Xera confidently strode towards the Namhel Brothers Bank main office. Her attire for today was one of an upper-class human lady wearing an extravagant coat who carried herself with dignity. Today she had decided to play the part of a foreign big-shot here to drop in on ‘an old friend.’ It was hardly conspicuous as Reginald Namhel, despite being secretly a doppelganger crime boss, was sure to have all kinds of connections. Or perhaps it was more accurate to say that it was because of the man’s true nature that such connections existed in the first place.
Regardless, the djinn would not find it difficult to arrange a face-to-face with the affluent banker despite wearing an unfamiliar face. The guy had a private network of shapeshifters under his command, so he was unlikely to decline a meeting with a stranger who suddenly showed up. It could have been one of his agents with an urgent report, after all.
Once inside the bank, she pulled one of the guards aside and arranged to have herself escorted to Reggie’s office. Once there, she couldn’t help but notice the new secretary, an elven woman with eye-catchingly vibrant blue hair and rather thick eye glasses. It would appear the boss was busy right now, so the two of them exchanged pleasantries and made inconsequential small talk while Xera waited. When the time came, the ex-succubus finally entered Reggie’s official place of business.
“Ah, yes, do come in!” said the old-man-looking monster as he walked up to greet her. “To what do I owe the pleasure, Ms Knightley?”
Xera wasted no time and spoke the moment she shut the door behind her.
“Would you kindly tell me what your agents found out about soulstones, old boy?”
Reggie’s eyes glazed over and his pleasant expression turned dreadfully neutral. He returned to his desk, sat down behind it, and reached under it, likely to pull up a file or folder with his findings. The motions were very stiff and somewhat unnatural, but Xera didn’t think too much of his behavior. She was already familiar with it, as this was hardly the first time she’d taken advantage of the brainwashed monster.
Unfortunately, she wasn’t the only one who had done so.
Rather than reaching into a drawer, Reggie instead flipped a hidden switch on the underside of his desk. This caused the carpet beneath his visitor to light up in a circled hexagram pattern, with demonic runes written within in all six of its points. Xera immediately recognized this formation, as it was something her Master had practiced on for its Demonology Skill. She moved to get away, but hit an shimmering purple wall that hadn’t been there before.
Her reaction had been too slow, leaving her caught in a Seal of Demonic Binding. Just as the name suggested, it was a trap designed to hold demonic entities like her. It not only imprisoned her, but made it impossible to use magic as well. She tried calling out to her Master, but that triggered a secondary inscription, one in the shape of an octagon , which lit up around the initial one with a crimson glow. Meaning this was actually a Seal of Greater Demonic Binding, which had the added effect of interfering with her inherent demonic abilities. Such as the ability to telepathically communicate with her Master.
The djinn placed a hand on the shimmering barrier’s inner side and began pushing. Even if her body was feeble, the bountiful chaotic energies her body was made out of should have been enough to help her break this thing. Unfortunately, it felt like pushing against a cliff. The only thing Xera’s efforts had done was cause her shapeshifting to come undone and reveal her voluptuous and blue-skinned real self. Whoever had put this up had poured a ridiculous amount of mana into it to be able to contain one of Boxxy’s familiars this thoroughly. Must have been rich, too, as the reagents required to prepare a Seal of Greater Demonic Binding were neither cheap nor easy to come by.
After considering the time, place and resources involved, the ex-succubus could think of only one culprit that could stage all this.
“Foundation of the Founding Father, was it?” she said loudly.
The door to the office and two hidden passages Xera wasn’t aware of all burst open at the same time. A number of individuals wearing red and black hooded robes swarmed into the office, all of them pointing their staves at the demon in the middle. It would appear this Seal wasn’t the work of one individual, but an entire team of magic users pooling their energies. No wonder it was so tough. As for Reggie, he just sort of kept sitting behind his desk in a spaced out manner.
*Clap Clap Clap*
A man different from the others stepped forward while doing a slow clap. His face was obscured by a mask and his body was clad in some sort of dark gray sneaking suit. His silhouette was definitely that of a male adventurer, an elf judging by the pointy ears poking out of the sides of his head.
“Jolly good guess,” he said in a somewhat mocking tone. “It is good to see you still have your wits about you, Xerabadada- Xerabadabudo- Ahem! Let’s just stick with Xera, shall we?”
The demoness glared at the man so hard that one would think she was trying to melt his face off with a mystical eye beam of some kind.
