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A note from Exterminatus

Hello everyone.

As some you have probably noticed, the arc title changed. This is because I felt that 'Mind Games' was a more appropriate title for what has been going on ever since Stain's appearance. Much more relevant than 'Year of the Box' anyway. So, that's why the title change. It also allows me to squeeze in an extra Interlude between this and the (now previous) arc, so be on the lookout for that.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled boxing match.

Summoning a demonic Overlord has generally been believed to require a lengthy, complicated ritual that involved specific materials, a bunch of sacrifices, and a lot of nonsensical chanting. And while that most certainly was the case, what most people didn’t realize was that the so-called Offerings were by no means the only way to do so. Certain back doors and shortcuts existed, but they were so obscure that even a Level 10 Demonology Skill wouldn’t reveal them. Discovering these alternate methods usually required a whole lot of time, an exorbitant amount of resources, and a distinct lack of moral fiber.

Luckily for the man called Mist, he had all of those in spades. However, even though he had a way to bypass the obnoxiously long rituals, the living fossil still had to observe proper etiquette.

1-800-7355-9687-7685

*Beep ... Beep ... Bee-*

“Hello. You have reached Demons ‘R’ Us. My name is Suzy and I’ll be your liaison for today.”

A voice spoke directly into his mind. It was a silky smooth, undeniably feminine tone. One that any man would be extremely delighted to hear whisper sweet words to him from first thing in the morning until late at night. Mist was no different, though he kept that opinion to himself. This wasn’t that sort of service. Besides, he had much more important things to do.

“It’s Wyndam Clinton,” the old man introduced himself.

“Well, well, well! The prodigal bastard returns! ‘Sup, Wynnie?”

“I’m in a rush so let’s dispense with the pleasantries. I need to make an appointment for a summoning right away.”

“Okay. Who will you be summoning, then?”

“Overlord Weaxohn the All-Knowing.”

“Oh my. Uh, sorry Wynnie, but that’s not going to happen. The boss doesn’t have time to make appointments with mortals anytime within the next decade.”

That wasn’t to say that Weaxohn couldn’t be summoned anyway, but it was extremely ill-advised. Rather than fly into a murderous rampage like Nagnamor, he was far more likely to either do absolutely nothing or act in a way that was the opposite of what his summoner was trying to achieve. His title of ‘the All-Knowing’ may not have been literal, but it was not just for show, either.

“He’ll take one from me,” Mist insisted. “I have the Mortem Vortum.”

“… For real? And it’s fully charged?”

“Would I be calling if it wasn’t, ya daft girl?! Now hurry it up!”

“Fine, fine. Gimme a sec.”

*Tak taktak takakakakatak takatak*

“Alright, and what special instruction-”

“Kill everyone who does not bare the Gilded Hand upon their Status. It matters not if they are man, monster, or demon - wipe them all out with extreme prejudice!”

The demoness on the other end of the line began processing the request while Mist once again tended to his magical defenses. This was still a battlefield, and as such he need to make sure he lived long enough to accomplish his goal. Something Boxxy’s Mirror Images have been trying to prevent. Those body doubles had been harassing him throughout the battle with their bows and Spells, keeping him from fully supporting his comrades. He eliminated as many of them as he could, but arrows and magic projectiles kept clashing against his defensive perimeter even now. Not the ideal situation to be on hold with devil-support, to say the least.

He could have, of course, foregone this entire procedure and forced the CEO of Demons ‘R’ Us, also known as the Demon King, into the mortal realm. However, that would defeat the purpose of creating an opening through which Edward and Hook could escape. The Mortem Vortum he mentioned was a profane magic item that, once fed enough lives, allowed one to instantly call forth the Overlord in question. It also afforded him the ability to make a one-time contract which, given that Weaxohn was the embodiment of pride, would be followed to the letter.

“You’re all set Wynnie,” reported Suzy. “On behalf of everyone here at Demons ‘R’ Us, we want to thank you for using our services. We also wish to remind you that your standard issue summoning contract will be rendered null and void upon your imminent demise. Should you wish to reestablish your contracts in the event of undeath, resurrection, or other heretical means of escaping death, then do not hesitate to give us a call. Thank you, and have a swift end.”

The devil calling herself Suzy had magnificently delivered her speech in a cheerful and professional manner, but Mist had stopped listening after the ‘You’re all set’ part. He ignored her rather pointless and slightly condescending ramblings and had already brought out the demonic relic in question. The Mortem Vortum had the appearance of a slightly curved dagger. Its blade was so black it seemed to suck in the light, and its handle was seemingly made out of flesh, with a red lizard-like eye bridging the gap between those two halves.

