Boxxy had miscalculated.
That was what the shapeshifter concluded as it stood on the shore of the Shimmering Ocean, watching helplessly as Nora Cromwell flew off towards the horizon to the south. While the monster had been correct in assuming she had become an undead lich, the Bone Dragon she was riding made it clear that she did not, in fact, lose her Level 100 Necromancer Job. That was because the woman had already bound her soul to a phylactery through some ungodly ritual years ago, allowing her to retain most of her original Status. She had done this as a sort of insurance for the inevitable day when she would perish, though she collected on it much sooner than anticipated.
However, Boxxy did not know that. It had mistakenly used Valeria’s transformation into a lich as the standard. In retrospect, it was a bit ludicrous to think that a lich’s natural lifecycle involved getting killed, being revived by a dungeon as a banshee, breaking free of it, and only then possessing a phylactery. As a direct result of this, the Mimic failed to consider the possibility that Nora would maintain her mystical abilities. Otherwise it would have made a beeline for her position instead of saving her for last.
It wasn’t like it put off tracking her down out of arrogance or something like that, though. Following her initial death, the former human’s soul had flown off towards the other side of the Empire, ‘landing’ somewhere on the south-western edge of the continent. Now that there were only a handful of targets left, Boxxy was able to determine the shortest route to connect the dots between them, which coincidentally put Nora at the very end of the list. And since it had assumed she’d be a pushover, it didn’t think to prioritize her.
Therein lay the root of the problem. Boxxy had underestimated the lich and given her too much time, which she used to gather her strength. When the shapeshifter eventually came for her a second time, she was ready for it. It tried to sneak up on her physical form in order to assassinate her and then use the Eyes of the Dead God to track down her phylactery through her befouled spirit. However, the Mimic lacked the ability to evade magical detection, so Nora’s Detect Life Skill, courtesy of her new Lich Job, had picked it up long before it was in striking distance. Once she realized she was still being targeted, Nora decided to play it safe and ran away at full speed aboard her reconstructed pseudo-dragon.
Boxxy would have given chase, but its final target had flown south across the ocean, likely headed for the next continent over. And since she was riding a tireless flying beast in pristine condition, it could not hope to match her speed with just Flight. It might have been able to keep up if it was running over dry land, but swimming had never been its strong suit. Not to mention that crossing the Shimmering Ocean was notoriously difficult due to the gigantic sea monsters and violent storms that frequented those waters. The only feasible way to follow the lich to her destination was to either charter a boat or look into hiring a griffon. However, the former would take far too long to get there, and the latter was out since cross-continental flights couldn’t be arranged on such short notice.
As such, with just eleven days left before both the year and the Quest ended, the Mimic had to begrudgingly give up on it. Admittedly it was highly unlikely the lich would go blabbing about who really wiped out Fort Aynor, but that small upside failed to quell Boxxy’s anger. It wasn’t angry just because Nora had gotten away and ruined its efforts over the past weeks, but also because it allowed such a thing to happen. It had underestimated resourcefulness of adventurers. It was such an infuriatingly stereotypical and basic mistake, that it felt like wiping out an entire city just to vent its frustrations.
Speaking of which, wasn’t that place nearby?
Boxxy tore its hateful glare away from the point in the horizon where Nora had disappeared into and took a closer look at its surroundings. The lich’s recent handiwork had tainted the area with Blight and killed off much of the vegetation, but it soon realized why this foggy swampland felt oddly familiar. It was currently standing on the edge of the Whispering Marshes that lay south of the city of Erosa, which was itself relatively near the site of the Calamity of Monotal. The Mimic needed to distract itself somehow, so it decided it might as well check in on its birthplace after all this time.
The shapeshifter threw on a hooded traveler’s cloak and heavy-looking backpack, assuming the guise of a wandering human merchant. It was still the middle of the day, so it proceeded towards Erosa at a brisk pace that wouldn’t arouse suspicion. It soon saw the city’s familiar walls in the distance, letting an odd sense of nostalgia wash over it. Sure, this was the place where that man Edward had captured it and crippled it by removing its Warlock Job, but it was also where it met Cornie Fizzlesprocket - the gnome that eventually became its prized shiny.
