“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”
Boxxy let off a non-stop torrent of swearing as it ran around in a circle like a chicken with its head cut off. After about half a minute of this, it realized this behavior wasn’t particularly constructive and stopped to assess its situation. If there was ever a time to lose its cool and freak out, it was most definitely now. However, this was most clearly not the place. It was still inside an abandoned warehouse, next to three corpses, where a night patrol might come to investigate.
It hurriedly tossed the one with the golden skeleton inside its storage, gobbled up the other two and thoroughly cleaned the crime scene, then stealthily left the building and crawled along the side of the branch where very few prying eyes would be able to spot it. It reached the Hylt tree’s trunk and proceeded to climb up it until it reached a smaller, uninhabited branch.
Okay, this was a good spot to weigh its options.
First of all, it had heard much of the Taboo Skill and its ill effects, so it knew it was going to throw a major wrench in its plans to blend in with the elven adventuring community. Enlightened beings could sense anyone with the Taboo Skill, and treated them with a general sense of distrust and disgust. There were such individuals among the Maleficarum guild, namely Warlocks and Witches who had tapped into some forbidden power or another. Such people were tolerated at best, but generally shunned and ostracized by the elven community. It was not a position Boxxy wanted to be in, but reality disagreed with it on that.
Well, since it had saddled itself with the Taboo Skill, it might as well check out its effects for itself.
Description: The mark of those who have committed grave sins or have willingly gone against the will of the Gods
Requirements: Negative FTH
Activation Time: N/A
Effects: You will be shunned by the pious
Increases the effectiveness of all forbidden practices and Spells by 10% per Level of this Skill.
Beware the wrath of the gods!
More or less as expected. The fact it seemed to have a ‘benefit’ was a bit surprising, though. It now made sense why certain individuals would willingly go further into Taboo. The reason Nasty’s undead creatures and hexes were so potent might have been because she claimed her Taboo was at Level 7. Ah, on second thought, it was actually a good thing she wasn’t around anymore, as a blasphemous existence of that magnitude was bound to be a trouble magnet.
The question was how would one get rid of this? It should definitely be possible, and Boxxy immediately realized a way to do it. Skills may not be used if the owner no longer meets their Requirements. Therefore, if it no longer had ‘Negative FTH,’ then this Skill should lose its effects. Come to think of it, the Skill itself did not inflict an Attribute change, but was brought on as a direct result of one. Indeed, the blasphemous act Boxxy performed, though the perpetrator itself wasn’t quite sure what it was, brought the monster’s current FTH Attribute from 18 to -2. In other words it only needed to gain 2, possibly 3 points of FTH in order to rid itself of this stigma.
Boxxy was suddenly immensely thankful it absorbed that Divine Attunement Skill earlier, otherwise this might have been a much more difficult thing to overcome. Well, Snack could cover for its absence for a while, but it was still best if it could get this over with before dawn came. It just needed to think of how it could do that.
Leveling up Doppelganger or any of the related Skills that boosted All Attributes was a painfully obvious solution, but there was no way it could accomplish that before dawn. Perhaps seeking out a Priest or Paladin trainer would be good? That Job would definitely provide an increase in FTH and could easily be removed once the Doppelganger Job gained a few Levels. The Mimic honestly did not want yet another Job to worry about, as it was already spending every waking moment one aspect of its Status or another. Therefore, it would maliciously abuse its position as Hero and-
Wait, wasn’t there something else it got alongside Taboo?
Description: One who has betrayed the expectations of the Gods.
Requirements: Hero, Taboo
Effects: Hero Skills are disabled and cannot be used.
This was bad. Really, really bad. So bad it almost made the Mimic want to vomit up those homeless people. The main lynchpin of its infiltration operation, the sole thing that allowed it to integrate so fully into elven society, was now gone. People trusted Appraisals to an almost outlandish degree. Why wouldn’t they? It was a reliable magic that revealed one’s true colors, so being able to subvert that was pretty much a free pass to do whatever the hell it pleased, within reason of course. As expected of a Skill granted by the Gods, having Essence Concealment truly felt like cheating.
Well, it wasn’t foolproof. That Faehorn fellow seemed to have caught on that Keira was more than she seemed, seeing as how he pulled that laughable ‘test’ of his. If his mock ambush truly came out of nowhere, then Boxxy might have reacted as he expected. However, the Mimic’s magical perception easily spotted the old elf’s odd behavior, so it was ready for it. After all, it wasn’t like it would die even if Keira’s head was separated from the rest of her.
The Mimic realized it had gone off on a mental tangent, likely a subconscious effort to escape the reality where it was royally screwed. Without being able to bypass Appraisal, it would be incredibly difficult to maintain its fake life as an aspiring adventurer. Worst case scenario, it would have to abandon civilization altogether, which would eliminate its main source of Doppelganger XP.
