Keira suddenly woke up, flailing and screaming as she did so.
“Wuh? Keira?! Are you okay?” asked Rowana, woken up by her girlfriend’s bizarre actions.
How could she not, considering they shared a bed every night. And just like every night, both of them were completely in the nude. The platinum-blonde elf rubbed the sleep from her eyes and saw that red-haired catgirl was breathing roughly, while looking around in a distressed state. She calmed down a second later, lay back down and curled up in the fetal position.
“... More night terrors?” she asked while gently rubbing her back.
“It’s okay, sweetie, I’m here.”
She then hugged the frightened catgirl around her waist and buried her face in that shoulder-length crimson hair, nuzzling against her neck. She didn’t know the reason, but Keira woke up violently every 2 or 3 days like this. The beastkin told her that she suffered from recurring nightmares every now and then, but couldn’t remember what they were after they woke her up. Being the understanding person that she was, Rowana didn’t pry into it and merely tried to comfort her lover.
Of course, this wasn’t actually the case, as Keira did not dream. She wasn’t even a person, but a former Mimic and current Doppelganger in disguise. One that had never quite gotten used to waking up without causing a fuss. Although it had gotten better at controlling those outbursts as of late, it was still one of the things it could never quite get the hang of, so it made up some plausible excuse to explain it. With Xera’s help, of course.
At first it thought this might become a problem, but Rowana actually seemed to get more infatuated with the lie that was Keira Morgana because of it. Of course, such a person never existed in the first place, and had come to be out of necessity. The worthless Cat Job that Boxxy acquired through Cadaver Absorption of an alley cat, the need to appear as a foreigner who was ignorant to elven culture, and the want of an excuse for any bizarre or out-of-place behavior all combined together to create this persona.
Keira was observant, bold and energetic, but surprisingly shy and lacking in confidence when it came to intimate relationships. She smelled nice, had a pretty, smiling face, was a bit of a glutton, and knew absolutely nothing of elven society. She had come here to escape some terrible event she suffered in her past and forge a new life for herself. Her body was lithe, agile and quick, had a sensitive butt and ears, and got tired pretty easily.
It was this mixed bag of half-truths and blatant lies that made it easy for Boxxy to assume the identity while also keeping it believable. Any quirky behavior was just explained away as ‘Keira being Keira’ and any deeper inquiries into her past were met with a firm, borderline angry refusal. The downside was that it had to keep a constant mental checklist of dos and don’ts, as well as making sure to properly restrain itself. The fact that it was several times heavier than it looked was also a problem, but a combination of two magic rings alleviated that somewhat. The Mimic wasn’t quite sure what was the difference between a 40% reduction in weight and a 40% reduction in mass, but the outcome was that its body was almost 3 times lighter than normal. It’s body felt floaty and a bit awkward to move in at first, but it got used to it pretty quickly as it was a necessary thing. After all, Rowana was sure to notice Keira’s illogical weight during their night-time activities, or at times like these where she was embracing the catgirl with an arm stuck between her and the bed.
As the two lay there and Boxxy silently allowed Rowana to have her fill of cuddling, it realized something. Doppelgangers were apparently more widespread in the past, at least according to what that Beholder mentioned awhile back. How did they deal with issues like these? Surely not all of them had to resort to moderately expensive magic items, right? Did they avoid forging fake relationships because of that? Thinking it could learn something from their mistakes, Boxxy decided it would do some research on the subject. There was a shared library in the Central Consortium building that all of the associated guilds had access to, and that was bound to have some good information. It was finally time to put those newly-acquired reading skills to work.
Filled with motivation, it tried to get out of bed, but was pulled back in by Rowana.
“Nuh-uh! I haven’t given you enough cuddles to chase away the bad dreams!” she said selfishly. “You’re not going anywhere!”
It could easily break out of her grasp of course, but doing so would not be in Keira’s character.
“But Rowie! I have things to dooo!” it complained.
“Not today! You told me your class was taking a break today!”
“Oh, right! I almost forgot!”
“I even took a day off from work, just so I could get you all to myself!” declared the elf.
Boxxy thought perhaps it had overdone it with the Pheromone Control Skill it acquired at Level 10 of its Doppelganger Job. At first it was a way to cloud Rowana’s judgement by filling her head with pink thoughts, something Xera wholeheartedly recommended. Just a smoke screen to help cover up any little details that might tip her off to its true identity until it managed to cover them up. But recently she was becoming downright clingy.Well, it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as their interactions gave the monster a relatively huge amount of XP for its Doppelganger Job. Therefore, now was the time to return those affections.
