A seemingly endless realm of nothingness, yet filled to the brim with thought. Its original function was that of a psychic filter between the Aether and Terrania, meant to safeguard the deities of that world from both intentional and accidental thought corruption. It was by no means a perfect system, of course, as the enlightened mind was a complex construct that was always in flux. Attempting to sort through the near-infinite range of emotional cocktails that millions upon millions of mortals produced every second of every minute of every day was, frankly put, a fool’s errand.
And yet, one fool of unimaginable proportions - namely the former Old God of Order - was able to succeed. As capable as he was, however, he still created an inherently flawed system. A point which was demonstrated by the fact that Teresa, Goddess of Truth, Justice and (to a lesser extent) Retribution, had succumbed to thought poisoning and very nearly become a Fallen God. Or worse - mutate into a different, inherently evil deity. Both outcomes were highly undesirable, as they would cause ripples across the rest of the Terranian pantheon.
Thankfully, this potentially world-ending flaw in the Beyond had been rectified in part by another fault in the grand system - a glitch that went by the name Boxxy T. Morningwood. And its pet fiend, of course, who played an even more pivotal role in the proceedings. Not that the rest of the Beyond knew of her assistance in Teresa’s rehab, of course. The big man himself felt uneasy about publicizing something like that, as it would have repercussions he wasn’t willing to deal with.
Besides, it wasn’t like Kora needed the publicity or anything. That particular mass of violence, bloodlust, and regular-lust had grown into something of a celebrity among her peers already. Pretty much every demon in the Beyond knew of her, her Master, and her co-contractors, thanks in no small part to the Boxxy Show, broadcast to them courtesy of their unstable deity of a Progenitor.
That wasn’t to say that all of them liked that particular bunch, of course. Demons were inherently selfish creatures, meaning that while some of them cheered on the murderous chest with the best, many seethed with discontent. While certainly entertaining, watching their adventures was also quite infuriating. Those three familiars lived a lifestyle of indulgence that others would only get to enjoy if they were left unbound. Not only that, but watching an idiotic box make what the viewers deemed as obvious mistakes made them unreasonably upset.
Whatever their reason, it was an undeniable fact that nearly 80% of those disembodied demons were watching the Boxxy Show at any given time. Today’s broadcast actually peaked closer to 90%, as word of the sudden and currently ongoing confrontation between Boxxy and Jones Alexis had spread among the demons like gonorrhea at a 12 hour long free-for-all orgy. And, much like all things in life, the best way to view this one-of-a-kind battle was in the company of others.
“Yeah! Shank the bastard!” shouted a male demon.
“Ah! Shhhallow! The cut was too shhhhallow!” reacted another male with a few light hisses.
“Khraaa! Harf harf!” barked a third.
“Hmm, seems the opponent this time is no push over. Very interesting,” mused a fourth, much deeper voice.
“Yo! He snuck inside his portal thingie! He’s ripping off the B-box’s moves!” complained a fifth, the sole female in the group.
This gathered congregation of demons consisted of a fiend, a stalker, a hellhound, a beholder, and a succubus, respectively. The fiend looked like the typical muscle-headed gorilla one would expect from his kind, although in his case the ‘gorilla’ aspect was far more literal. One would almost mistake him for the real thing, if it wasn’t for the much-too-human face, the pair of upward-curved bullish horns on his head and the bright red hues of his fur and skin.
The stalker seated on his left side to him had no humanoid features whatsoever, appearing as a gigantic tarantula with swords for legs, knives for mandibles, shiny blue carapace, orange hair, and a yellow skull-like pattern on top of his bulbous abdomen. The completely arachnid appearance was a sign that he was actually a webstalker - a Ranked Up version of his lesser kin. The hellhound next to him was also of a higher species of demon, a three-headed canine called a cerberus. As the oldest Ranker, this black doberman-looking beast was technically the most powerful among them, even though all three of its minds were colossal morons that could only be compared to freshly-born mimics.
The same could not be said of the purple-skinned beholder floating above them, appearing as nothing but a floating head that was equal parts mouth, eyes and brain. This particular individual was named Thruumitt, and was one of the few demons that had met the Hero of Chaos personally, even though he didn’t realize it at the time. Beholders, once summoned, were very rarely dismissed back to the Beyond since their duties involved babysitting whatever Warlock or Witch they were bound to. As such, this particular eye-in-the-sky had actually missed the first few broadcasts of the Boxxy Show, which was somewhat regretful.