Mist stared into the bizarre orb, which blinked back at him as if it was studying him. Gritting his teeth and gripping the meaty handle with both hands, the old man drove the cursed blade into his own chest, piercing his heart in one clean stroke. The thing hissed and screeched as it greedily soaked up Mist’s blood. That one life given willingly, combined with the hundred lives it had already taken forcibly, triggered the Phantasmal-grade weapon’s main function.

The old magic user was instantly dissolved into a lump of pitch black energy, which ascended into the noon sky at a speed that was impossible to track.

“Your attention, mortals.”

A low, raspy, rumbling voice echoed across Watford as the sun was rapidly eclipsed by an unidentified black mass, turning day to dusk in a matter of seconds.

“I bring dark tidings, from the world beyond the Rim.”

The darkness continued to spread, greedily soaking up any stray rays of sunlight that thought to escape its grasp.

“Your future is grim. Your sanity - eclipsed. Your death - presaged.”

Be it stars, clouds or moons, nothing could be seen above the unsuspecting city but an infinite void.

“The worst… is yet to come!”

With a final ear-splitting yell, a massive eye appeared out of the nothingness, its unspeakable gaze blanketing the entirety of the port city.

In that instant, Watford became an unspeakable world of nightmares. Fragile minds foolish enough to meet Weaxohn’s gaze were instantly driven mad. Screams filled the air as men, women and children began killing each other and themselves en-masse. The majority of Inquisition forces, bound together by their faith and cause, somehow managed to resist that maddening stare, but they would not be spared. The very air itself split open, allowing terrible creatures cloaked in shadows to spill out onto the streets. A countless number of eyes blanketed the un-sky, each of them tracking and guiding these unspeakable foot soldiers and rabid people as they began assaulting the Inquisition’s ranks.

Boxxy and Stain were no different, as they were immediately beset by the unbound demons known as rift walkers. These unstable beings came in many shapes and sizes, but for the most part looked like grotesque stick creatures. They were extremely feral and had a plethora of spatial manipulation magic at their beck and call, a combination which made them impossible to reason with and difficult to deal with. Even landing a clean hit on them was a daunting task with they way they flickered in and out of existence.

That was without even taking into account the actual bloody Demon King overseeing them. Even now Boxxy could feel Weaxohn’s presence pressing down upon its psyche, threatening to snap it in half should it offer a moment’s weakness. His appearance had taken the monster completely by surprise, but that didn’t mean Boxxy had no trump cards of its own.

“AAAMBROOOOSIAAAAAA!”

The shapeshifter used what few seconds it had before it was swarmed by rift walkers to shout at the ground with all its might. The chaotic cacophony caused by the Overlord’s appearance was momentarily drowned out by the deafening rumble of the ground. A massive wall of bark and wood sprouted from the ground, forming a defensive shell around Boxxy while assuming the form of a giant tree. Several blue bioluminescent flowers sprouted along the trunk’s hollowed out insides, lighting it up as Ambrosia’s remotely controlled spriggan body poked her head out of the ground.

The dryad had been given two simple tasks for this operation. The first was to lurk beneath and not reveal herself unless Boxxy called out to her, like it had done just moments ago. The other was to covertly assist the shapeshifter in battle by sharing her considerable MP with it. That, combined with the bonus MP recovery from absorbing sunlight with Hylt Metabolism, was how it was able to use its Spells and Skills in such an unreserved fashion.

“Thou hast need of me, milord?” she asked with an uncharacteristically concerned face.

“Just make sure none of the demons find their way in here.”

“As thou wishes, milord. What about thine followers?”

“They’re already gone.”

Weaxohn had used his authority as the Demon King to banish all summoned familiars back to the Beyond in compliance with Mist’s instructions. Not only Claws and Snack, but even the axe-wielding fiend Boxxy was fighting disappeared into thin air. This was a huge problem, as the monstrous Warlock could not escape with Transfamiliar. Or any sort of teleportation magic, for that matter. The Overlord of Pride was said to be a master manipulator of both mind and space magics, meaning that it was highly unlikely anyone would be escaping his grasp unless he let them.

At least, not unless one used magic that came from a higher source.

