Arms was instantly banned from, as she put it, ‘sticking it up the spider’s pooper’ since it would interfere with silk production and was ultimately only for her own amusement. Fizzy questioned why she even bothered with Claws, considering she had both Ambrosia and Snack on hand to help with her urges. And the reply she got made the golem feel even more disgusted at the 250-centimeter tall meatbag.
“It’s not as fun if they don’t fight back!” was what Kora had said.
It would seem Kora wanted to force herself on an unwilling partner. Technically speaking, she hadn’t really ‘raped’ a single person ever since she was contracted to Boxxy. The aforementioned two didn’t count since the dryad let the fiend do whatever she wanted with a general air of disinterest, while the succubus had become an eager slut who loved to be beaten and abused.
“I don’t care, keep it in your pants,” was her Master’s response.
Boxxy had already given her much more freedom than any bound familiar could hope for, so she had no right to complain.
“C’mon boss! Just this once!”
Not that that stopped her from bitching about it though. Demons were normally fickle, selfish, ungrateful creatures, so this defiant behavior was to be expected. The Mimic didn’t particularly mind her attitude though, because that attitude was all she had.
“No,” came the final answer, much to Drea’s relief. She had been made witness to the gut-displacing size of Kora’s member several times, and was certain her spinneret hole would definitely break. Unlike a certain succubus, the stalker seriously wanted to avoid that degree of pain.
Still, Boxxy understood that a familiar’s motivation was an important factor towards achieving the best results, so it decided to throw her a bone. One that would pacify the fiend without impacting its money-making plans.
“I’ll see about bringing home some leftovers for you to play with instead, okay?”
“... Living ones, right?”
Well, that matter seemed to be more or less settled, although Boxxy doubted Fizzy would forgive Arms so easily. The former gnome may have shifted the blame for her being raped onto the doubly-deceased Nasty, but the memory of the event would probably never truly fade away. It was, after all, the main trigger that caused her to make the drastic decision to abandon her flesh and her identity as a gnome.
The Mimic let out a quiet sigh. It honestly disliked dealing with this stuff. Having to put on the facade called Keira each and every day was already mentally exhausting as it was, and there were only so many nights it could pretend to sleep next to Rowana while focusing on the Meditation Skill. It was something anyone could acquire in theory, but took a long time to build proficiency. And the fact it was piling up stress simply made it harder to focus on actually ‘meditating.’ That was why it spent more and more time in the dungeon lately, where it could freely indulge in its hobbies.
Speaking of which, that tasty pile of Roc meat was still waiting for it. It immediately put the thoughts of pointless drama out of its mind and focused entirely on the feast in question. While it still longed for man-flesh, these birds still made for an excellent substitute. Especially since it realized it should cut down on its murder of the homeless. While it wasn’t quite sure how close it was to being saddled with the Slayer of Elvenkind Perk, it wanted to avoid its negative effects if at all possible. Well, they wouldn’t be nearly as pronounced as the higher-ranked Butcher of Humanity Perk, but it still wanted to avoid that can of worms for as long as feasibly possible.
In short, the stalker’s gift of fresh monster meat was very much appreciated. Therefore, it sent several words of telepathic praise such as ‘Thanks for the meal’ and ‘Keep up the good work’ to Claws when it finished feeding itself, to which she eagerly replied with a ‘It was my pleasure!’ That girl, she seemed to be fine with communicating over the thought-link, but speaking face-to-face was more or less impossible for her. Well, that quirk wasn’t much of an issue since her duties involved being neither seen nor heard anyway.
Claws and Fizzy eventually got back to planning that silk-weaving prototype while Kora went off to find a certain dryad for obvious purposes. As for Boxxy, it was about to swap places with Snack and resume its ‘pretending to sleep but not really’ act, when it noticed something strange. It was about the oddly colored wall at the end of the wooden platform that served as the dungeon’s heart. It was an area of the cavern that wasn’t covered in bark-like growths, and was something that the Mimic had agreed not to tamper with on Ambrosia’s behalf. For this bare, beige-colored timber was the central and most vital part of the Hylt tree - the heartwood.