As for why he was here right now - that was actually Boxxy’s fault. The Mimic’s parting gift to the town of Bootlick had not only wiped out Thruumitt’s summoner, but the demon himself as well. Normally the good Overlord Liusolra might have considered letting him off and allowing him to roam free, but she, like all Stalkers, absolutely despised beholders. This was only natural, though. After all, one species of demons hated being seen, while the other excelled at seeing, so it was no wonder they almost never saw eye-to-eye. Both literally and figuratively.
That being said, Thruumitt was not the only one in the group to have personally met the star of the Boxxy Show. Resting somewhat disrespectfully on top of him was a white-skinned succubus with blonde hair, yellow eyes and black ram-like horns. What really set her apart from her sultry sisters were her wings, which were angelic rather than demonic in appearance. Her name was Purupururin, and she and her summoner had been part of the same recon squad as Keira in the early stages of the Empire-Republic war.
Of course, this being the Beyond meant that nothing about this scene was actually real. Well, not entirely real, anyway. The huge screen showing images of the Boxxy Show was actually a mental projection that Thruumitt was kind enough to provide for the others’ benefit. The large red sofa that three of the demons were lying on, and indeed every aspect of the tiny basement-like room around them were also immaterial images conjured up by one demonic mind or another. Their ‘bodies’ were equally devoid of actual, physical properties, and were actually a form of astral projection manifested from their immortal souls, typically referred to as a demon’s soul-self. Using this apparition allowed other demons to perceive their presence and their true form.
These stray souls could, of course, appear as mere motes of light, but doing things this way made it much easier to tell who was who.
“Oh! Oh! Look! It’s my lil’ sis!”
The fiend started shouting excitedly as Kora made her appearance on the screen.
“Big deal,” scoffed the stalker. “My daughter hasss been on the field since the sssstart!”
“Maybe, but that puny little bug didn’t do jack shit, did she?” replied the red gorilla with a chuckle.
“Uh, huh. Tell me, how does it feel to be surpassed in rank by your younger sibling?”
“Bah! She just lucked out, is all! Anyone would’ve Ranked Up if the Progenitor saw it fit! It doesn’t mean she’s better than me!”
“Sure it does. Having good luck is alsssso a form of ssssskill.”
“I agree with Mal on this one, actually,” interject Thruumitt. “Even though it is considered unpredictable, good fortune is a key aspect of-”
“Arf arf arf arf!” barked the Cerberus’s leftmost head, and the middle one growled in agreement.
The on on the right, on the other hand, seemed to be taking a nap.
“Fluffy makes a good point,” chimed in the succubus that was laying on top of the beholder. “Y’all just need to shut your traps so I can focus on the B-box.”
The gorilla and the knife-tarantula begrudgingly complied, as neither of them wanted to miss out on what was shaping up to be a huge fight. Their little fan club would have plenty of time to argue the details later as per usual. As for Thruumitt, even though he went quiet, he was left with a sense of disappointment at his current predicament. It wasn’t because his lecture was cut off, or because he pulled projector duty for the week, but due to the succubus that kept rolling around on top of him as if he were an oversized pillow.
Not only was it a bit demeaning, but to make matters worse he couldn’t feel a single thing. This was only to be expected, though. Even if soul-selves could interact and collide with one another, there was no actual feeling transmitted back to the owner. Otherwise Thruumitt would gladly serve as Purupururin’s seat as many times as possible, as it meant he could feel up her plump ass, overfull breasts and soft-looking wings in return.
Well, just because he was a literally dickless bookworm didn’t mean Thruumitt did not enjoy fondling bubbly boobs or bodacious booty. He was, after all, a man.
“Aw, shit!” blurted out the alabaster-skinned beauty. “That wimpy Warlock of mine is calling me out! Why now?!”
The others could confirm she was being summoned with a single glance, as her soul-self was rapidly dissolving into specks of light that shot off somewhere into the infinite void beyond this basement-shaped illusion. It had started at the tips of her fingers and toes and had already left her as nothing but a head and wings attached to the upper half of her torso in a matter of seconds.