As Boxxy drew closer, however, it realized the place had been abandoned. The gates were wide open and unguarded, and there seemed to be not a single sign of life one the streets. The creature investigated the area out of curiosity, and almost immediately spotted a clue. Copies of the same poster seemed to have been plastered all over the city, though its full contents proved more difficult to read than anticipated. Rain, snow and wind had ruined many of the postings, while others had been ripped up, defaced or otherwise vandalized. It took the monster a bit of searching, but it eventually found an intact and legible copy of the document just inside the empty keep at the heart of the city.
NOTICE OF MANDATORY RELOCATION
Attention, proud people of Erosa!
As many of you have already heard, the poisonous smog released by the Calamity of Monotal is slowly spreading with no end in sight. Though the Sawblade Mountains to the north keep it from spilling out of Cradle Valley and infecting the heartlands of our Lodrak Empire, this fair city will sadly not be spared. The Arcaneum guild, which is spearheading efforts to counteract and contain this threat, have determined the region surrounding Erosa will be rendered unsuited to support life within half a year.
His Majesty Emperor Joseph Frederick von Einhart III has therefore decreed that all law-abiding citizens are to vacate the city of Erosa by the last day of the month of Juniper. Please rest assured that the Empire will provide funds, provisions and protection to facilitate the smooth relocation of all citizens to other nearby settlements. Those who refuse to evacuate the city by the specified deadline will be found in violation of an imperial decree, and will be punished accordingly after being relocated by force. I understand that being forced out of one’s home may seem harsh and unfair, but I ask that all citizens keep in mind that this is for their own safety and well-being.
Thomas Broadhurst, Lord-Mayor of Erosa
Well, that certainly explained why this place was a ghost town. That deadline had expired more than three months ago. Curious about exactly how far that toxic cloud had spread, Boxxy climbed one of the central keep’s towers to get a better vantage point. There didn’t seem to be anyone around to stop it from trespassing, but it made sure not to draw attention to itself just in case.
Once it reached the top, it looked to the northwest, in the direction this ‘smog’ was supposedly rolling in from. Using Eagle Eye, it was able to confirm that the land itself seemed to be slowly dying, as a huge portion of the luscious and dense Troll Woods were left gray and barren. There was also an ominous green cloud hanging heavily in the air, far in the distance. There seemed to only be about two or three kilometers of healthy soil between the city and the encroaching death cloud, which was probably why not even vagrants could be seen around. The sheer scale of this ongoing disaster made the shapeshifter worry if it should have been seeking Zephyra’s forgiveness rather than Teresa’s.
It most certainly did not want the web of lies it built in Azurvale to unravel because some fickle Goddess branded it with Taboo.
Just then, the Mimic got a call from Demons ‘R’ Us, which it answered while staring at the decaying treeline in the distance.
“Hey, buddy! Carl here.”
“You doing anything important?”
“That’s good, because the big man would like a word with you. Should I patch him through?”
“Sure. Been meaning to speak with him anyway.”
“Boxxy!” came Rupert’s cheerful voice. “Sorry for interrupting your brooding, but I just realized something. It’s about the Quest I asked you to take care of on Morty’s behalf.”
“I don’t think I can get it done before I hit the deadline,” said Boxxy matter-of-factly. “That one Necromancer got away and I can’t catch up to her in the next eleven days.”
“Yeah, about that… Since you’re my Hero rather than Morty’s, I was the one responsible for handing you the task. Thing is, I misunderstood what that bonehead told. The deadline for it wasn’t ‘by year’s end,’ but ‘within one year.’”
“… You’re telling me I actually have eleven months?”
Boxxy quietly and rapidly processed this news. It weighed the likelihood of Heikull making an accidental blunder like that versus it being intentional. It also considered the fact that, regardless of how it originated, the Goddess of Coincidences purposefully waited until now to clear this up. She probably wanted to watch the Mimic take unnecessary risks like Operation People Herder in order to keep things ‘interesting.’ And so, after carefully thinking things over, Boxxy reached a singular conclusion.