“It… is you, isn’t it?” said her captor while rubbing his masked chin. “Well, your coloration and face are the same as the last time I saw you, so it’s close enough I think.”
Xera kept staring daggers into him with her arms crossed, but didn’t utter any words.
“Don’t try to remember me, we’ve never met face-to-face,” explained the masked elf. “I have seen you fight beside the Sandman during the war, though, so I’m quite certain it’s you. Just as I’m certain you are- or perhaps I should say were the same succubus that once served Tol-Saroth himself.”
The djinn’s eyes opened wide. She had a very bad feeling about what was to happen, so she decided enough was enough and reached up to grab her own horns.
However, the magic casters gathered there used a synchronized Spell on her at the sudden movement. Chains forged out of pure darkness wrapped around the demoness, binding her legs and arms tightly against her body and preventing any extraneous movement. Now unable to commit suicide by snapping her own neck, the weakened demon could do little but fall to the ground.
“Fuck!” she cursed. “You shitheads have another thing coming if you think I’m going to betray my Master to join your shitty club!”
“Such fierce loyalty from a demon! As expected of the Sandman’s familiar! Or perhaps I should call him Boxxy T. Morningwood, eh?”
“What kind of idiotic name is that? My Master would never stand for being given such a shameful label!”
“You don’t need to try so hard, demon. We recovered some data from that facility your owner put on ice. We know for a fact that they killed, revived and imprisoned a doppelganger variant named Boxxy T. Morningwood, who they identified as the same mercenary calling himself the Sandman!”
Technically speaking it was the rumor mill that gave the shapeshifter that nickname, but Xera wasn’t about to start correcting them. Divulging any information under these circumstances was bad, no matter how small, insignificant, or false it seemed to be. Insults were another matter entirely, of course.
“We thought he’d fled the country since he hadn’t shown himself since,” continued the elf. “That’s when we noticed our resident pet monster troupe had been looking into soulstones. Now why do you suppose he would be doing that, eh?”
Once the Foundation had caught wind of this, it didn’t take them long to determine Boxxy had ‘befriended’ Reggie. They couldn’t get the details out of him since he had been ‘kindly asked’ to forget them. However, using various eyewitness accounts and written records, they were still able to determine that a mysterious woman had visited him during the times he had no memories of. Knowing the Sandman’s careful personality, they determined he wouldn’t dare show up in person to such a potentially dangerous place. He, or rather ‘it,’ was undoubtedly using its shapeshifting familiar as an intermediary, so the Foundation quickly and quietly prepared a trap to catch her.
The djinn, who was struggling to piece this chain of events within her rotten head, quizzically raised an eyebrow at her captor.
“You actually found out about our little side project?”
“Of course! Did you honestly think an organization such as mine wouldn’t be keeping an eye on our investment?”
“A little,” she shrugged within her bindings. “I mean you guys made a bunch of really stupid mistakes recently.”
“Oh? Like what?”
“Well, first of all, your pet project over there got my master killed. Then you lot were stupid enough to revive it, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of trained personnel and what I can only assume is a fuck-ton of resources. I’ve seen goblin villages with more foresight than you retards.”
“You were dealing with another department of the Foundation. You will not find us such easy prey.”
“Oh, really? Is that why you’ve spent the last while monologuing instead of running for your pathetic lives?”
The demon’s shit-eating grin made a chill run down the elf leader’s spine, prompting him to immediately turn to his colleagues.
“Secure her restraints and ready the portal. We’re leaving before her Master catches wind of us.”
“It’s a bit too late for that, spooky,” called out Xera with a chuckle. “Oh! Also, there’s one more mistake you filthy twigs made. None of you are covering the window.”
Something more akin to a shimmer rather than a shadow flew into the office the instant she said that by crashing through the window directly behind the comatose-like Reggie. There were a series of loud slashing and gnashing noises as the ‘something’ cut a swath through the room. Three of the magic Casters were eviscerated and the runes inscribed beneath the carpet were torn up at nearly the exact same time. The weakened Seal of Greater Demonic Binding was then forcibly dispersed and Xera’s head was effortlessly separated from the rest of her body.
This all happened so quickly and seemingly with a single motion, making it impossible even for the trained operatives to react in time. Daggers were thrown and Spells were chanted at the barely visible intruder, but they only struck air as the ghost-like presence retreated almost as suddenly as it had appeared. The only things it left behind were a wrecked office, a trio of heavily injured elves and a few stray strands of webbing attached to the busted up windowsill.