“Thruumitt!” she called out. “Leave a memory echo of what happens next for me, alright?!”
“Fine. But only if you promise to stop lazing around on my head.”
“I will! Thanks, bud!”
Those were the last words she uttered before the rest of her was whisked away to the mortal realm.
“You know she’s jussssst going to do it again next time,” pointed out Mal, the stalker.
“Probably. It’s not that big a deal anyway.”
“Maybe not to you,” grunted the fiend. “You’d never catch me submitting to-!”
The gorilla’s idle complaints were suddenly silenced by the super-sized green explosion that had just flashed across the screen. His viewing buddies seemed equally enraptured by it, except for the third Cerberus head that was still snoring peacefully. At least until the rest of the beast stood up on all fours and began jumping around the sofa excitedly while barking happily.
“Holy fuck! What was that?!”
“I don’t know! I’ve never seen ssssometing of that magnitude!”
“That, my fellow philistines, was a Demonate Spell.”
“Oh yeah!” exclaimed Mal. “It was the sssssame thing Boxxy used on my daughter! You know, when he was fighting that old-ass Warlock during the sssssiege?”
“Having your daughter blown up ain’t nothing to be proud about, yo,” pointed out the fiend. “Especially when my little sis’s towering inferno just topped it! I mean, look at that! It totally kicks the ass of that bug-fart your brat made!”
“Shhhhut it, Goreg! Your kin is just a freaky pervert, anyway!”
“Yeah, and yours likes to masturbate in front of the whole damn Beyond!”
“That’s only because she’s been watching your degenerate sibling and that shameless slut go at it like-!”
The blue-and-yellow spider’s tirade was rudely interrupted by a miniature star that flew into the group’s little corner of the Beyond completely uninvited. It looked to be about the size of the gorilla’s head and was glowing with a bright green light.
“Oh. Hello, Koralenteprix,” said Mal as he sank into his seat a bit.
“Hey, you guys!” replied the Archfiend they’d been watching until seconds ago. “What’d I miss?!”
“Nothing much,” said Thruumitt. “Boxxy’s still investigating the aftermath of that splendid Demonate.”
“Oh?! Did I get the guy! Lemme see!”
The orb of light settled down in front of the screen to get a better look, but in doing so obstructed the others’ view of it. However, neither the fiend, beholder, nor stalker even tried to tell her to move. Since Kora was a Ranker - albeit a very recent one - she was a few steps higher in the pecking order around here. And fiends were very particular about enforcing that sort of stuff. Thankfully, there was someone here who was easily above her.
“Ruff ruff ruff!”
The Cerberus complained at her with two of its heads while the third one yawned and tried to go back to sleep.
“Oh! Right, my bad, Fluffy!”
Having been scolded by the ancient demon-dog, Kora pulled away from the screen and, after rebuilding her soul-self, sat down on the couch next to the Cerberus. The quintet of demonic entities continued watching the ongoing action with great interest, having an all around jolly time as they commented on the ongoing fight.
Right up to its inevitable conclusion.
The demons that were rather noisily watching the show stood in perfect silence as they stared at the flashing ‘WE ARE EXPERIENCING TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES’ that Thruumitt was projecting.
After about a minute, Kora heard a melodic chime just before a floating box of light materialized in front of her open-jawed face.
Koralenteprix Khusuuszun Caonthioxxaa,
This is an automated message officially informing you that your summoning contract with [ERROR 404: NOT FOUND] is now void. The cause(s) of this termination will be listed below:
Contractor fatality (DSC Article 1-4).
For any further inquiries, please contact your direct supervisor at: [email protected]
Please do not reply to this D-mail. Like, for real. Just don’t.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the answer she was looking for. The final images she saw on the screen combined with what was quite literally staring at her face made it abundantly clear that Boxxy had died just then. But before she could even begin to process this un-tasty feeling welling up within her, Kora’s eyes latched onto the one oddity of this message.
Namely, the big honking ‘NOT FOUND’ part.
This would normally be where Boxxy’s name would have gone. Yet it wasn’t present. The reason for this was that a certain alchemist’s heresies had whisked away the monster’s soul before it could be processed, but Kora didn’t know that just yet. Then again, she didn’t really need to know the specifics either. She wasn’t sure how or why, but she felt that there was no way Boxxy would just submit to something trivial like death so easily. Sure, it was a mortal creature, but Kora had, for the lack of a better word, faith in her master.