Boxxy reached into its Storage and pulled out its Divine-ranked item, the pink gemstone known as The Atlas of Dreams. Or at least it tried to, but the Overlord’s influence was blocking its access to that pocket dimension. Thankfully the item seems to have sensed its owner’s intent somehow, as it popped out of thin air and landed right into Boxxy’s hand. The thing had become active exactly one week after Imiryl first activated it, and it was thanks to that that the shapeshifter knew it took precisely 55,555 MP to activate it. It had taken the liberty of juicing it up to roughly 500 or so MP short of a full charge prior to starting this confrontation, as evidenced by the intensity of its glowing and buzzing. It was something it had done just in case, which was a good thing given the current situation.

Admittedly relying on this thing was a bit risky, but waiting out the Overlord’s visit inside an instant dungeon was a much better idea than trying to stand up to one. Already the Mimic could hear Ambrosia’s Big Tree Skill being ripped apart. And given how the spriggan’s face strained with effort, it was obvious it wouldn’t last for long. Boxxy wasted no more time and fed the Atlas of Dreams the last lump sum of mana required to activate it. The gem exploded much like it had during the dry run with Imiryl and Nao, filling the tight space with an oval-shaped pink portal. The shapeshifter grabbed Ambrosia by the scruff of her neck, dragged her out of the ground and leapt through the gateway with the spriggan in tow. The last thing it saw before passing through it was the improvised wooden bunker being cracked open by some kind of gigantic tentacle made of solid darkness.

You have entered the Snowglobe instant dungeon.

Boxxy was instantly assaulted by a blizzard, one so strong that it made the Palace of the Crystal Maiden seem like a warm summer’s day. The snow it landed in was waist deep, making it extremely difficult to move around. Both its eyes and MLG became overloaded with white as the hectic winds tossed around lumps of frozen water. The abrupt transition had confused Boxxy’s senses, though Ambrosia was faring no better. Being so suddenly dragged into this strange place with no explanation or warning naturally left the dryad with quite a few questions.

“Milord? Where is this pla-”

The spriggan’s wooden face froze mid-sentence just as a large blade erupted from beneath the bark between her eyes. The foreign metal object was yanked upwards, splitting her head in two and causing her body to collapse into a bundle of sticks.

“Where is what?”

Boxxy was currently trying to pierce the curtain of white blocking its vision, the howling winds making it hard to hear much of anything. It had its back turned towards Ambrosia, so it clearly had no idea she had just been eliminated. Yet when the assassin moved forward to eliminate it, the shapeshifter abruptly kicked up a lot of snow to block his vision and lunged at him, swinging a mithril dagger in a scythe-like motion. It was as surprising as a counter-ambush could get, yet Edward effortlessly evaded the blow.

“Heh. Should’ve known it wouldn’t be that easy,” he muttered under his breath.

‘Eliminate the primary threat while it’s distracted by the Overlord’s appearance.’ This had been the Spymaster’s intention even before Mist sacrificed himself. Yet said threat had escaped through a portal, despite the fact that the old man assured his protege that Weaxohn would block any and all attempts to use spatial transference. It was only when Edward followed the Mimic through the glowing pink gate that he realized this wasn’t teleportation, but that didn’t change his objective.

The situation may have been arguably more favorable. Though the nature of this ‘instant dungeon’ was a mystery to him, it was obvious to Edward that Boxxy thought itself safe here. The mysterious weather also provided plenty of cover, both visual and audible, allowing the Spymaster to move in for the kill. He refused to believe he had Boxxy dead to rights though, which was why he was fully expecting that retaliatory strike.

But the ascended human had been wrong. Boxxy legitimately did not consider that this pocket reality would be invaded, nor did it notice Edward’s presence. The only reason it didn’t get hit by a devastating Level 10 Assassination attack was because it had managed to cover the upper left half of the man’s torso in bronze-laced dust during the skirmish. Though the Spymaster himself was still invisible to its MLG, the magic-scrambling powder stuck to his armor was another story entirely.

Though the element of surprise was gone, Edward did not back down and instead moved in to attack Boxxy. Even if coming here was ill-advised, it was no longer possible for him to ignore this damnable creature. Though its shape may have changed, deep down it was still that retarded box he ran into almost a year ago. The same thing that was undoubtedly responsible for all the things Edward had lost since then. The war, his high standing with the Imperial court, a significant portion of his men and now all but one of his closest comrades - all gone because of one insufferable gnat that slipped through his fingers. Such an existence could no longer be permitted to continue, and he would see it ended even if it killed him.

That didn’t mean he was rushing in blindly though. The shapeshifter threw open its Storage and peppered the area in front of it with explosives, but Edward was already expecting that. He used his Shadowstep to disappear in a puff of smoke, only to reappear moments later behind the monster.

