Boxxy wasn’t sure exactly what that old Warlock wanted with it, nor did it really care. Its self-preservation instincts had kicked up the instant that VIP had identified himself, warning it that this was not an opponent it could take lightly. Unfortunately, the Mimic’s instantaneous surprise attack was thwarted by some form of transparent magical shield. The most likely culprit for that would be Shinji’s beholder familiar, as that sort of thing was one of their specialities and it knew for a fact the Warlock Job was completely lacking in any defensive magic. That, and Boxxy was pretty sure it saw one of the demon’s eyes flinch the instant that throwing knife hit the barrier.
Well, the fact it failed to remotely stab Shinji in the face wasn’t entirely unexpected. A human didn’t get to Level 100 by being that careless, but Boxxy had to at least try. After all, the best way to kill a powerful magic user was to do it before they had a chance to react, and assassinations weren’t going to happen so long as that beholder was around. Therefore, it flashbanged the lot of them and turned tail. It didn’t know what Jobs or Attributes that old man had, but he had no chance of catching up to a runaway monster on foot considering the relative frailty of a magic user’s body. And to its credit, the Mimic was quite right, as that VIP did not chase after it.
His pet, however, was another story altogether.
The Sandman’s hulking figure had barely covered a distance of 15 or so meters before Boxxy sensed something large coming directly at it from behind. The Mimic didn’t even stop to think as it kicked the ground, moving sideways with an exaggerated motion as it narrowly avoided the hellhound’s pounce. It wasn’t a clean dodge, however, as the two-headed wolf’s burning claws still managed to tear off the Doppelganger’s left arm with its burning claws. The demon left a trail of smoke and sparks as it brought its canine body around and charged at its target once again, but Boxxy was ready for it this time.
A wall of dark smog shot out from Boxxy’s hastily reconstructed left hand while its right firmly gripped onto the Voidcaller staff. The two-headed wolf ran face-first into it, and found its large body thrown several meters backwards with a surprised yelp. It landed on its side and rolled over once before stopping itself by digging its claws into the ground.
Boxxy’s next Spell produced a large number of shadowy chains that rose up from underneath the momentarily staggered demon. They wrapped around its legs, necks and body, causing it to fall over on its side before binding it firmly to the ground.
That should hold it for a while.
While hellhounds may boast the best speed and tracking ability among demonkind, their actual muscle strength fell behind that of fiends, so they were not as physically adept as they appeared. Putting it another way, their high-speed fighting style was quite similar to that of a Blade Dancer or Rogue in that it relied more on finesse than raw power. Their feral nature also made them the most simple-minded type of familiar that a Warlock could be contracted to. It made them both easy to control and easy to predict, which in turn meant they were quite susceptible to magic so long as their opponent could keep up with their speed. Something this particular Mimic was just barely capable of doing.
Boxxy took this opportunity to check in on its 3 minions who had been tasked with covering its escape.
Arms and Smokey were doing a splendid job of body-blocking Shinji’s glaive-wielding fiend. The red-skinned demoness was using all four of her arms to fend off her kin’s weapon, while the Molten Guardian slashed and bit at his legs. Well, objectively speaking their teamwork was horrible and they were unquestionably weaker than their opponent, but the two-on-one meant they were still able to ever-so-slightly push him back for the moment.
Snack had circled around and was bombarding that beholder with Fireballs and Magma Missiles. Her attacks were having very little effect, however, as the many-eyed floating head effortlessly deflected her Spells with its defensive magic. As for the VIP himself, Claws was keeping him busy by neutralizing all his Spells with her back-mounted scythes. That wouldn’t last long though, as her MP was rapidly running out and that Warlock probably had a full tank. Normally she’d just gut the guy and bite his head off, but she wasn’t able to get close enough to do that so long as that beholder was backing him up. The only reason she was able to do even that much was probably because a significant number of Warlock Spells were ineffective against demons to begin with.
As if to prove that point, the hellhound broke free of its bindings after only 2 or 3 seconds with a piercing howl. It growled and glared at its target once again and leapt out at it once again-
-only to find itself right back where it started.