Which was why she bolted off with a huge grin on her face, as she made her way towards the Demons ‘R’ Us office. The basement-like illusion around her faded away and an incalculable number of sceneries rushed past her as she got closer towards her destination. Well, she wasn’t so much ‘approaching’ the place as she was ‘imagining herself being there.’ And it would work without fail, as such was the nature of this realm.
Both time and space had a certain wibbly-wobbly nature to them in the Beyond, as it was a dimension that existed in a much more fluid state than the material one. One merely had to think hard enough about a person or a place, and the Beyond would wrap around and collapse in on itself, just to bring the two of them together. This property was why the place was such a mess, but was also how demons were able to turn the shades and shapes of objects from memory into reality. Or at least, as ‘real’ as things got in a place that was made up of naught but thoughts, nightmares, and delusions.
And indeed, after only a few seconds of thinking later, Kora had found herself standing in a long, well-lit hallway. The floor was covered by a fuzzy blue-and-purple checkered carpet, the walls had a coat of beige paint broken up by dozens upon dozens of bright red doors. Each door had a small golden plaque on it, and most of them had a row of various demons lined up outside it. As for the ceiling, it was actually a ceaselessly crawling and writhing mass of black cockroaches that occasionally burst into crimson flames for no good reason.
Just another day at the offices of Demons ‘R’ Us.
Kora had barely set off on her way to Carl’s office when she heard the familiar jingle of another incoming D-mail. She didn’t really get many of those, so she had it set up to instantly open the new message, which appeared in front of her as expected.
HAHAHAHA! I KNEW THAT STUPID BOX WOULD DIE A HORRIBLE, PAINFUL DEATH! SERVES IT RIGHT FOR FUCKING WITH ME! TOO BAD I WASN’T THE ONE TO DO IT! I CAN’T WAIT UNTIL I GET MY HANDS ON ITS SORRY LITTLE SOUL SO I CAN TORTURE IT FOR ALL ETERNITY!
Yup, that was definitely Kora’s uncle, Overlord Nagnamor himself. He probably requested to be kept up to date on the Mimic’s status since he had a certain… history with it.
From: [email protected]
Subject: I suck dicks
Just writing to inform you that I do indeed love the cock. Unless you weren’t aware, the penis is a nutritious, delicious treat that makes my tum-tum tingle with delight! Flaccid old man dicks are the best, especially if they’ve been in my ass beforehand. If you see me strutting around, be sure to let me know what you think of my passionate thirst for man-meat, and I would gladly suck yours if you happen to have one. If not, that’s okay - buttholes are a close second best on my list of things I love to lick.
The top pick being dicks, of course.
Overlord Nagnamor of the Flamboyant Fellaters
There was a sudden rush of snickering, giggling and laughing as each and every demon in the corridor couldn’t contain their amusement at this sudden development. Kora herself was already clutching her sides while laughing out loud by the third sentence. The next message in the chain arrived just as she had recovered from her humorous fit.
😂😂😂😂Nice one, idiot!!! 😶 🐡🙉🐻 That’ll teach you to Reply All without thinking! 🐎 😸🍞 Can’t wait to see your inevitable 🍆💦💦💦💦😜 session! I swear, this day (or night? IDK 😇 🙏👽) just got 👌/10!!!
P.S. Koralenteprix my dear, I sincerely hope you don’t turn into a senile cockgobbler like this old fart. 🐭 🐞👰😓 But then again, the apple doesn’t fall far from the retard tree!!!1 🎭🐖🚰🚪
All the best,
Well, that train wreck of a correspondence certainly killed Kora’s mood. Why the hell was Overlord Liusolra in on this anyway?
A message that was undoubtedly Nagnamor’s reply came in, but Kora mentally dismissed it almost immediately. She didn’t want to see that right now. Even though she loved herself a good flame war, she had more pressing matters to attend to, such as finding Carl’s office. Unfortunately, none of the door labels looked even remotely familiar, which made her realize that she had mind-warped into the wrong section of… whatever Demons ‘R’ Us was. Well, thinking was never her strongest point, so she was used to not making it to where she really wanted to go in one try. It wasn’t a big deal though, she just needed to-
*Toot-tu-tu-doot Toot-tu-tu-doot Toot-tu-tu-doot*
“... D-mail: Disable notifications.”