“I hate you.”
“Heh. Well, can’t say I can blame you for that. It’s not all bad, though. Morty’s actually quite pleased with how things turned out. That stunt you pulled with the skulls has already put the fear of death into heretics throughout the Empire. That was the point of this whole endeavor to begin with, so I’d say your job is pretty much done.”
“Yeah, I thought as much. So that said, do you mind marking this Quest as complete for me?”
“No can do, Boxxy. Though it was presented as a Quest, what you accepted was a devil’s contract. Those are extremely strict, so I’m afraid a Progress counter that’s one short of completion is not enough to claim your prize.”
“Of course it’s not,” groaned the shapeshifter. “I’m starting to wonder if I really want to bother with this bullshit. I mean what the crap is that ‘Teresa’s forgiveness’ even about?”
“Oh, that? Hmm, how should I put this… Let’s just say Teresa owed both me and Morty, what with that whole resurrection and rehabilitation business. So, I got her to agree to officially pardon your crimes against her people. Mind you, she’ll still hate your guts afterwards, but she’ll be able to tell her Inquisition that ‘the perpetrator behind the Calamity has paid for their crimes against humanity’ in good conscience.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that,” confirmed Julian. “It’s mostly a formality to be honest. Though the mortals may have some trouble accepting it, your death already absolved you of your sins as far as the pantheon is concerned.”
“You sure about that? I mean, not that I’m complaining, but I did come back to life.”
“Not by your own hand or intention, though. Unlike that Necromancer from earlier, your resurrection was entirely out of your control, and the soul of the one who did that has already been claimed by Morty’s Hero.”
“Oh. You know you could’ve mentioned all this earlier, right?”
“I thought it was rather obvious. Did you seriously think that the very words you spelled out with skulls - again, nice touch there - didn’t apply to you?”
“How would I know? This entire thing sounds like a flimsy technicality to me.”
“Technicality or not, such are the laws of this world as decreed by its deities. And those, my box-minded friend, do not allow exceptions.”
“Whatever. My point is, I still haven’t heard anything that would make me want to keep this up. I’m not going to run around doing you guys’ dirty work if all I have to show for it is ‘forgiveness’ and ‘favors.’”
“Don’t be like that. I assure you, I have some tasty rewards lined up for you. I was actually planning to get rid of that Cat Job for you at some point. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
“… I wouldn’t be against it, no.”
“That’s not even the big one! I was planning to tell you about the only Divine-class item that I ever made if you kept going at it!”
Hearing mention of the highest rank of magic equipment immediately made Boxxy salivate. Up until now, it had no idea if this ‘Divine’ tier of gear truly existed, but hearing it from McCoy himself was all the confirmation it needed. However, its enthusiasm rapidly made a nosedive when it remembered who it was speaking to. The God of Chance seemed to be very particular about his words, so it was not a good idea to take them at face value. There was one in particular that really stood out.
“What do you mean you’ll tell me about it?” it asked in a dubious voice.
“I’ll let you know its location, its function, and how to obtain it,” explained Rick. “Whether you want to chase after it is up to you. So what do you say?”
“… Alright, fine. I’ll see about tracking that lich down eventually. Right now I really should head back to the Republic and deal with the situation there.”
“Whatever you want, little guy. Girl. Thing.”
“What about Fizzy? You promised you’d tell me where she is.”
“I did, didn’t I? Well, I have some time to kill so I can get that over with right now if you want me to.”
Boxxy set off for the nearest major city while Greg explained what the missing mithril golem had been up to. Apparently she had been busy doing the Gods’ work deep beneath the ground. It was a task that she was uniquely suited to, so Bob may or may not have ‘arranged’ for her to wind up there. Unfortunately it was an environment so isolated and remote that Fizzy would have only herself to rely on if she hoped to get out of it. Boxxy naturally wanted to go and get her personally, but Nikita assured it that it only had a 4.16% chance of surviving the trip. Something about the place being filled with Calamity-like toxicity which would surely kill anything that was flesh and blood. At the very least the God of Uncertainty assured his Hero that Fizzy would seek Boxxy out on her own when she was done, so it didn’t have anything to worry about on that front.