Boxxy did some more thinking, and realized that running away was a bad idea. Both a hellhound and a beholder had its scent, so simply running away and hoping for the best was stupid. Not to mention that it was only a matter of time before the other side’s superior power overwhelmed its own. Even then, it was unlikely that Warlock would just give up so easily. The fact he had called it ‘mister Underwood’ just now more or less proved he was here to find it specifically to begin with. That beholder had probably revealed Boxxy’s nature as a shapeshifter by now, so there was a good chance that news might spread and reach a certain spymaster if he let him go.
So if running was a foregone conclusion, then how about fighting? Well, if Boxxy was going to do something it had to do it fast, so it wasted no time assessing its options.
Strictly speaking, the best way to kill a high-Level magic user was to catch them off guard and take their head before they knew what was happening. Using the dryads was one way to do that, but the Mimic had no way it could give them orders right now. They only listened to ‘mommy’ to begin with, and the Elder Dryad’s Authority did not extend to Boxxy’s familiars. Therefore, while they may be aware of the Mimic’s location, they were unlikely to do anything by themselves after being thoroughly told to sit tight.
No, even with the dryads’ help it might not turn out so good. The opponent had a beholder. So long as that literal eye-in-the-sky was around, any dirty tricks the Mimic might try would get spotted immediately. And since Shinji was a Level 100 Warlock, it was safe to assume he was very experienced in controlling his familiars and giving them airtight instructions. In short, if Boxxy was going to do anything, it had to take out that beholder first. The real question was whether that human was using Soul Link like Boxxy was. Thankfully, it had the perfect guinea pig on hand to find out.
The Mimic restrained the hellhound just as it broke free of its second set of bindings. It then activated Power Overwhelming, letting a flashy aura of crackling energy wrap around its cloaked figure. It grabbed hold of its staff with both arms and raised it above its head as if it were an axe.
The skull-tipped rod was swung diagonally along with those words. A few moments later, something struck the chained hellhound dead-on. There was a brief, narrow flash of light as if a blade was swung to mirror the Mimic’s movements, leaving a deep gash along the trampled grass and splitting one of the beast’s immobilized wolf heads apart.
Your target has been nearly split asunder. Target HP -3,561.
The beast’s other head let out a howl of pain as the Spell dug deep into its flesh. Not only did it cut its left skull clean in half, but it kept going straight through the neck and shoulder, stopping only once it reached about a third of the way through its torso. And although the chains keeping it in place were also broken by that, its assailant had no intention of letting it run wild.
Being a ruin Spell, the next Shadowbind was also influenced by the effects of Power Overwhelming, as it chained the half-headless wolf to the ground with enough with enough force to strange the life out of it. Not that it would have come to that, of course.
Your target has been nearly split asunder. Target HP -3,912.
This time the staff was swung horizontally, and the demon’s other head was destroyed as well. Its massive body fell to the ground motionlessly and would probably begin fading away into nothingness soon.
This sort of explosive damage output was why Boxxy was extremely wary of that Warlock. It varied from person to person, but it was doubtless that Shinji would be capable of doing a lot more than that if given the chance. Provided that he had access to Power Overwhelming, of course, but that was besides the point. And the point was he clearly did not have Soul Link like Boxxy did, otherwise that hellhound would not have died so easily. A decision that the Mimic was going to make him regret.
“Snack, stop wasting time on that eye and come to me!” it commanded telepathically while it ran back to where its minions were.
The succubus responded with curt ‘Yes, Master!’ before she stopped trying to fruitlessly drop Meteors on the beholder and flew towards Boxxy. Shinji seems to have realized they were up to something and sent a Reality Slash of his own at her, but Claws leapt through the air and cut the invisible guillotine in half. It was an impressive feat, although she failed to get the angle right and lost one of her back-mounted limbs in the process. A deep cut appeared on both Kora and Xera’s backs, signifying that the damage had been shared through their Soul Link.
However, damage wasn’t the only thing the Skill shared between them.
“Here, drink this!”
Once the succubus was close enough, Boxxy threw a vial of pink-colored liquid at her. Xera caught it, uncorked it and downed it as fast as she could. A bright pink aura shone out of her body, and the regenerative effects of the high-quality and highly-toxic Rejuvenation Potion were transmitted to the other two. All three demons’ wounds closed up as if time was running backwards, and Drea’s lost spider-like limbs grew back out of her upper back as if it were never gone.