Keira’s body twisted around in Rowana’s embrace so the two were face-to-face. They then shared a light kiss.
“Hehehe, I wouldn’t have it any other way!” said the make-believe-catgirl with a smile.
Of course, it wasn’t like it specifically targeted this elf. Rowana Slyth just happened to be the first one it caught in its sweet-smelling trap. It honestly didn’t expect to get a bite so quickly, but it wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Unfortunately, it failed to realize that same-sex relationships were such a big deal in elven society. After all, its familiars ‘got along’ quite well and both of them were technically female, so it assumed it wasn’t a big deal. Still, it decided it would run with it rather than disappear and start over again, as the elf had fallen head over heels for the Mimic in just 3 days.
Besides, getting a little bit of extra attention and establishing its identity as ‘the girl fighting for her forbidden love’ would serve as Keira’s excuse and motivation to become a great adventurer. Once the Mimic had established itself as a reliable and dependable adventurer, then it would gain access to more powerful items and information. Not only that, but the gold and XP earned while ‘on the job’ would be quite tasty in their own way.
And to that end, it thought it was perhaps time to take things a step further.
“Say Rowie… will you go out on a date with me?”
In other words, if others were to believe Keira truly cared about someone, then the two of them would need to be seen in public together. Plus, it seriously didn’t want to spend the whole day cooped up in this one house.
“A d-date? But-!”
“I don’t care what people think! I just want to share a romantic day with you!”
The elf looked troubled by this proposal, but Keira almost never made any demands like this, so she was figured it must mean a lot to the beastkin.
“... Okay,” she consented, “but no kissing in public!”
“Aw… Hugs are okay though, right?”
Keira pulled her in tighter and affectionately rubbed her cheeks against hers.
“Okay! N-none of that either!”
“Meanie,” said the catgirl with a pout.
“Maybe, but this is just how things are, so bear with it, okay?!”
“Now then, where were we…”
Rowana’s hands stroked Keira’s back as they moved lower and lower until they were groping her well-toned bum. She had been buried in that lust-inducing smell for a while now, so she was already raring to go. Especially since she didn’t get enough last night due to Boxxy legitimately needing some sleep.
After a quick morning romp, the two of them got up and got dressed. Rowana started cleaning up and preparing breakfast while Keira helped out. The Mimic didn’t normally find cooked food to be particularly tasty unless there was meat involved, so it made sure to establish Keira’s character as a voracious meat eater. As it turned out, however, meat was rather expensive, meaning it would often have to make do without. After all, Keira was supposed to be someone who just came here and had just enough money with her to pay for Ranger training and buy the standard armor-and-weapon kit provided by the Hidden Arrow guild. Someone like that would not normally be able to afford eating meat for every single meal.
After a breakfast of eggs, bread, jam and some porridge, the two of them put on their town clothes and went out into the city. Rowana wore a modest, long, navy blue dress while Keira wore her guild-issued green tunic and custom-tailored leather pants that had a special opening in the back for her tail.
“We have got to get you some new clothes,” stated the elf. “That one set is all you have, and frankly I need to wash it.”
“Probably, but I don’t have much money left over from that pest control expedition a few days back.”
Even if they were trainees, the guild still paid Keira and her class for their assistance with the termite control. The Hylt tree farm they were at was a source of timber and fruit for the city as well as the surrounding area, so it was important to look after it. Granted, the students’ pay wasn’t much as part of it went towards paying for their training fees, but it was enough to cover their day-to-day expenses.
“Nonsense!” declared Rowana. “I’m the one that wants to see you in cute clothes, so I’ll be the one paying!”
Even if she lived in apparent poverty, she wasn’t exactly struggling to survive. Although she was frugal when it came to herself, she just really felt like spoiling Keira a bit. Besides, even if it was small, her girlfriend’s contribution to the household’s finances was not insignificant.
“Really?! Then I’ll be taking you up on that!”
Of course, said girlfriend could probably purchase a mansion with what was tucked away inside her Storage and owned what was steadily becoming one of the largest dungeons in the country, but that was besides the point. Speaking of which-
Message from Ambrosia: Milord, we hath finished establishing milady Fizzy’s workshop.