With those relatively good news in mind, the shapeshifter wasted no more time in getting back to its home base. It did this by first visiting the city of Stanmore, a major port about a hundred kilometers east of Erosa. Once there, it began gathering some information on ships headed out to the southern continent. It was planning on heading there eventually, so now was a good time as any to scope things out.
It visited a guild called Dave’s Mariners which, despite the terrible name, had the reputation of being the best in the country when it came to intercontinental voyages. It managed to confirm that the trip was indeed quite lengthy, dangerous, and expensive. Those nautical experts assured their visitor that only fourteen out of the fifty seven voyages they undertook over the past year had suffered casualties, which they insisted was quite impressive.
After getting a few more details about the trip and what to expect on it for future reference, Boxxy visited a different guild. This one was called the Keepers of the Way. It was another magic-centric organization similar to the Order of the Black wand, except that this one specialized in teleportation and spatial manipulation rather than ‘the dark arts.’ They operated something called Waygates, which were essentially privately run knock-offs of the Republic’s Forest Gates. They were rather expensive to use and had a much smaller capacity, but the instantaneous long-distance teleportation had still been a great help to Boxxy during this little excursion.
The Mimic, still disguised as a wandering merchant, paid for a one-way trip to the royal capital of Oshinas, where it arrived less than an hour after that. It could have then transferred further north, but the price tag made it reconsider. It wasn’t in that much of a hurry to get back, and have given those bastards more than enough shinies already. It therefore proceeded the rest of the way on foot. Which in Boxxy’s case meant that Snack flew on ahead while her master attended to other matters before swapping places with her.
However, unlike the weeks it spent following Fizzy’s trail around the Horkensaft Kingdom, it made much better use of its time. For one thing, it had discreetly stocked up on parts and components before it left Azurvale, allowing it to steadily advance its Artificer Job in between Transfamiliar jumps. The blast-powered grappling hook it used during its first encounter with Nora, for example, was something it made especially to tackle her Ultimate Skill. Granted, back then it wasn’t sure whether something called ‘Bone Dragon’ would do exactly what its name implied, but its endeavor had still paid off in the end.
Yet as useful as making gizmos and gadgets turned out to be, tinkering had taken a backseat to something else entirely. After Boxxy stole Remy Cromwell’s Wizard Job, it realized something. If all of its Job Slots were filled up, then it would be able to use Cadaver Absorption as much as it wanted without fear of contracting another useless dead end of a Job. There might have been some Monster Job that was worth it even at Level 25, but it had no idea where or even if such a thing could be found. Until then, however, it could continue to acquire seemingly limitless amounts of Skills and Attributes without any negative long-term repercussions.
The Mimic could only wonder why it didn’t realize this sooner. If it had figured this out earlier, it wouldn’t have gotten rid of that Rogue Job it got during the war. Then again, it got a much tastier occupation as a replacement, so perhaps it wasn’t too bad of a decision. Retrospect aside, though, in the end it still wound up going on something of an absorption spree ever since that night when it killed the Order of the Black Wand’s guild master.
More than five hundred corpses had been fed to its Cadaver Absorption Skill since then. Out of those, it had gotten a total of eighty one successes - two Jobs, fifteen Skills, and sixty four Attribute boosts. The Jobs in question were that of an adventurer’s Warrior and a janther’s Big Cat, both of which disappeared into nothingness since its Job slots were full. The total amount of Attributes stolen were easily in the hundreds and spread out rather randomly, though the majority of them had gone into STR, AGI and END. Not surprising considering monsters with relatively tough bodies were far more common than those with inherent magical ability.
As for the Skills, those had some duplicates and overlaps with the shapeshifter’s existing abilities, but it still managed to secure nine new ones. Out of the two purely defensive ones it got, the first one was a gargoyle’s Padded Skin, which reduced damage taken from blunt trauma. The other one was Sense Danger which it lifted off a deer. It supposedly helped the creature pick up on nearby threats, Boxxy wasn’t sure how reliable this thing was considering it did nothing to help its former owner.