Next, the Mimic empowered all of its familiars at once by using the succubus as this normally short-ranged Spell’s target. Xera moaned, Kora roared and Drea chittered as they felt their bodies swell with power. The fiend was the one that benefited the most, though, as the sudden influx of strength and speed allowed her to gain a temporary edge over the glaive-wielding field and knocked him back with a well-timed uppercut. If it was like this, she was quite sure she would be able to kick his ass. Unfortunately for her, her master had other plans.
“Snack, you and Smokey keep that blue fiend busy! Claws, I’ll distract the Warlock while you and Arms get in position to take out that beholder!”
Boxxy frantically gave orders as it tossed a trio of blue-tinted potion vials into a mouth it opened under its cloak, and quite literally ate them. Taking that hellhound out earlier had taken quite a bit of its MP, so it wanted to replenish what was missing right away.
You have used a Mana Potion. MP +500.
You have used a Mana Potion. MP +500.
You have used a Mana Potion. MP +500.
The demons all moved to their position, and Shinji’s eyes locked onto the Sandman’s yellow orbs. There was something different about the way he looked at the towering figure, but Boxxy had neither the luxury nor the interest to care about that, as the old man started glowing with the very obvious visual effects of Power Overwhelming. He pointed his staff directly at the incoming Mimic and unleashed one of the most devastating anti-personnel Warlock Spells available.
However, being a Warlock itself, Boxxy had not only anticipated it, but knew full well how to counter it. The Sandman’s large body momentarily split in two as the distorted figure of a 13-year-old child with pitch-black skin and no face fell out from under that heavy silver-colored cloak. This was Boxxy’s true form and body, while the Mirror Image it left behind as a body double erupted in black flames and disappeared into ash in the next instant. The exposed Doppelganger immediately grew back into its former size and clad itself in a fresh disguise out of its Storage. The sheer speed at which it operated its pocket dimension under duress was so quick that it rivaled that of Hilda’s Rearm, which was practically instantaneous.
From Shinji’s point of view, his opponent had literally evaporated, only to see that a ‘new’ Sandman had popped up immediately behind the original. No, a brief mental check with his beholder confirmed that this was the real one, and the one his Spell hit was just a shell, a body double. He tried using Ebonfire once more, but his opponent had avoided it in much the same way, eliciting a click of his tongue in response. That Spell relied on the user’s eyesight to pick a target, so he was unable to hit the real body if he couldn’t see it, even if he knew where it was. Projectile-based Spells were also useless, as that man- no, that monster had already proven more than capable of avoiding them.
“Alright, dodge this! Dark Explosion!”
This time, the cloaked creature used the brief gap between the incantation’s utterance and the Spell’s actual activation to jump up into the air with all its might while covering as much of its body as possible with a steel carapace, courtesy of Metal Mimicry. The ground immediately below it was dented in the shape of a perfect hemisphere, almost as if it was scooped out with a spoon. As for Boxxy, it got thrown high up into the air as it was still well in range of that blast.
You have been blown away by the force of the explosion. HP -2189.
Even though it absorbed much of the shock wave with armor, even though it was holding Voidcaller that boosted its resistance to magic, even though it only caught the tail-end of that Spell, it still lost about half of its HP in an instant. As expected, a Warlock’s magical power output was quite ridiculous. Not even blood would be left behind if Boxxy had taken that attack head on.
In the meantime, the little ‘presents’ it had thrown at the shielded Warlock’s feet while he was chanting let off a chain of explosions of their own. The man had briefly shut his eyes so as to not get blinded, but those particular balls were hand grenades, not flashbangs. Shinji’s eyes still worked properly, but the flames, dirt and smoke those explosives produces was enough to temporarily obscure his sight. Even if that beholder was capable of feeding his master with that information, learning about it second hand was unlikely to help the human target it accurately. And, of course, the familiar’s magical barrier made sure his master was unharmed.
Well, that pain-in-the-lid demon was about to be eliminated, so Boxxy wasn’t particularly worried about that. It also made a mental note to make sure it had actual smoke bombs rather then being forced to improvise like that.
“Arms, Claws! Now!” it called out.
“On it, boss!” replied the fiend in high spirits.