“Backbiter!”

Boxxy covered its vulnerable backside in a Hylt tree’s Ironbark at the last moment, but that didn’t stop the Spymaster’s dagger-based Martial Art from ripping right through it, sinking the weapon deep into the monster’s back.

Your spine has been injured. HP -1,723.
You have been violently electrocuted. HP -1,346.
Your fortified mind has resisted a stun.
Your Skills have been disabled for 3 seconds.

This made Boxxy hiss and scream as pain unlike anything it had experienced shot through its mind. Every living creature had a weak spot, and doppelgangers were no exception. Having both its elemental and physical vulnerabilities targeted in a single masterstroke, the creature could do little but lash out wildly. Reverting to its base Hylt creeper form in an instant, it somehow managed to kick Edward in the gut with enough force to lift him off the ground and send him crashing into a nearby snowbank.

You have inflicted blunt force trauma. Target HP -310.

The Spymaster groaned again, more in frustration than pain. He was sure the potent electrified oil coating his blade would be enough to immobilize the shapeshifter, but he had overestimated its effectiveness and got another heavy blow for his troubles. Still, he had three seconds to work with during which his opponent would be vulnerable, so he wasted no time in chasing after it. The creature naturally wanted to avoid fighting Edward in its current condition, but that didn’t mean it would run away just yet. Though its Skills had been sealed, its magic was another story entirely.

“Mind Blast!”

Your target has resisted a stun.

Unfortunately it chose the wrong incantation, as Edward’s Nerves of Steel Skill allowed him to block a single debilitating mental effect once every twenty seconds. Boxxy didn’t know that though, so it gave up on Domination and moved onto Ruin.

“Ebonf-!”

The Spymaster interrupted it with a flash of his Silencing Gaze, giving him just enough of a gap to close the distance. It was at this point Boxxy finally decided now was a good time to leg it, and promptly hopped backwards. Though the waist-high snow was limiting its movements, the same could be said for its opponent. Edward threw a number of small knives at the retreating doppelganger, each of them coated with the same stuff as his primary weapon.

The monster ducked under the snow in a magnificent display of adaptability, causing the projectiles to hit nothing but fresh white powder. This also allowed Edward to catch up to it, but the three seconds were already up. Boxxy erupted from its hiding spot to meet him, gripping a mithril dagger in one hand and a jeweled rapier in the other while covering its skin in a layer of bouncewood to counter any additional electrical interference. It caught the Spymaster’s strike with the short blade while stabbing at him with the other.

Normally the angle and direction of the blow would have just made the sharp tip slide off the spy’s dragonhide armor, but Boxxy unleashed something new at that moment. Something that was completely beyond the Spymaster’s expectations.

“Vengeance!”

The rapier shone brightly as it rose into the air as the Skill pilfered from the former Hero of the Hammer empowered it in direct proportion to the massive injury it had received earlier. It was powerful enough to rip the nigh-indestructible armor, but Edward somehow managed to twist his body away at the last moment. His focus was disturbed by the inexplicable use of a divine Skill, as it revealed this absurd creature was undoubtedly a chosen of the Gods. And given how it was a widely known fact that Teresa’s Hero had been killed by the Hero of Chaos, it didn’t take a genius to deduce Boxxy T. Morningwood and Keira Morgana were one and the same.

“Quivering Palm!”

The human instantly pushed aside the burning question regarding why Zone hadn’t informed him of this and delivered a Martial Art with his free hand, striking Boxxy’s chest with a palm thrust. This caused a destructive shockwave to ripple through its flesh, but the rubbery bouncewood absorbed the vast majority of it. The shapeshifter then extended its neck and widened its vertical maw in an attempt to crush Edward’s skull between its teeth. The man moved his head out of the way at the last moment, though the monster’s fangs still scratched up his cheek and ear. He kicked off the monster’s chest, putting some distance between the two of them. Fighting in melee range was one thing, but he had to avoid getting caught at point blank like that at all costs. The thing he was fighting was exceptionally adept at immobilizing humans with its malleable body, so engaging in a grappling contest with it was foolhardy to say the least.

Boxxy stretched its arm out, whipping it at Edward while coating its forearm with steel to produce an improvised flail. The wide swing was dodged effortlessly, as was the downward swipe of some stupidly sharp claws from its other arm. Its other, other arm burst out of the snow and attempted to grab the Spymaster, but he deftly cut it off with a single precise motion. He then silenced the monster’s chanting with another gaze, shot it with a ball of pressurized air with a Wind Thrust palm technique to knock it off balance and performed a Fan of Knives, riddling the monster with seven ethereal copies of his dagger.