At least the offensive ones had been far more interesting. It had gotten Vile Blades off of a hobgoblin, which allowed it to spend a bit of MP to coat any hand-held bladed weapons with a weak poison that dealt additional damage over time. Another janther gave it Aerial Strikes, which enhanced jumping melee attacks. A high-Level Monk contributed Path of the Dragon, a staff-based combat style that relied on singular heavy attacks to punch through an opponent’s defenses in one hit. Boxxy didn’t typically fight with a staff, but it imagined Voidcaller’s heft and sturdiness would make it a good enough bludgeoning weapon if the need arose. The fourth and final offensive ability it acquired was Web Throw, a Skill from a giant spider that allowed it to entangle its target in sticky thread from afar. This one was very similar to Claws’s Impact Webbing, though it had a significantly lower range.
In terms of utility, the only thing Boxxy was able to acquire was Alchemical Fortitude off a hermit dwarven Alchemist living by himself in the mountains. It raised the user’s tolerance for magical mixtures, allowing them to consume a lot more of them before being stricken by potion sickness. It also lessened the effects of poisons, but the Mimic’s Legendary Endurance rendered that a moot point. As for why this particular ability was the one with the most proficiency in the hermit’s repertoire, that was revealed by the research journal in the man’s cottage. Apparently he had been developing an original alcoholic drink called a ‘Ginger Gangbang,’ and had been testing it on himself ever since he turned his last willing subject permanently blind.
Lastly, there were the two largely useless Skills. The first of them was Dustoff, a gust of air meant to help harpies rapidly gain altitude. However, it was far too weak to lift a monster of Boxxy’s considerable bulk. Not even growing a dozen wings or using Keira’s weight-reduction rings could help it get airborne. At least it learned how to make feathered wings rather than leathery ones, but it was still unable to soar without the Flight Spell. The other borderline worthless ability was the Monocular Rage of a cyclops, which could only be activated if the monster’s singular eye had been rendered blind. Needless to say, this was not a condition Boxxy would want to fulfill even if it could.
Those weren’t all of the recent additions to the Mimic’s mind-bogglingly long Skill List, however. There was also the matter of the monster’s Ranger Job, which had grown to Level 41 since Boxxy had used Winter’s Bite to murder a number of high-value targets, including a VIP. This allowed the shapeshifter to pick up the Razor Volley Skill, which could be used to put a bit of wind magic behind its shots. This not only allowed them to fly straight even in a cross-wind, but also significantly increased their piercing power. It could only be activated once every ten minutes and would only work on the next five to ten shots (depending on Level), but had the potential to be devastating. Especially if combined with the right arrows and/or Martial Arts.
Speaking of which, it had acquired some of those, as well. The Ranger’s Marksman Skill had hit Level 9, allowing the use of Tornado Shot. This fired an elementally-charged arrow which, upon striking a target, would create a miniature whirlwind capable of throwing people and monsters into the air. The stolen Path of the Dragon Skill, on the other hand, had given knowledge of two staff techniques. Rising Claw, a vertical upward strike that had a bonus towards disarming the opponent’s melee weapon, and Tail Sweep, which knocked back all targets in a circle around the user.
All things considered, Boxxy’s murderous tour of the Empire had proven to be immensely successful, just not in the way it had intended. Having finally tapped into the potential of Cadaver Absorption had allowed it to grow significantly more powerful than when it had left. However, it time and again reminded itself not to get too cocky, as it had still made a good deal of mistakes. Tripping the guild master’s alarms and letting Nora slip away were the biggest ones, and they were painfully obvious signs that it was still sorely lacking in experience.