“Uuu… I really don’t wanna get near that guy…” whined the stalker.
A beholder simply had way too many eyes. Even if Drea was mostly fine being seen by other demons, ‘mostly’ was definitely the operative word in that statement. Regardless, she still did as her master had instructed and let Kora grab her by her primary set of legs. The fiend then spun around on her heels once, then twice, then threw the horribly embarrassed Drea through the air with a loud “ORRRAAAAAA!”
Shinji used a Spell unknown to Boxxy to disperse the cloud of debris around him sooner than expected. He looked up to see that his opponent hadn’t come back down to the ground, but was currently gliding around on a set of bat-like wings. He was about to renew his assault, when he caught a blur zoom by out of the corner of his eye. He turned his head just in time to see that troublesome and inexplicably airborne stalker from earlier collide with his beholder. Her claws and scythes ripped through the floating head’s multi-layered barriers with ease. She dug her claws deep into its main eye, although she had lost quite a bit of momentum by the time she got that close. Her victim roared in pain, but the actual damage done was nowhere near enough to-
Boxxy finished chanting its Spell the instant after the stalker’s claws were firmly attached to the enemy’s beholder. Her body shone with a bright green light for a moment before it exploded violently, killing both demons at once and scattering their various bits around.
“That’s enough!” shouted Shinji. “Abyssal Plane!”
The old Warlock struck the ground with the bottom of his plain-looking staff, causing a thin purple film to spread rapidly over the trampled, bloodied weeds underfoot. Boxxy, Kora, Xera, Smokey, Shinji’s sole surviving familiar and anyone else who was within 30 meters of the old man fell flat on the ground. The gravity around them had instantly increased tenfold, and none of them were able to support the weight of their own bodies. The physically weak ones like Xera even started choking since they were unable to even breathe properly, while the stronger ones like the fiends or Boxxy could do little else than weakly move their limbs around.
Out of the corner of its eye, the Mimic saw the Republic’s remaining snipers had started taking shots at the VIP that had revealed himself. However, their arrows merely crashed to the ground pretty much the instant they entered the Ultimate Skill’s area of effect. Even the few Spells that entered it dissipated into nothingness almost immediately. Boxxy tried casting some of its own, but no matter how much it chanted, it couldn’t produce even a single Shadowbolt. The overwhelming Abyssal Plane was powerful enough to even disrupt other people’s magic.
As for the culprit that unleashed this terrifying Skill, he was the only one left standing, even if barely. Shinji really didn’t want to use his Ultimate as maintaining it placed a heavy burden on his body and mind, but that blasted creature had forced his hand. He simply wanted to have a little chat with it, and it just lashed out like an angry toddler. The Warlock limped over to where ‘Underwood’ had crash landed and looked down at the pinned monster while leaning heavily on his staff. His black, glassy eyes gazed into Boxxy’s yellow orbs.
“You really need to listen to other people when they’re speaking to you,” he said with a low, rasping voice. “But I suppose it can’t be helped. You’re a monster aren’t you? You simply don’t know any better.”
“... Talk is cheap,” came the curt, aggressive reply.
“Nonsense! No matter how much one may try to use violence in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words are the means to meaning, and for those who will listen - the enunciation of the truth. And the truth is there is something very much wrong with this world of yours.”
“Yeah? Like what?”
“I’m not from around here, you know. I came to this… realm about 60 years ago, from elsewhere. A plane of reality where we understood each other with words, not with swords. A world where things such as Attributes, Skills, Jobs and Levels were not part of everyday life and only existed in fiction. A place where gods and magic did not exist, and neither did monsters.”
“Dull? Oh yes, that may have been so, but I would still go back there if I could. I’m not saying the people back home were flawless… but they were at least better than the ones here.”
“... Why are you telling me all this?”
“Because nobody will listen unless I force them to!”
Shinji’s eyes and voice flashed with the pressure and dignity only an Ascended human could give off.
“My so-called ‘fellow men’ all cling to their ancient beliefs, to those sideways morals that will lead this world into ruin! I mean, look at this ‘war!’ It’s bullshit! It’s exactly what G̨̡̧é̶̴o̕͟͟r̷̀͟g̴e̷̷̡͟͟ ̸̧̡҉͞B̶̷̶͝͞u̶̴̕͟s͡h̵̷͢ did in Í̶̵r͏̷̀a͏̸̛̕͟q̶̴! Don’t even get me started on all that slavery business! Sometimes I wonder if those other nobles are worse than the thousands of monsters I’ve killed since I got here!”