That was fast, though hardly unwelcome. There was just one problem.
Message to Ambrosia: How come you’re the one telling me this and not Snack or Arms?
The familiars should have been the only ones capable of using the features necessary to creating the facilities the former gnome required. Surely they should be the ones doing the reporting.
Message from Ambrosia: We had a friendly competition to see which one of us would give milord the good news. I won.
The Mimic had no idea what they were on about. Was such a thing really that important?
Message to Ambrosia: Does Fizzy need anything else?
Message from Ambrosia: Yes, milord. Milady Fizzy spoke about procuring additional materials and tools and is currently on her way out of the Dryad’s Domain.
Message to Ambrosia: Very good. I’ll come back to check on it later tonight.
Message from Ambrosia: Yes, milord.
Rowana called out to the catgirl who had suddenly gone silent as they were walking up some steps.
“Ah, sorry Rowie. I spaced out for a bit. You were saying?”
“I asked what’s your favorite color?”
“I don’t know. Yellow, I guess? Maybe white.”
“Hm, I figured you’d like bright colors like those.”
Well, they were the colors of gold and mithril, both of which were extremely shiny.
“Okay!” said the elf, full of motivation. “I think I know just the place!”
The two of them kept climbing up the long staircase that circled around the massive tree until they reached the thick, street-sized branch that was normally directly over their house. Various shops and markets were built around the edges, allowing pedestrians to comfortably walk along the flattened middle of it. Living on tree limbs like this wasn’t for everyone, as they ever-so-gently swayed in the wind. It was barely noticeable and people got used to it fairly quick, but it made some individuals quite nauseous. Of course, city officials kept a close eye on the health of these branches as one them suddenly snapping off would be a disaster that would result in many deaths and incalculable property damage.
Rowana led Keira to a small boutique, manned by a kindly-looking, gray-haired old woman. Unfortunately, the Tailor in question was human, which made her naturally apprehensive of being around Boxxy. It was the same with the few human Warrior students from the day before, as they were loathe to shake hands with the catgirl that bore the Butcher of Humanity Perk.
It was okay though, because Boxxy’s Pheromone Control was capable of counteracting the psychological effects of the perk. It was able to release a calming scent that chased away any inherent uneasiness or distrust humans felt around it, although its range was rather limited.
Having calmed down the old granny before she could raise a fuss, the Mimic then proceeded to get measured and looked through several clothing designs the elf found cute. Rowana ended up placing an order for 4 outfits in total - 2 dresses, one set of rather risque-looking nightwear and a lighter blouse-and-skirt combo. She explained it away as helping Keira get ready for her future wedding, something she said more like a wish than an excuse.
Afterwards the couple just walked around and chatted idly for a while, before getting on one of the floating public elevators and riding it all the way down to the ground. They sat quietly in a park while discreetly holding hands, then looked for a place to have lunch. Rowana said she knew a place that served great food at a reasonable price, even though it wasn’t a restaurant. And the place she led Keira to was a certain inn that was 3 stories tall.
“Well, well, well,” said the old elven innkeeper when he saw the conspicuous catgirl enter his establishment. “If it isn’t the hooligan who won’t stop jumping on my roof!?”
“The roof!? … Keira, is there something you want to tell me?”
“Uhm. I may have… leapt down onto this building… a few times…”
“You know this girl, miss?”
“You could say that. We’re, uh, roommates,” answered Rowana.
“Well please tell her that vine-swinging is dangerous, and I won’t be held responsible if she hurts herself.”
“Oh-hoh!” said Rowana while crossing her arms. “Vine-swinging, huh? You mean that dangerous thing I told you to stop doing?”
“It’s just! Uh, Ranger training! Yeah, that’s it! Gotta get used to traversing difficult terrain!”
This was a blatant lie, of course. The real reason Boxxy did those things was because it helped build proficiency for its Feline Agility Skill, the only one derived from its Cat Job. Plus, it was genuinely faster than using the ‘proper’ way.
“Bullshit!” said the old innkeeper. “My daughter’s never had to do things like that! Isn’t that right, Lia?!” he called out to the back.
“What is it now, dad?” said the green-haired elf in question as she poked her head out of the kitchen. “Oh! Keira!”