“Damn, he got us!” cursed the elven leader as he took in the suddenly silent surroundings.
“Sir! Project Lighthouse!” called out one of the subordinates.
The elves had only now realized that their assailant had done more than prevented them from capturing the sluttiest of the Sandman’s familiars. He or she had also nabbed the doppelganger posing as Reginald Namhel on the way out, depriving them of an extremely valuable resource.
“Shit! He really got us! Grab the injured and get us out of here! We need to leave before the big guy decides to show up personally!”
This lot were no match for a monster of Boxxy’s caliber, and they were completely aware of that. That was why they had opted to go after its familiar in the first place. The Wizards in the group therefore wasted no time as they opened up a Gate Spell on the floor. The strike team then jumped into the portal, retreating to an undisclosed location to lick their wounds with their tails between their legs, leaving the mess for the proper authorities to clean up.
“Master, I got Reggie! I dosed him with my paralytic venom, so he shouldn’t be waking up anytime soon.”
“Great work, Claws. Bring him to the dungeon, but make extra double-triple-mega sure you’re not followed.”
“Hehehe! I won’t let you down, Master!”
Things were understandably a lot more upbeat on the Mimic’s side of things. Drea was practically giddy, not only because she got praised, but because it felt good to finally use her Venomous Sting Skill for its intended purpose. As for how she had arrived at the scene in such a timely manner, that was because Xera had noticed the new ‘secretary’ was acting oddly and notified Boxxy something was amiss. The Mimic then somewhat regretfully pulled Claws away from getting the ‘groceries’ and ordered her to back up its Snack at Reggie’s place.
The djinn’s suspicions were confirmed when she suddenly went silent and her Status became inaccessible. Luckily she was able to stall those guys long enough to allow the webstalker to arrive on the scene and ‘free’ her. It was a tasty outcome to be sure, but the overall situation was anything but. Boxxy decided it needed to get the details on what happened to its familiar from the demon in question as soon as possible, so it did something a little bit out of the ordinary.
“He-hello? This is Xerababadubuth L’okrelaila. May I ask to whom I am speaking?”
Boxxy was sure it had ‘dialed’ the soul number right, and the voice certainly sounded like its minion, but that strangely humble way of speaking was completely unlike her. Then again, there were tens of thousands of succubi in the Beyond, and this was its first time trying out this mode of communication. Maybe it messed up somehow and connected to one of Snack’s sisters?
“Ah! Master! You actually called!”
That voice of pure joy was also a bit odd, but it would appear that the shapeshifter had reached the right demon after all.
“Oh, wow! I never thought you’d actually- Wait, why are you calling me up directly? N-n-not that I mind or anything…”
Under normal circumstances, if Boxxy wanted to talk to Xera and she wasn’t around, then it would just summon her. That was why it hadn’t bothered with this ‘soul number’ business before. However, the current situation was anything but normal. The Mimic was currently under the guise of Random Old Man B and in public. It wasn’t the place to be performing a demonic summoning and it didn’t want to waste too much time on looking for a suitable place. Not when it had been attacked so directly.
“Nevermind that. What happened at Reggie’s place?”
“R-right! Well, you see, Master-”
The extra-dimensional pervert briefly but clearly described what had gone down in that office just minutes ago.
“They were trying to capture you?” exclaimed Boxxy once she was done explaining. “You?”
“That is indeed the case, Master.”
Subduing and imprisoning a demon was normally quite challenging since they almost always fought to the death, but physically weak ones like Xera were easier to handle. A set of mana-draining shackles coupled with some demonic suppression runes and rituals were more than capable of keeping someone like her in check. As something of an expert on all things demon, Boxxy was well aware of the possibility.
“But why, though?”
It just failed to grasp what sort of reason anyone would have to want to catch a contracted demon this badly.
“I suspect they were going to use me to get to you.”
“… You sure about that? I mean you may be tasty, but you’re extremely disposable. I’d discard you in a heartbeat if that would save my skin.”
“Master’s flattery is appreciated, but misinformed. If I am completely cut off from you and adequately restrained, then I cannot escape to the Beyond, be it through forced dismissal or suicide. This puts us both in a very dangerous position. If you will recall, the Republic government confiscated a certain weapon from Teresa’s Hero.”
“… That cursed warhammer!”