An intruder has entered your dungeon.
Wait, that was it!
Boxxy: Is the intruder that just entered Fizzy?
Ambrosia: ‘Tis so, milord.
Boxxy: Very good! Show her to the emergency exit I installed yesterday.
Ambrosia: Right away, milord.
Surely the Paladin would have some sort of solution for this. The Taboo Skill would put a momentary strain on their relationship, but she had already pledged herself to Boxxy’s service so it would probably be fine.
Come to think of it, wasn’t that dryad practically a divine being? Surely she would be the one most disgusted with the Taboo Skill, right? Then how come she was acting as if nothing had happened? Was it the core’s influence at work? Or did she simply not realize because the two hadn’t met box-to-face yet? Boxxy decided it would be wise to ask her, though in a slightly roundabout way.
Boxxy: Ambrosia, what do you think of me?
Ambrosia: … What hath come over thee, milord?
Ambrosia: ‘Tis the first time thou hath enquired after mine opinion.
Boxxy: There’s a first time for everything, right? So please, answer me as truthfully as you can.
Ambrosia: If milord insists, then I shall oblige.
There was a brief pause, as the dryad was likely gathering her thoughts.
Ambrosia: This one believes milord Morningwood is an outstanding individual with potential the likes of which I hath never seen.
Ambrosia: Thy insight and adaptability concerning the world at large are truly worthy of praise.
Ambrosia: Milord also takes great care so as not to disrespect or harm mine body in any way, for which this one is truly grateful.
Ambrosia: Thy generosity and kindness hath touched this old soul deeply, and I find myself wishing to spend more time in thy company.
That was… not quite what Boxxy was expecting. Or rather, wasn’t that way too high of an opinion considering they only met a few days ago? Not to mention that the Mimic was pretty sure it didn’t do anything nearly as great or benevolent as she was describing. Then again, this attitude was likely due to the dungeon core’s influence twisting her perception of events. This was still good news, however, as the dryad seemed oblivious to the Mimic’s Taboo Skill for the moment. The Mimic really didn’t want to test the limits of the dungeon core’s ability to keep an ancient being like Ambrosia in check, so it wanted to keep its heretical inclinations a secret from her if at all possible.
The monster climbed up to the hidden entrance to its own dungeon and waited patiently for Fizzy to arrive. The disguised door swung openly from the inside, and the mithril golem shone brilliantly under the strands of moonlight poking through the Hylt tree’s canopy.
“Hey Boxxy!” she said in her cheerful tone. “What did- Ugh! Oh my God!”
Well, that didn’t last long. Her face twisted into a scowl as if she was staring at a disgusting cockroach she wanted to squish at all costs. It was the same look she kept giving Nasty back when the lich was still around.
“I… accidentally committed a Taboo,” admitted Boxxy.
“Ugh! Yeah I can feel that! Bob-almighty, what in the blazes did you do, Boxxy?!”
The Mimic then explained the events of its evening, starting with the ritual and ending with it obtaining the Taboo Skill. Fizzy did her best to listen, but it was obvious she was having a hard time even looking at Boxxy. It really was not a pleasant feeling for the Mimic.
“Yeah, I think I understand what happened,” she said while averting her gaze. “Transmuting something into a valuable metal like gold or silver goes against the will of Goroth. Being the God of Earth, Artists and Artisans means he values perseverance and hard work above all else. So something like perverting minerals for easy gain really grinds his gears.”
She threw Boxxy a brief, disgusted look before turning away again.
“Also, it’s impossible to ‘accidentally’ commit a Taboo. You knew full well that man’s bones would turn to gold when you did the deed.”
“I didn’t know Goroth would hate it though!”
“Not knowing a law doesn’t mean you’re exempt from it!”
“Well what about Arms? That guy was clearly okay with me shining her up, so what’s up with that?”
“She’s a demon though. I mean, it’s not like her skeleton stuck around after you made her drink, right?”
“... Okay, yeah, I see your point. Look, I need your help getting rid of it this Taboo Skill right away. It should be possible, right?”
“Depends. How much in the negative are you? Your Faith Attribute, I mean”
“Okay, that’s good. So long as it doesn’t go beyond negative 10 then it’s a relatively easy fix. Just to make it clear - you do regret doing what you did, right?”
“Kind of. Mostly because of the Taboo Skill though…”
“Well, that should be good enough. So, stand still and let me take care of it, okay?”
The gnome leaned over and put her hands on Boxxy’s frame, though her twitching fingers said she would really rather not. She then closed her eyes and started speaking in a soft voice.
