alike and bathing the chamber in their blood. It waited for half a minute for the demonic corpses and their bodily fluids to disappear into thin air before it quickly chowed down on the mutilated homeless elves.
Once it was done, it sent a telepathic communication to Xera.
“Snack, I’m done here. How are things on your end?”
“All good, Master. I think your, uh, ‘colleagues’ are starting to notice your absence, though.”
“Okay, then prepare for another transfer.”
“Understood, just let me find a good spot that’s hidden from view.”
“Arms, the chamber is clear, come here and resume the search with Snack once she returns.”
“You got it, boss.”
Boxxy let out another sigh. It really wanted to stay in its chesty form a while longer, but it wasn’t something it could afford to do just yet. It had recently obtained a new Job, and it wanted to avoid learning things the hard way like it did with its Warlock Job. Thankfully, most of the adventurer guilds in this city provided excellent training courses for aspiring adventurers, so at least it wouldn’t have to look for a teacher. It didn’t have much trouble blending in either, although it struggled to contain its appetite around the other students when it was hungry.
Especially around that one positively delicious-looking apprentice in Faehorn’s class.