Boxxy hadn’t really taken a close look at it lately, so it was quite surprised to find that what was a plain, smooth wall several days ago had been covered in some form of writing. What were undoubtedly letters had been delicately and expertly carved into the otherwise smooth surface, but the script was not something Boxxy recognized. It could read and write the international Common language thanks to Snack’s tutoring, and even looked up old elven texts in the library once or twice out of curiousity, but this was completely foreign to it. There was quite a lot of it too, as whatever was written here seemed to extend dozens of meters in every direction.
The strangest thing about this whole situation was that they appeared to be carved by hand. Not only were such fine details impossible to do with Terrain Sculpting, but there were fresh wood shavings scattered around the place. It then noticed a thick, tentacle-like vine hanging loosely off to the side. It was a type of growth the dryad could create and manipulate at will, so the fact that it was gripping onto a shiny metal knife made it quite clear who was responsible for this literal wall of text. Meaning Boxxy knew full well who to ask regarding this odd phenomenon.
Boxxy: What are these strange letters near the dungeon core?
Ambrosia: Those art the records of milord’s teachings and instructions.
Come to think of it, she did say something like ‘I shall engrave thy words unto mine heartwood’ at one point, didn’t she? It would appear she meant that literally, and wasn’t just her fancy way of saying she’ll keep them in mind. However, the Mimic wasn’t 100% comfortable with leaving records like these behind, as it was a security risk.
Boxxy: But why write them down? And why here?
Ambrosia: Because this way makes it impossible for me to forget milord’s words.
Boxxy: Is it really that hard for you to remember things?
Ambrosia: ‘Tis shameful to admit, but mine short-term memory has suffered due to mine age.
Her words made Boxxy thoroughly aware of just how ancient the dryad actually was. Of course it already knew that, but it was easy to forget her age considering her relatively youthful appearance. The Mimic couldn’t exactly sympathize with her, but it still more or less understood her problem. Having accumulated memories for literal millenia would probably make anyone have trouble recollecting specific things. If this wall of text was necessary for her to carry out her duties, then it would much rather keep it around.
That did leave one question though. One that Boxxy pondered about for a long time before it finally asked.
Boxxy: What about the language itself?
Ambrosia: ‘Tis an ancient script, milord.
Boxxy: How ancient, exactly?
Ambrosia: I cannot say for certain, but these letters are likely even older than myself.
Boxxy: That’s an odd way of putting it. Don’t you know when or where they came from?
Ambrosia: No, milord. I know ‘tis strange, but I feel as though I hath always known them, even before mine birth.
Boxxy: So there’s a good chance nobody else knows about it?
Ambrosia: Indeed. It hath most likely been forgotten by all but me and mine fellow sisters.
Boxxy: I see. Then could you teach me the language later?
Ambrosia: It would be mine pleasure, milord.
Boxxy: Very good. I look forward to it
Of course, this wasn’t a purely academic interest. While Boxxy was, generally speaking, a curious creature, that did not mean it was particularly fond of studying. Not unless it considered the subject to be tasty, shiny, or otherwise necessary. And this language had the potential to be very shiny indeed, because upon closer inspection, the Mimic actually recognized several of the letters.
They were almost identical to the sigils used in demonic rituals. The differences were so minor, that they could easily be attributed to a difference in handwriting. Combined with the long, incomprehensible chants, the Demonology Skill made it abundantly clear that demons had their own language. One that most likely had the power to influence the world around it.
The Summon Familiar Skill was a perfect example of that power in action. While the physical manifestation of a being from another realm was impressive, the 10-second long and needlessly flashy activation process that preceded that was even more incredible. The concentric rings of light that surrounded the Skill’s user while the summoning was in progress were actually made up of countless tiny symbols. Ones that were in a constant state of flux and rapidly changed shape and size as the Skill progressed, almost as if they were busy re-writing the fabric of reality itself.
And while Boxxy’s Mana Locator Gland made it possible to perceive such things with relative ease, most Warlocks and Witches would probably be left blissfully unaware. That didn’t mean that the Mimic was the first to notice that language’s existence, however. Pretty much every Caster that dabbled in demonic magic sooner or later realized it. However, no matter how much research was done or years were wasted, the scholarly community’s attempts at deciphering the language in question proved futile.