The Mimic decided to change its approach and created a Mirror Image, which he sent diving into the snow. Or at least that’s what he wanted Edward to think, when in reality it was the body double that remained behind. This did not confuse the Spymaster in the slightest, as he quickly disabled the fake one with a paralyzing dart to the body and lunged at the spot where the real one was burrowing through the snow. Except that Boxxy knew that Edward knew that Mirror Image was a decoy, so it burst out of the snow aiming the Winter’s Bite Bow directly at the airborne spy.

“Shrapnel Shot!”

The Ranger Martial Art caused the enchanted ice arrow to burst into tiny fragments upon its release. It barely did any damage, but the concussive force was enough to push Edward several meters into the air. A guided Power Shot followed immediately afterwards, but the experienced Spymaster easily deflected it with his knife. Unperturbed, Boxxy fired off another two projectiles to occupy the human’s hands while a third arm tossed a Spell Crystal near where he should land.

But rather than fall into the powered-up Momentum Anomaly that solidified lump of mana created, Edward kicked the air using Air Step, instantly changing his trajectory. He gained a bit more altitude to avoid the Spell’s area of effect, then sky-dashed towards his primary target. Boxxy swung a greatsword directly into his path, only to have the stubborn human sidestep it without hitting the ground and stabbing the monster in the side of the head. Or at least he thought he did, when in reality Boxxy had made a hole just large enough for his dagger to pass through without actually being cut. The limb tightened up around the weapon, gripping it hard in an effort to disarm the man, but it had forgotten about the special oil Edward had coated it with.

You have been electrocuted. HP -446.

This time it didn’t suffer nearly as much as the last since the jolt wasn’t delivered directly to its spine, but it was still enough to make the monster’s head let go of the blade in a panic.

“Sky Cleaver!”

Edward used this opening to deliver a chop with his free hand, intending to split the monster’s head open. He stopped himself at the last second, as that move was a feint to goad Boxxy into trying to bite it off. It fell for it, allowing the Spymaster to kick it squarely in the chest while it snapped up nothing but air. It was the same blow that sent the Mimic through an entire building when they first met back in Erosa, but it was much too heavy for that this time around, so it only fell face-first into the snow. Edward himself landed softly about ten meters away, slowly sinking into the icy blizzard to hide himself.

When Boxxy emerged from the snow, its prey was nowhere to be seen. However, that wasn’t to say it didn’t have a target, as a bunch of rift walkers that had entered the instant dungeon were ambling their way towards it. Rather than wasting MP and energy on those troublesome things, the monster decided it was time to reveal one of its last few remaining secrets. It pulled out the skull-tipped Voidcaller staff and activated its special ability, instantly summoning Claws to this temporary ‘Snowglobe’ dungeon. This sort of freezing environment was ideal for a tundra webstalker, so it had her keep those things busy while it focused on its true enemy.

“You’re just full of nasty surprises now, aren’t you?!”

Edward’s loud voice echoed all around the monster, putting it on edge.

“All those Jobs, Skills and items, you really are a Pandora’s Box, aren’t you?!”

The words bounced all over the place thanks to the howling winds, making it impossible to pin down the spy’s location by sound alone.

“What’s a Pandora’s Box?!” it shouted back. “Is it tasty?!”

“Hardly! They say that blasted thing is the source of all the world’s diseases, vermin and monsters!”

“It’s shiny then?!”

“I wouldn’t know, it’s just a myth! I didn’t believe it at first, but looking at you, I’m starting to reconsider!”

“You really should’ve stayed with the Overlord, Edward! At least then you would’ve had a non-zero chance of surv-!”

Boxxy abruptly stopped its taunting banter when its MLG sensed something covered in bronze dust approach it rapidly from behind. It turned around swinging, only to strike down a leather breastplate being blown about by the fierce winds.

“Dual Backbiter!”

It barely had time to figure out what was going on before not one, but two sharp points dug into its backside, completely ravaging its vital spot.

Your spine has been severed. HP - 2,532
You have been violently electrocuted. HP -1,746.
You have been stunned for 5 seconds.
Your Skills have been disabled for 5 seconds.

“Peak-a-boo!”

Edward whispered into the doppelganger’s ear, or at least where its ear would normally have been, before pulling his daggers out of its back and kicking its limp body over. Boxxy fell forwards, crashing into the copious white snow, which was being stained crimson by the dark red blood oozing out of its gaping wound. Though its considerable MNT allowed it to maintain a grip on its consciousness despite the stun condition, the most it could muster was a few throaty gurgles and pained twitches.