Her pained expression became pleasantly surprised when she saw her classmate. She shouted something about taking a break into the kitchen and went out to greet her properly.
“Hey there, didn’t expect to see you here!” she said, completely ignoring her father’s surprised look.
“Lia! What are you doing here?!” asked Keira in genuine surprise.
“I’m helping my dad out in the kitchen. I may not look like it, but my croquettes are pretty great you know!”
“You know this hooligan!?” butted in the innkeeper, causing the young elf to roll her eyes.
“She’s no hooligan, dad. This is Keira, the one I told you about, remember?!”
“What? That’s her?!”
“Duh! How many catkin girls do you think there are in this city?!”
“Well, I never! Lia, I forbid you to-!”
“Oh put a sock in it dad, your roof’s fine.”
Lia grabbed her father by the shoulders and pushed him into the back where they had a few quick words in private, after which she returned by herself.
“Sorry about that. My dad likes to yell at people for no good reason. I think I need to find him a hobby.”
“Is that so…” said the stupefied Rowana.
“Ah sorry, I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Lia Torlee, one of Keira’s classmates. And you… must be ‘Rowie.’”
“I am Rowana Slyth, yes.”
“I heard a lot about you.”
“Well, you have me at a disadvantage. I had no idea you existed.”
Boxxy was momentarily stumped. Rowana’s tone of voice was subtly different. More harsh, accusatory even. And why did she keep glancing at Lia’s breasts as if she were comparing it to her own?
“*Ahem* I assure you, Keira is not my type,” said Lia in a hushed voice. “I have no intention of stealing her from you so please stop giving me the stink-eye.”
“R-right. Of course. Sorry it’s just that… I don’t get a lot of chances at finding lo- love so I got a bit… jealous.”
“It’s okay, I understand.”
Oh, so she was being jealous! Boxxy hadn’t seen that emotion up close before, so it made sure to memorize it for later use. Now was probably a good time for a response, but what kind? If Rowana was jealous, that meant she suspected her lover might be seeing someone else behind her back. Which meant she apparently didn’t trust her girlfriend completely. Of course, Boxxy had no intention of ‘cheating’ on her. According to her made-up profile, Keira was the devoted and faithful type, so that sort of thing would not happen, even if Lia did smell incredibly delicious for some reason. Therefore, the appropriate response in this situation was to vehemently deny there was anything between them.
“Rowie! You should know better!” it stated in a harsh whisper. “I’m not gonna go after any woman I see just because her tits are bigger!”
“Hey!” responded both elves in unison while covering up their chests by crossing their arms. Realizing they had the same reaction, they shared a small, embarrassed laugh.
“Come on, you two, let’s get you a table,” offered Lia, and showed them to their seats. She ended up joining them for lunch and even said it was on the house. They chatted while they ate, and Rowana and Lia seemed to get along quite well. Boxxy didn’t particularly plan for this, but it was hardly a bad thing. After all, the Agent of Chaos Skill had not triggered at all recently, so its recent actions would probably not have some deep, profound impact on it surroundings.
Come to think of it, the last time that Skill came up was during the time it was making its way towards the elven border, after it passed by that fancy carriage with the armed escort. That particular chain of events was still in motion, so maybe the Agent of Chaos Skill could only manage one such thing at a time? Then again, it was only the second time it activated, so it knew too little about it right now.
“Say Lia, you wanna join us for a girls’ day out?”
Rowana made an odd suggestion as they were finishing lunch.
“Huh?! I thought you two were, you know,” Lia lowered her voice, “on a date?”
She really did not want to make herself a third wheel.
“We are but… honestly I could really use a friend…”
Friendships were hard for Rowana to maintain. Men mostly wanted to get into her pants, and other women would start acting distant once they found out her inclinations. Lia, however, seemed to more or less be fine with it. She felt she could be herself around her, and share things she couldn’t really say to her girlfriend.
“Well… the lunch rush is over so I can take a few hours off from helping my dad in the kitchen… But is Keira okay with it?”
“I don’t mind!” declared the catgirl instantly.
More people to socialize with meant more XP for its Doppelganger Job. In fact, if things kept going this way it would probably hit Level 14 before the day was over.
“Alright then, I’ll keep you company for a while. Just let me know if I’m a bother and I’ll make myself scarce.”
Lia excused herself to change out of her stained apron and came out in a casual dress similar to Rowana’s, except that it was cream-colored and the three of them left the building.