The item in question was a carrier of the somewhat infamous Demonbane enchantment, which had the power to permanently destroy a demon. And since Snack was Boxxy’s familiar, then the shapeshifter was bound by contract to protect her immortal soul from harm. Failure to do so would therefore result in the monster’s termination, regardless of the circumstances. The Foundation would therefore be able to effectively hold the djinn hostage, as her fate would be tied with her Master’s.
Well, either that or smite her down on the spot and eliminate the Sandman by proxy, but that clearly hadn’t been their intention. Otherwise they would’ve brought that weapon with them.
“This is something I did not consider,” admitted Boxxy.
“You hear stories like that from time to time here in the Beyond, Master. It’s not exactly common, but it has been known to happen.”
“Really, now? Then Carl should be able to do something about this, right?”
If this was a known issue, then Demons ‘R’ Us would surely have come up with some sort of countermeasure to it. After all, even if the contract allowed them to blame the perma-death of a demon on his or her summoner, they would much rather avoid such a thing happening in the first place. Which was precisely why Boxxy abruptly hung up on Xera, much to her delight, and rang up Carl without further delay.
“I see, so that’s how it was,” said the gruff-voiced devil after hearing the situation. “We do indeed have something to help with that. We call it amendment SD-04 around the office. If I apply this additional clause to your contracts, then your familiars will be able to abandon their physical bodies and return to the Beyond at their own discretion.”
Boxxy finally allowed itself to breathe a sigh of relief. If Snack, Arms and Claws weren’t forced to rely on the Mimic’s orders to retreat into their home realm, then the situation that transpired earlier would not be a problem anymore.
“That’s good. Can you do that for me as soon as possible?”
“I can, but before I do, I’m contractually obligated to warn you that ‘at their discretion’ is a fancy way of saying ‘any time they want.’ The reason SD-04 isn’t a standard part of the contract is because it’s open to abuse. It allows a familiar to abandon their contractor in the middle of combat, while traversing dangerous environments, or any number of other precarious and potentially lethal situations. And there’s no order you can give them than can stop them from doing so. Do you understand everything I’ve just told you?”
“Yes. Hrn… Unfortunately.”
This detail left a sour taste in the back of the Mimic’s throat. Well, it was either this, or that puppy it ate earlier. Either way, it couldn’t be completely happy about this ‘addendum SD-04’ or whatever due to the potential for malicious abuse. Even if its relationship with its bound demons was monumentally more amicable than the average Warlock, it still did not allow itself to trust them completely. It wasn’t anything personal, though. It was just that, as a monster, Boxxy was incapable of truly trusting anyone with the means and opportunity to stab it in the back.
“So, should I add the amendment to your contracts?” asked Carl, interrupting the Mimic’s brooding.
“I have a few more questions first, if that’s okay.”
“Sure. Go right ahead, buddy.”
“Can you do that while the demon is ‘out?’”
“Nope. The familiar needs to be present at the Demons ‘R’ Us office in the Beyond for any contract amendments to be made.”
Boxxy pretty much knew this already, but it wanted to be sure that calling Carl the next time there was trouble and requesting a last-minute addition to the contract was not an option.
“Then, can you revoke the clause later?”
“Any time! Er, so long as they’re on this side of reality, I mean.”
At the very least it seemed like Boxxy had the ability to retract the ‘privilege’ once the immediate threat had been dealt with. Whether it would actually do so was another question entirely, but it was important to know what its options were.
“Alright, let’s do it. Update Snack’s contract with this SD-04 right away. I’ll send Arms and Claws over a little later, okay?”
“Hey, I’m in no rush, so whenever’s good for me. Y’know, just so long as ‘whenever’ comes before ‘oops my familiar’s soul got wiped out.’”
“Right. Thanks, Carl.”
“Sure thing, Boxxy. Don’t hesitate to call if you need anything else. Wait a second before you go, though. Something came in for you a little while ago while we were talking.”
“It did? What is it?”
“Just gimme a sec here…”
Boxxy T. Morningwood has undertaken a Quest: Purge the Order of the Black Wand.
It would appear that the Mimic had been given its first task as a Mortimer’s part-time Hero.
Purge the Order of the Black Wand
There is a guild of dark magic users based in the Lodrak Empire who have condoned, coddled and protected practitioners of necromancy for decades. They have ignored multiple warnings to cease and desist, and the final ultimatum given to them by the Church of the Dead has expired. Eliminate the corrupt leadership and all sinners within their ranks to serve as a warning to others.
Time Limit: Before year’s end
Reward: The forgiveness of Teresa, Goddess of Truth and Justice
And it was a big one.