This was mostly due to a lack in research material, as the incomplete and superficial knowledge granted by relevant Skills was the only reliable source of information on the subject. And it was quite insufficient. Knowing how to write the letters didn’t mean one could read them aloud, and being able to speak the words and comprehending their significance were very different things. While the meaning of certain words or phrases could be gleaned from context, the language as a whole remained a mystery.
There was also the fact that all demons capable of speech knew the languages of mortals, and the Skills in question provided all the necessary information to invoke the related magic. There was therefore no practical purpose in researching the language. So while there were most certainly a few zealous people bashing their heads at it, the study of the demonic language had been largely abandoned as a lost cause.
But Boxxy’s situation was different. That enigmatic language shrouded in mystery was currently carved into the wall of its dungeon, literally in front of its very eyes. It was certain the ‘ancient script’ Ambrosia spoke of and the language used in demonic rituals were one and the same. As for how the dryad knew of it, the cause was most likely the common trait she shared with demonkind in general.
Both of them were created by Gods. Granted, they were made by vastly different deities in what were obviously completely different circumstances, but that link was undeniable. Therefore, it wasn’t a stretch of the imagination to say that the language in question was not demonic, but divine in origin.
And there was no Taboo in place that forbade a mortal from gaining such exotic, potentially dangerous knowledge. Which meant that Boxxy would not hesitate to learn the meaning behind those squiggly letters and weird pronunciations with all its might.
Well, it was highly unlikely it could bend reality just by speaking a few words, as the dryad would have doubtlessly used that against the termites if it were that easy. However, that possibility was very much still there. Boxxy had developed a metaphorical nose for shiny things, and this language practically reeked of it. Even in the event the Mimic’s assumptions were wrong and these letters didn’t have such power, it would still profit off them by selling the knowledge off. Not only that, but understanding the contents of Demonology-derived rituals would surely let it prevent any more nasty surprises.
Over the coming days, however, the monster found out that learning a language from scratch was no easy task. Since it found itself naturally able to speak Common, it was able to learn to read and write it very rapidly. However, the tentatively named Divine language was an extremely formidable opponent.
To begin with, it apparently had a mind-boggling 255 letters - 10 times more than Common. Many of them read like short words themselves, such as ‘ubuth,’ ‘ra’ or ‘fus.’ At least it was able to confirm that Ambrosia’s language and the words it spoke during rituals were indeed one and the same. It also found out that Snack’s full name, which was translated as ‘Xerababadubuth L’okrelaila’ by the Status screen, could be spelled out in only 9 Divine letters. It suddenly made sense why demons always seemed to have such long, nonsensical-sounding names.
However, it would appear the succubus herself had no idea about any of that. While she could speak several languages thanks to Versatile Tongue, a Skill derived from her Succubus Job, neither Divine nor Demonic was among them. Well, at least it had the potential to let her use other exotic languages such as Draconic or Runeword at higher Levels, but that was besides the point. Not only Snack, but all three of Boxxy’s familiars were completely unaware of the meaning or origin behind their names. Apparently, such things were assigned at random, so the Divine spelling involved in them was likely Joseph’s doing.
Incidentally, of the other demonic names the Mimic knew about, Arms’ ‘Koralenteprix Khusuuszun Caonthioxxaa’ was 10 letters long, Claws’ ‘Dreaheath Uniolphial Maramakartor’ was 11, Carl’s ‘Katorolomaongott’ was 6, and Punchy’s ‘Nagnamor’ was only 2. It also seemed impossible to actually spell Boxxy’s full name in Divine, as the closest Ambrosia could come up with was ‘Bo-kusi Tu-rapp Mo-rin-ge-wud.’ Three words that, oddly enough, could be literally translated to mean ‘rosebud frozen peas.’
Such trivialities aside, however, it was obvious that learning this language would take a very, very long time. It would be a difficult feat, despite Boxxy’s INT and WIS Attributes greatly boosting its natural mental abilities as a Doppelganger. Still, it found out it was something it could work on while pretending to sleep at night through the dungeon core-assisted communications with Ambrosia. It was a bit tricky to do since the core was unable to properly convey the Divine letters themselves, but it was still possible, and the Mimic made it its priority.