“Keira really needs some cuter clothes,” said Lia while they were walking down the street.
“I know, right? Don’t worry though! I already placed an order for some this morning! The blouse and skirt I picked out would look positively adorable on her!”
“Wow, she has it bad, huh?” mumbled Lia.
The way Rowana squirmed and squealed was almost exactly like how Keira behaved whenever the catgirl talked about her girlfriend. That sort of behavior fit the youthful beastkin perfectly, but seeing a grown elf act that way was a bit weird. Then again, Lia had never been in love before, so she had no right to judge others. Especially not these two.
“Hmm? Keira what’s wrong?”
The catgirl in question had suddenly stopped in her tracks and was staring into the window of a pawn shop they had passed by. Rowana was still daydreaming so it took her a few seconds to realize it too.
“Oh, see anything you like?” asked Lia.
She leaned in closer and looked through the glass as well, but couldn’t tell which of the myriad of items lined up on the windowsill had caught her interest.
“Yeah, I gotta check something out.”
Keira walked into the shop, the door frame ringing a small bell as she did so. It was a decently-sized place, slightly bigger than Fizzy’s store back in Erosa. Numerous curious objects of all types lined the shelves along the walls or were put on display inside the glass cases that doubled as counters. Books, bells, weapons, jewelry, jugs, jars, board games, dolls, statues, flutes, lutes, hammers, screwdrivers, even the odd potion - this place had it all.
“Welcome to Orym’s Pawn shop!” said the dark-green-haired elf behind the counter. “I’m Orym. Oh, I see the little missy already has her eye on something, eh?”
The sight of a beastkin entering his shop was rare, but he didn’t question it one bit. This type of place attracted all manner of odd individuals looking to buy or sell various goods, and it wasn’t his business to ask about their circumstances. He just needed some proof or confirmation the items he was buying were not stolen, and that those he was selling to were not wanted criminals. And he was sure he’d not heard of the authorities looking for a cute catgirl.
“Ah, sorry,” apologized Keira. “I was just wondering, where did mister Orym get this?”
She was pointing towards an ornate jewelry box in the windowsill, which was around 15 to 20 centimeters on each side. It appeared to be made of wood, with some faint and worn out vine-like patterns carved on the sides of it, and stood on four very short legs. The rectangular lid was also wooden and had a small rose carved into each corner of it, while a single, circular red gem was faceted right into the middle of it. The corners, the legs and the rim of the lid were gilded, giving the small box the undeniable feel of a miniature treasure chest.
“That, huh?” said Orym while staring at it.
He blinked a few times trying to jog his memory, but couldn’t remember where he obtained it. Well, it didn’t matter much where he got it anyway.
“I can’t divulge that information.”
“You don’t know, do you?”
“Geh! Of course I know! It’s in my shop, so I should obviously know how it got there, right?!”
“No, I mean… do you even know what that is?”
“... It’s just a vanity box, right?”
The catgirl shook her head.
“Can I pick it up for a moment? I want to show you something.”
“Okay, but if you break it - you buy it.”
“Keira,” whispered Rowana, “are you sure about this? We don’t really have the money to afford that thing in the first place.”
Splurging on some outfits or a day out on the town was one thing, but that expensive-looking box was completely out of the question.
“It’s okay, I got this,” came the whispered answer.
The Mimic in disguise then reached over, took the shiny box off the shelf and placed it on the counter in front of the pawnbroker. It then smiled, directed as much animosity towards the box as it could, and firmly knocked on its lid.
All three elves in the room jumped in surprise when the jewelry box gave out a high-pitched yell. It suddenly sprang to life and moved along its small legs towards the edge of the counter, trying to get away from the terrifying creature that had caught onto its identity. However, Keira’s hands deftly grabbed it by the sides, denying its attempts at escaping.
The pawnbroker and both elven girls all stared in silent disbelief as the catgirl dragged the living jewelry box back in front of her and held it down. She then forced its lid open to reveal two rows of short, flat teeth and a long, coiled tongue.
“I’m sure you won’t mind if I take this mimic off your hands, right?”
The shopkeeper gave a few short nods of his head.
Keira then hugged the miniature chest against her underdeveloped chest and left the shop with a huge smile on her face.
“What… just happened?” asked Rowana.
“I think you just got a new pet,” answered Lia.