“Oh, merciful Gods! Behold this poor child who ignored Your will! It has ventured into sin out of ignorance and curiosity, and has unwittingly violated Your most sacred decrees. It has expressed the desire to repent in both mind and body, and solemnly swears to uphold Your values forever more! Your servant begs you, forgive this lost soul for its heretical actions!”
A soft, white radiance flowed out from the gnome’s body, ran across her arms and flowed into Boxxy’s faux-wood frame.
A pious servant of the Gods has absolved you of your grievous sins.
A special action has been performed. FTH +5.
Proficiency level decreased. Taboo is no longer available.
Feat of strength performed! You have unlocked a new Perk: Seeker of Redemption.
The Blasphemous Hero Perk has been removed since you no longer meet the required conditions.
The golem let out a small sigh and opened her eyes. Her face instantly slackened to her regular smiling expression.
“All done,” she declared.
Boxxy quickly checked its Status - just in case - and was relieved to find that all off the offensive entries were gone, and its FTH Attribute was at a healthy +3.
“Wow, that was easy!” it exclaimed in surprise.
That brief ceremony was much more convenient than temporarily picking up the Paladin Job from Fizzy. As for Seeker of Redemption, the Perk had absolutely no effects whatsoever, and merely served as a ‘badge of honor’ for those who turned their backs on Taboo. Honestly speaking though, Boxxy preferred it doing nothing. It was rapidly starting to learn that Perks were sometimes more trouble than they were worth.
“Thanks, Fizzy!” it said, clearly in a good mood. “I’ll be counting on you the next time, too!”
“Oh no! No no no no no!” shouted Fizzy while waving her hands around. “Don’t even think about using that Unholy Wealth thing again! Absolution is not a Spell that can be used lightly! It drains away my own FTH Attribute to cast it, you know! Not to mention it will only work two or three times per person!”
Forgiveness, it would seem, was a very finite resource.
“I see. I guess it can’t be helped then.”
The monster regretfully put away the cursed goblet it was holding in its Storage and gave up on using it for the foreseeable future.
“What about the guy I already transmuted?” it asked a moment later.
“... I don’t know to be honest. Trying to profit off his golden bones might trigger another Taboo violation.”
“I’m not going to sell them though. I just want to add his skeleton to my collection.”
“Right, hmm… I’ll have to ask the guys at the guild later, so don’t do anything rash before that, okay?”
“Alright. Wait, guild? You joined one?”
“Yeah, the Hammers of Horkensaft. Many people in that artisan’s guild worship Goroth so there’s a chance some of them might know something about it.”
“And you have no problems blending in?”
“None at all! They’ve never seen an Arclight Artificer before, so they’re really interested in my work! Plus, they’re mostly dwarves or gnomes, so my glorious mithril frame makes me quite popular!”
Boxxy felt like it understood those shorties completely. Fizzy’s shininess was truly breathtaking at times, so their reaction was understandable. Come to think of it, dwarves seemed to enjoy shiny things almost as much as Boxxy did. It might be good to get better acquainted with them later, mostly to see if they had anything shiny worth stealing. Coins and gemstones were well and good, but it really wanted statuettes or decorative armor, too. Variety was, after all, the spice of life.
With the Taboo crisis swiftly averted, it went back into the dungeon and moved to the dungeon core platform with Fizzy in tow. Ambrosia had been patiently waiting for Boxxy’s return while still hanging onto Minic. Now that she had the chance, she presented the gnome the Bracelet of Allegiance she had prepared in advance, which was graciously accepted. The dryad’s expression became slightly more relaxed the instant Fizzy put the simple-looking bracelet on her right wrist. As expected, Ambrosia did feel a bit uneasy around invaders in her dungeon, even if they were ‘milord’s servants.’
And now was the long-awaited moment, the one the Mimic had been looking forward to for almost literally half its life. It was time to obtain the third familiar.
*Beep ... Beep*
“You have reached Demons ‘R’ Us,” came the textbook greeting, although that smooth, silky, almost sensual voice was not one Boxxy had ever heard before.
“My name is Janet and I will be your liaison for today.”
Yeah okay, that definitely wasn’t who the Mimic was expecting.
“Hello?” asked Janet, clearly not expecting the sudden silence.
“I’m sorry sir, but- Oh. OH!? Oh my god! Is this B-Boxxy?!”
“The Boxxy T. Morningwood?!”
“Oh wow! This! Is! So! Cool! I am a huge fan of your work!”
“I mean it! I loved every single thing I’ve seen you do! Though I think my personal favorite was the way you smashed that Jade King fellow or whatever his face was! Like, he didn’t even get a chance to show off before you annihilated him! It was amazing! Oh damn, the girls are never going to believe I got to speak with the Hero of Chaos!”
“.... So where’s Carl?” asked Boxxy, making sure to make the irritation clear in its tone.
“Oh who care about Carl?! Let’s talk about you!”