D-mail settings updated.
Now that the spam was taken care of, she once again began focusing, this time imagining herself ‘in front of Carl’s door’ rather than ‘at the office.’ A short Beyond-hop later, and she was standing in a hallway very similar to the old one, except that the door directly in front of her was labeled as ‘Katorolomaongott Sagattorius - Contract Worker.’ Satisfied she had arrived at the right place, she knocked on the door once.
Which was enough to send it flying off its imaginary hinges and crumble to dust against the opposite end of Carl’s personal office. The devil himself was seated behind a U-shaped desk of some kind that seemed to be made out of polished mahogany. A multitude of floating stone tablets circled in the air around him, showing him various images, pictures, and other information he needed to service his clients.
The demon himself, or at least the half that was sticking over his desk, was that of an attractive-looking man. He had flawless, bright pink skin, and a face handsome enough to be called an incubus. He had a stylish goatee and well-trimmed sideburns that went up to his slicked-back black hair. His more obviously demonic features manifested themselves as four pairs of pointed ears similar to Kora’s and a short, strangely cute pair of horns poking out from either side of his forehead. And like all devils, his face had a complete and total lack of eyes, showing only smooth pink skin where one’s ocular orbs would normally be located.
At the very least he still had eyebrows, so reading his face wasn’t all that difficult.
“Uh, yeah we do. That’s what clause 2-2 is for, dumbass.”
Judging from the way he was speaking to nobody in particular, it became apparent that he was currently on the line with someone. To his credit, Carl hadn’t even uttered a peep at having his front door seemingly blown off by an unannounced visitor. It was the sign of a true professional. Or at the very least someone who was already used to Kora’s bullshit.
“Hey, look here, buddy!” he continued. “You can do whatever you want with it, I’m just saying we won’t be held accountable for any injuries, dismemberment, death, or eternal damnation that may-! … Yes, okay, fine. Just remember - you asked for it. Bye.”
“Wow! What an asshole!” he complained aloud. “Be with you in a sec,” he added with a nod towards Kora.
He then turned to his left and ran his six-fingered hands over a slab that had hundreds of stone buttons in it. They all began moving in by themselves, producing a veritable concerto of clicks while they did. Kora had no idea what the hell any of that did, as none of them were actually labeled in any way. From her perspective, it just looked like Carl was hitting the identical gray squares at random.
She was, of course, wrong. The devil was actually typing up a new contract form which would then be sent to Overlord Weaxohn the All-Knowing. This Overseer Beholder was the current Demon King and acting CEO of Demons ‘R’ Us, which meant he was responsible for single-eyedly managing all information flow within the Beyond. Including everything pertaining to summoning contracts.
“Alright then,” said Carl as he finally turned around towards Kora. “I assume you’re here about Boxxy’s contract?”
“Yup,” she replied with a nod.
“Well, before you get ahead of yourself, I should let you know that I can’t make a contract with a dead soul.”
“I know. I’m not that stupid.”
“… Sure, you’re not. Then what brings you here? Are you looking to get back in it right away?”
“Something like that, yeah.”
“You know you technically don’t have to do that anymore, right?”
Although it wasn’t their main reason for doing so, a demon would have a higher predisposition to Ranking Up if they spent time in the physical realm while under contract. Once - or rather if - they ascended to a higher state of being, they would be able to use other means to reach out from the Beyond. Granted, Kora’s case may have been an extreme one, but it still meant she had access to all the perks (and responsibilities) that came with her status as an Archfiend.
“I know of a very fun dungeon that’s looking for a new mid-boss!” offered Carl enthusiastically. “It’s one of Axel’s places, so you can be sure there’s gonna be lots of fighting!”
“… Nah, I’m good.”
Kora wavered for a second, but ultimately passed on the opportunity.
“Alright, then,” said Carl while visibly drooping his shoulders. “Should I just mark your file as ‘available,’ then?”
“Nope!” declared the fiend with a huge smile. “I want to make a reservation, actually!”
“Oh? Caught an aspiring young Warlock you want to be bonded to, did you?”