There were some weird, buzzing words mixed in there. It was extremely bizarre, almost as if the sounds that came out of the enraged old man’s lips weren’t syllables, but white noise. The odd event seemed to lend some credibility to this man’s ramblings that even Boxxy found to be insane.
“And of course, none of them had even tried to establish peaceful relations with the primitive civilizations around us! Not a single effort to stop this perpetual cycle of violence and revenge! Why?! Because the ones they need to understand are not people, but ‘monsters!’ Creatures that they see as nothing but loot and XP! What sort of blind prejudice is that?! I mean yes, they do attack people on sight, but who can blame them after we subjected them to generation after generation of genocide?!”
The man’s rant tapered off as he breathed heavily.
“But you!” he continued with renewed vigor. “You’re different, aren’t you? You’re practical, pragmatic, logical. You’ve seen both sides of the fence! That’s why I thought I could get through to you - make you understand! That there has to be a better way than this endless cycle of mutual destruction!”
“You’re right. There is.”
Your mass has been reduced by 40%.
Your weight has been reduced by 40%.
After secretly equipping two of Keira’s rings underneath its cloak, the burden on Boxxy’s body became only a third of what it used to be. Its body still felt heavy, but it was at a point where it could bear with it. It then lunged upwards at the surprised, almost happy looking old man and grabbed him by the neck with its left hand.
“-it’s not nearly as tasty!” it growled as it started choking the life out of Shinji.
Boxxy then transformed its right arm into a giant metal spike and stabbed the suffocating old man through the chest. Then the stomach. Then the chest. On the 5th or 6th strike, it felt something break underneath its ever-tightening grip on his neck, and Shinji Arakawa - the man who claimed to have come here from another world - went completely limp.
Congratulations, you are now a Level 50 Warlock! INT +4. MNT +4. END +4.
Congratulations, you are now a Level 23 Doppelganger! All Attributes +2.
Feat of strength performed! You have unlocked a new Perk: Anti-centennial.
The flows of chaos have returned to their default, causal state.
“Ah! Should have used a sword…” it muttered regretfully as the effects of the Ultimate Skill around it dissipated. It then discretely collected the old man’s corpse into its Storage and turned its attention towards escaping.
“Snack! Get yourself back to the dryads! Move!”
“Huff, huff, huff,” panted the succubus as she picked herself off the ground. “Y-Yes! Right away, master!”
She forced herself to stand, then cloaked herself in Invisibility and flew off towards the closest Hylt tree - the one due north of Boxxy’s current position. Out of the corner of its eye, it noticed that Shinji’s formerly bound fiend had picked himself off the ground and was giving his liberator a thumbs-up.
“Thanks for that!” he spoke with a deep, thundering voice. “I really don’t know how much more of that moron’s bullshit I could stand! Anyway, if you’ll excuse me, I have two decades’ worth of resentment to vent!”
He then ran off into the distance while chuckling ominously with his glaive held over his head. Well, it was none of Boxxy’s business, but the fact he was headed away from the fort was probably a good thing for the elves. Putting that guy’s existence out of its mind, the Mimic then forcibly dismissed the highly conspicuous Arms and started chanting a Spell. It was actually in a bit of a rush, as that little showdown had attracted too much attention. The wrong kind of attention. At the very least it would seem it had a bit of time, so it wasn’t particularly worried as it steadily mumbled the magic-inducing gibberish under its breath.
“Snack! How far did you get?!” it called out just as it was about to finish.
“I’m just entering the upper canopy right now, Master.”
“Transfamiliar!” it shouted.
The Sandman’s towering, cloaked figure vanished in a puff of green smoke. In his place was a very confused-looking succubus that had fallen over on her outrageous breasts. Xera lifted her face off the dirt and looked around, trying to get her bearings. Well, the scene around her was terribly familiar, but she caught a glimpse of something that wasn’t there before.
It was a black-haired, white-winged woman that was flying towards her at full speed.
Your familiar has been banished.