And that was something that no amount of Levels or Attributes could make up for.
|General Information||Attributes||Job Information|
|Name||Boxxy T. Morningwood||Name||Value||Name||Value||Name||Level||Progress||Name||Level||Progress|
|Species||Creeper (Hylt)||STR||924||LCK||261||Doppelganger||36||7%||Blade Dancer||39||51%|
|Skill List (Page 1)|
|Mirror Image||8.74||Assassination||10.00||Acid Spray||10.00||Summon Familiar||10.00|
|Pheromone Control||10.00||Storage||10.00||Divine Attunement||4.10||Power Overwhelming||10.00|
|Broken Reflection||5.12||Cadaver Absorption||10.00||Ruinous Reach||5.89||Demonology||9.20|
|Puppet Parasite||7.20||Biomass||14.31||Aerial Strikes||3.96||Crystallize Magic||10.00|
|Spirit Echo||3.75||Natural Armor||10.00||Vile Blades||2.53||Chant Reduction||8.97|
|Hylt Metabolism||5.62||Metal Mimicry||10.00||Monocular Rage||1.15||Demonic Insight||8.83|
|Mend Flesh||10.00||Dustoff||1.83||Despair Aura||5.66|
|Adaptive Defense||10.00||Padded Skin||3.90||Soul Link||7.28|
|Cat||Path of the Dragon||3.03||Enslave Demon||4.36|
|Feline Agility||10.00||Sense Danger||2.62||Graviton Manipulation||5.43|
|Web Throw||2.13||Malefic Union||3.22|
|Skill List (Page 2)|
|Clockwork Expertise||8.86||Tracking||8.93||Hornet Style||10.00||Arcane Stability||3.54|
|Explosives Handling||7.88||Marksman||9.12||Adagio Variation||8.62||Mana Shield||2.41|
|Deconstruction||5.21||Whisper Wind||7.91||Winterlich Waltz||8.44||Residual Feedback||3.25|
|Optics Expertise||3.05||Fleet Footed||7.11||Evasion||10.00||Disruptive Barrage||2.15|
|Hunter's Mark||5.75||Rapid Riposte||2.62|
|Eagle Eye||5.23||Flamenco de Fuego||4.22|
|Skill List (Page 3)|
|General||Special||Martial Masteries||Magic Masteries|
|Stealth||10.00||Chaotic Disposition||1.00||Sword Mastery||15.00||Ruin Mastery||17.22|
|Lockpick||4.25||Agent of Chaos||1.00||Projectile Mastery||10.00||Domination Mastery||11.24|
|Pickpocket||3.12||Essence Concealment||1.00||Dagger Mastery||11.04||Primal Mastery||6.23|
|Meditation||5.10||Vengeance||1.00||Shield Mastery||10.00||Basic Mastery||2.14|
|Eyes of the Dead God||1.00||Staff Mastery||6.50||Arcane Mastery||3.66|
|Spell List||Martial Arts List|
|Ruin||Domination||Basic||Arcane||Other||Marksman||Path of the Dragon|
|Shadowbolt||Mass Panic||Firebolt||Flame Jet||Implosion||Power Shot||Rising Claw|
|Ebonfire||Delirium||Icebolt||Frost Mine||Transfamiliar||Guided Arrow||Tail Sweep|
|Frostbite||Dark Infusion||Water Slicer||Spark Blast||Demonate||Multishot|
|Dark Explosion||Mind Blast||Air Hammer||Earth Spike||Pandomenium||Blast Arrow|
|Shadowbind||Hysteria||Lightning Bolt||Stabbing Rain||Shrapnel Shot|
|Singularity||Mind Control||Flight||Pinning Shot|
|Massive Rejection||Chain Shot|
|Reality Slash||Tornado Shot|
|Arcane Assassin||Seeker of Redemption||Slayer of Elfkind|
|Monster Magic||Anti-centennial||Legendary Endurance|
|Grand Theft Arcana (2)||Nature's Bounty||Usurper of Death|
|Collateral Damage||Hero Killer||Rare Golem Dismantler - Aquamanarine|
|Butcher of Humanity||Soulbound||Legendary Intelligence|
|Rare Golem Dismantler - Jade||Hero of Chaos|
|Natural Enemy of Termites||Usurper of Justice|