“Something like that.”
“Alright, if you say so.”
The devil shrugged lightly then hovered his six-fingered palm over the stone keyboard.
“So, what’s his name?”
“Boxxy T. Morningwood,” she declared loudly and proudly.
With a bit of a chuckle, of course.
“… I just said-”
“I know what you said. The boss is dead so I can’t have a contract with it. But I can be on the top of the candidate list when it comes back to life!”
Carl was momentarily at a loss for words. What Kora was saying was not against regulations and was entirely possible. It was just… unorthodox.
“C’mon, Carl!” she demanded. “You saw the error in the automated message, right?! If that’s not a sign that the boss is coming back, then I don’t know what is!”
“That’s- That just a bug in the system! It doesn’t mean anything!”
“Nuh-uh! The boss’ll come back! It has to, okay?!”
“Listen to yourself! There’s no point in clinging to a-”
“FUCKING DO IT, CARL!”
The whole building(?) shook at Kora’s outburst as the imaginary constructs around her threatened to collapse in on themselves under the fury of an Archfiend. Even though she appeared to be about the average size for a fiend, that was mostly because she was thinking ‘small thoughts.’ If she wasn’t suppressing her essence and unleashed her true soul-self, then she would become at least twenty times her current size, wrecking Carl’s office in the process. In fact, the way the door from earlier seemed to buckle in on herself at her slightest touch was already indicative of how disruptive her mere presence was.
All of this served to remind Carl that, even though Kora was still a newbie as an Archfiend, a Ranker was still a Ranker.
Which wasn’t to say he couldn’t teach her a thing or two about how the not-world worked.
“Okay, tell you what,” he said while leaning forward on his desk. “I’ll do the pointless, maybe-not-strictly-legal thing you want me to do on one condition.”
“You don’t get to make demands!”
The cockroach-ceiling split open, revealing what appeared to be a giant fork chasing a three-headed mouse across a field of cheese.
“Look, all I’m asking is that you put your money where your mouth is.”
“… I’m listening.”
“We’re going to make a little wager, you and I. If Boxxy miraculously comes back to life and gives me a call, then you win. But if more than, say, 2 years pass and you’re still waiting around here, then I win.”
“Fine by me! So how much do you feel like handing over to me upon your inevitable defeat?”
“Let’s see, you’re a fiend so, how does a stack of a hundred Essences of Rage sound?”
Essences were lumps of latent energy harvested from mortals, either directly or indirectly. Demons could consume them in hopes of increasing their power and achieving a Rank Up, although the chance of that second thing happening was astronomically low. In fact, the record for the fastest ‘natural’ demonic ascension was currently held by Overlord Liusolra herself, who had supposedly gotten her first Rank Up after devouring around 600 Essences of Sorrow.
Overall, it meant that while a hundred was not really worth a lot in the grand scheme of things, it was still an amount difficult to ignore.
“Pfft, get that weak shit out of here! I raise you to a thousand!”
Carl let out a disappointed sigh.
“If you’re just going to pointlessly showboat, then-”
“I’m dead serious. A thousand Rages on the boss’s life.”
This reversal caught the devil a bit off guard, and he momentarily found himself at a loss for words. While it was clear that the uppity brat was just bluffing, he somehow didn’t feel right accepting it. By all means it should be an easy win, but it was important to remember just who this wager hinged on.
Then again, there was a far more important matter to consider before any sort of bet could be made.
“Do you even have that much?” asked Carl in a doubtful manner.
“I will when I win!”
“Oh for the love of- Look, if you want to up the stakes that’s fine, but at least pick a number you can earn within the next decade or two. Let’s do, say… 400?”
“Works for me! You’re on, waffle-face!”
Carl extended his hand towards Kora, who grabbed it without hesitation, thereby sealing the pact between them. The fiend laughed merrily on her way out, already licking her lips in anticipation of the victory that was sure to come. As for Carl, he got busy looking for someone who could take that mid-boss position the Archfiend rejected. It was business as usual, but he still had a light smile on his face, as he had made an interesting devil’s wager, one where he would come out on top no matter the result. Sure, there was a potential to lose out on a small nest egg of psychic energy, but that would only happen if one of his favorite clients miraculously came back to life.
All things considered, he’d be pretty happy with either outcome.