“I’m hanging up now.”
“No! Mister Morningwood, sir! Please wa-”
Okay. That was weird. Today has just been one surprise after the other, hasn’t it? Well, the past week was pretty dull, so a little excitement every now and then wasn’t a bad thing, but this was too much. Whoever that woman was, it didn’t seem like-
Demons ‘R’ Us called Boxxy back a few seconds later. Remembering the promise it made with Carl, Boxxy replied immediately.
“Carl! Finally! You would not believe how rude that other person was!”
“Yeah, tell me about it! Look, I’m sorry you had to hear that. It’s just that we’ve been a bit swamped lately so we had to get in some inexperienced demons to help out around the place. Jarogib- I mean, Janet’s demeanor was completely unprofessional. I give you my personal guarantee you won’t be connected to anyone other than me ever again.”
“Good enough for me.”
“So, what can I help you with today, Boxxy?”
Well, the original purpose was to obtain its third demonic contract as a result of reaching Level 8 of its Demonology Skill. However, a more pressing question was on Boxxy’s mind right now.
“Before that I would like to clarify something.”
“I’ll do my best to answer any and all concerns you may have.”
“How come Janet knew everything I was doing?”
It sounded like she’d been made privy to Boxxy’s entire life. It wasn’t just her, either, as Carl seemed to know more about what was going on with the Mimic than he should. Overlord Liusolra’s note was also written in a strangely casual and familiar tone.
“That’s probably your familiars’ fault. They brag incessantly you know.”
“Carl. You’re bullshitting me right now.”
“... Yeah okay. You were bound to find out eventually, so I might as well tell you. You know how the boss is keeping tabs on you, right?”
“You mean the God of Chaos?”
“Yeah, him. He keeps a very close eye on everything you’re doing, purely for entertainment purposes.”
“I’m aware of that. What of it?”
“So… He thought it would be a laugh if he… shared your adventures with the rest of us.”
“... Are those the ‘broadcasts’ you mentioned awhile back?”
“So he’s been showing what I do to everyone at Demons ‘R’ Us?”
“... That’s one way of putting it.”
“It’s not just those who work at Demons ‘R’ Us, is it?”
Boxxy took a deep breath.
“Well, it’s hard to get an accurate number on account of-”
“How many demons, Carl?!”
“... All of them.”
“All of them?! You’re saying every single demon out there knows what I’ve been up to?!”
“Ever since you became a Hero. Although, there are reruns while you sleep so… we’ve seen pretty much everything since the Monotal thing.”
“Well... Do you guys have to watch me?”
“No, not really. We can tune out the Progenitor’s broadcasts of the Boxxy Show if we wish. It’s just that we have literally nothing better to do over here…”
“... Can they see me right now?”
“Oh yeah. I can actually see you in the corner of my mind as we speak. You’re just sort of sitting there in the tree, doing nothing in particular.”
“What about this conversation?”
“Demons ‘R’ Us considers contracts a private matter, so you can be assured this call isn’t part of the broadcast. We can still hear you when you speak aloud though.”
“You could’ve told me about this sooner, you know.“
“What, and ruin the fun?”
Boxxy took a few moments to process the demon’s words. It analyzed their implications and decided on a course of action.
“Say Carl, am I popular over there?”
“Oh, immensely so!”
“Then… it’s okay if I take a few minutes to address my audience, right?”
“Uhm, I suppose so? You can do whatever you damn well please, you know. That’s what makes this whole thing so interesting!”
“Good. That’s good.”
The chest-shaped Boxxy told Ambrosia and Fizzy to sit tight for a moment as it used Nexus Access to return to the highest point in the dungeon. It then climbed back up to the site where the Unholy Wealth ritual took place and reverted into its base Doppelganger form. It stared intently at a random point in the horizon for a few seconds, and then its featureless face split open like a fleshy book filled with teeth.
“Hello, demons and demonesses,” it stated in a clear, commanding voice. “In case some of you have not realized, there is currently an opening for the position of my third contracted familiar. I will be finalizing said contract in three hours’ time. If any of you think you have what it takes to fulfill that role, then please contact Carl from Demons ‘R’ Us with your application and demand it be suggested to me.”
It then tilted its head slightly and showed a toothy, sideways smile.
“I trust the best of you will not back down in the face of your clearly inferior competitors.”
Of course, there was nobody around in the dead of night to actually answer Boxxy’s provocative words-
“What the hell, Boxxy?!”
-except for a certain demon who was still on the line.
“Why did you just do that?! You could’ve just done the contract the usual way, right?!”
“Oh I plan to. In three hours, that is.”
“So let the others know immediately and call off this farce! I’ve already got 40 demons trying to reach me!”
“What?” replied the Mimic in a mocking tone. “And ruin the fun?”