Anything was better than practicing that infuriating Meditation Skill at this point. As expected, trying to Level a Skill that relied on inner peace and pure thoughts was too high of a hurdle for a murderous, violent creature brimming with worldly desires. The fact it got it all the way up to Level 4 was praiseworthy in and of itself, and even that much was mostly due to Boxxy’s patience and stubbornness.
However, that Level was more or less its limit, as it was simply unable to build any additional proficiency, no matter how much it tried. Much like Shapeshift, it was not a Skill that could be mastered through simple repetition and hard work, so the Mimic had to be satisfied with an overall 40% boost to its automatic MP recovery rate. It was not an insignificant result, as the monster’s MP was very much its lifeline, especially during prolonged battles where Meditation’s effects would surely shine. Unfortunately, it had to face reality, acknowledge the fact there were some things it could not do, and focus on the ones it could.
And so, Boxxy slipped back into its new-yet-unchanged routine. It continued acting the part of Keira, had Ranger training for most of the day, wandered around town looking for information and/or prey during the afternoon and evenings, and went back to Rowana’s house at night. There, it played a bit with Minic, spent some ‘quiet, quality time’ with the elf herself and then went to bed. Since it only needed to sleep once every 3 or 4 days, it spent most nights either studying with Ambrosia or playing around in the dungeon.
Its minions were also mostly busy throughout this time, although Xera and Kora were left mostly idle. Since the termites plaguing the dryad had more or less been completely exterminated, they had very little to do unless their Master called upon them. It went without saying that they spent much of that time performing all manner of lewd acts, sometimes involving the poor souls Boxxy brought back with it every now and then.
As for Drea, she kept herself busy by stalking her Master during the day and producing silk during the night. She had to be extra careful around that Faehorn fellow, though. That elf was really sharp, and seemed to actually notice her presence at times, despite there being over a hundred meters between them. A high-Level Ranger’s senses and intuition were not to be trifled with, so the fact the stalker hadn’t been found out completely actually spoke volumes of her sneaking ability. Still, Boxxy had eventually warned Claws to give that old guy an even wider berth, as he was bound to grow suspicious if he kept detecting something at the edge of his perception.
Fizzy mostly divided her time between fighting in the arena for money and working on her Silk Weaver machine. She had a prototype ready within the week, and although it did produce Demon Silk from the raw thread, it had a myriad of issues. It worked slow, was too small in scale and the quality of the silk was quite poor. Not to mention that the stalker demon had some objections regarding the design. Being forced to squat down and ‘poop out’ silk directly into an opening on the side of the machine was too high a hurdle for her, especially since Boxxy was there to watch the trial run. Well, the golem obtained a lot of useful data from that particular experiment, so she was certain she’d make one eventually, especially with the impossibly dextrous Boxxy around to assist.
That was more or less how the group of monsters spent the two weeks following the ‘Silk Hole Dispute’ incident. During this time, Boxxy was able to steadily increase all of its Job Levels. The Doppelganger Job got up to Level to 21, allowing it to obtain two new Skills from it. The first was Broken Reflection, which allowed it to consume a humanoid corpse and become a perfect copy of it, including any clothing or gear it happened to be wearing at the time. Granted, it could do so by its own power, but the Skill did all of this in the blink of an eye, and also allowed it to tap into its victim's most recent memories. This was ultimately a type of illusion born of flesh, so any armor or weapons created through this Skill were for purely decorative purposes, and its effects would fade after an hour or so.
The second Doppelganger Skill was called Puppet Parasite. Successfully implanting a piece of itself into the base of a living target’s skull would allow Boxxy to gain full control over the victim’s movements for a short time. Their minds would be unaffected, however, meaning the subjects would essentially become prisoners inside their own bodies. And although the Mimic’s insidious mind thought of many ways it could torture its captives through this method, leaving their minds conscious was ultimately a drawback. Not only did it leave their memories of the act intact, but it also gave them a chance to fight back against the Puppet Parasite’s influence. Indeed, someone with a high enough END or MNT Attribute would be able to completely fight off the Skill’s influence. It was still possible to do it, although such hard targets would need to be considerably weakened beforehand through the tried-and-true methods of blood loss and major physical trauma.
The Warlock Job also steadily progressed to Level 40, mostly due to its familiars keeping themselves busy by squashing small fry. It wasn’t much of a power boost, but it was just enough to allow Boxxy to learn a Skill called Despair Aura. This was essentially the all-purpose, super-powered version of Butcher of Humanity, as activating this Skill clad the Warlock in an aura of dread and malice that made everyone around it want to run away in fear. Unlike the Perk, however, this one could be toggled on and off, making it an excellent tool for what was to come.
And what that was had steadily become clear over the last 10 days. Faehorn and the other elderly instructors at the Consortium increased the intensity and nature of their lessons, focusing more on longer, tougher expeditions with mixed groups of students. It was essentially a form of power leveling, as everyone, Keira included, was able to reach beyond Level 25 of their respective adventurer Job quite rapidly. Every student had slowly but steadily come to understand the reason for this sudden spike in aggressiveness on behalf the teachers, so none of them found themselves unprepared when the dire news finally arrived.
The Empire had officially declared war on the Republic. Their casus belli was the accusation that the Republic refused to cooperate with them in tracking down the completely fabricated ‘terrorists’ that caused the Calamity of Monotal. The elven Exarch - the temporarily elected official that served as the Republic’s commander-in-chief - had fervently denied such accusations, stating his cabinet had absolutely nothing to do with that horrific event. Although he wanted to avoid war at all costs, there was no way he would accept the Empire’s demands of allowing their soldiers to march unhindered through the Republic’s territories. This was, unsurprisingly, exactly what the warmongering Empire was counting on, as evidenced at how it had been steadily preparing and escalating its armed forces for the last few months. And although the Republic’s armed forces did the same, they were vastly inferior in when it came to the overall quality and quantity of their troops.
Which was where Keira and her fellow students came in. The elven government was forced to conscript adventurers into its armed forces, something that was only seen as natural since it backed pretty much all adventurer guilds based in the Republic. And much to Boxxy’s surprise, every single member of the Consortium, trainee and veteran alike, gladly took up arms to protect their homeland. The Mimic knew the people of Azurvale deeply cherished their country, but the pragmatic monster had expected at least some of them to run away from the war. Well, such people did exist of course, but none of them were among the 8-sided alliance that was the Central Consortium.
Of course, it wasn’t just the elves. Many dwarves, gnomes and even humans all threw their lot in with the Republic. The Empire’s widespread disdain for elvenkind was no secret, so there was no doubt in their minds that this would not be a peaceful occupation if they just sat by and let it happen. To them, this conflict was not about their race. For some, it was about standing up for what they believed in. For others, it was about fighting to protect their loved ones and the lives they’d built here. Others still were simply hopeless battle junkies that longed to proved their might on the battlefield.
Each one of Boxxy’s minions was also uniquely motivated in their own way. Whether it was to spread violence and chaos, satiate their desires or show off in a flashy manner, all of them had one thing in common. They would make themselves useful to the Mimic that bound them all together. Well, except for Ambrosia. The dryad was both unable and unwilling to leave her dungeon, so she would be unable to support Boxxy in any meaningful way. Not that she understood the first thing about warfare or large-scale conflict anyway.
So while every soldier or conscript had their own motivation, none of them could match the sheer enthusiasm of one young-looking box-turned-catgirl. Although one couldn’t tell from her face, Keira was positively giddy at the prospect of all out war with humanity. It would kill them to death and feast on their bodies, caring little for things such as politics, beliefs, honor or discrimination. What were those things, anyway? Were they tasty? They didn’t seem tasty. But humans most definitely were, and Boxxy was practically salivating at the feast that was to come.
It would indiscriminately murder and devour those humans en-masse. It would bite, stab, cut and maul them to death. It would come at them mercilessly and with no hesitation, striking at them with no warning and for no real reason other than because it wanted to, just like any real monster would.
Yes… just like the good old days.