“I finally got you, you damnable abomination!” the Spymaster shouted, spit flying everywhere. “You come into my house, kill my people, and then try to run away?! Did you honestly think I would let that happen?!”

Though he talked big, the only reason Edward was able to pull this off was because he and Question had spent the entire fight analyzing the Mimic’s combat style. Its attacks had countless variations and its bag of tricks seemed bottomless, but the Spymaster had ultimately gotten a firm grasp on its approach and personality. That was why he felt so confident removing his ‘tagged’ chest armor and setting up this counter-counter-counter strike. Though it left his torso completely bare save for a blue undershirt, he wouldn’t need armor when his opponent was unable to even lift an arm.

It wasn’t over quite yet though. The familiar Boxxy called out was still a threat, but it was too busy trying to web up and cut apart rift walkers to notice her Master was in danger. And with the shapeshifter’s Skills temporarily out of commission, it could neither regenerate nor reach out to her for help. Frankly speaking he really should have moved onto ripping the thing’s spine out of its body right away, but the rage and fury within him were too much. There was no way he would be able to remain silent after losing so much because of this one arrogant bastard of a box.

That was fine though. The monster would be disabled for two more seconds, which was more than enough time for him to finish it off. He knelt over its shivering body and raised his daggers above his head, ready to gut the thing open like a floundering fish. His arms swung downwards. There was a wet squelch, followed by a rather generous amount of blood splattering against the snow.

However, this wasn’t the deep, dark, wine-like red of doppelganger blood, but a bright crimson that could only come from a person. Edward didn’t even have time to register the pain from his right arm being melted off at the shoulder by a bolt of plasma before Fizzy appeared in front of him in a flash of lightning.

“Grit your teeth, meatbag!”

The mithril dynamo golem swung her oversized circular wrench, smashing it into Edward’s head so hard that she sent him flying off of Boxxy’s twitching form. Still in shock, the Spymaster was only now starting to roar and howl at the pain he was going through. He frantically reached for a Rejuvenation Potion from his belt, but a mithril foot slammed down on his wrist, pinning his hand to the ground while a massive wrench kept his torso in place.

“No. You. Don’t!”

The construct’s voice oozed with hatred and contempt as she put her full weight onto his trapped limb.

“ARRRGHHH!”

She continued crushing it against the ice underneath until it was more like a stocking filled with jam than a functional limb. One could even go so far as to call it a literal meatbag. She then leaned down and grabbed the crystal vial filled with pink liquid out of his now limp fingers, tossing it casually over her shoulders. Boxxy’s gangly arm reached up out of the snow and grabbed it out of the air, then emptied its contents down its gullet. It stood up moments later in perfect physical condition, briskly stepping over to where Fizzy had Edward at her mercy.

“Thanks for the save,” it said calmly. “You had me worried for a second there.”

Earlier, while Boxxy had been rolling around the snow, it had discretely evacuated Fizzy from its Storage, the copious amounts of white snow completely obscuring her glistening form. In its rush it couldn’t even give her any instructions other than two simple words - ‘sit’ and ‘wait.’ From then on it was a matter of luring Edward in, purposefully falling into the Spymaster’s trap and getting itself injured to create an opening.

And yes, it getting its spinal cord torn to shreds was indeed according to its plan. Boxxy knew that Edward knew of its MLG, and he was quite obviously aware the shapeshifter understood his Obfuscate Skill was messing with it. It was also fairly safe to assume the sharp-witted spy had deduced the bronze dust on his gear was rendering said ability pointless. After all, he had already adapted to each of the Mimic’s tricks after only seeing them once or twice, so that failed ambush immediately after entering this instant dungeon had surely given that away.

In short, Boxxy’s devious mind had already deduced its opponent would try something like that decoy armor trick, but it pretended to fall for it. It was risky and a gamble, but Edward did not fail to deliver. From that point on it was a matter of trusting Fizzy to grasp her role in this dangerous gamble. It had put its life in her hands, believing she would strike down the Spymaster at his moment of glory. It was without a doubt the single hardest thing the monster had ever had to do in its short, yet extremely turbulent life.

“What do you think, Boxxy?” the shiny golem asked, her face widening into a twisted, manic smirk. “Shall I heal him up so we can play the meat organ a bit more?! I bet I can make all sorts of fun sounds come out of this bag of bones, blood, and shit!”

As tasty as that prospect was, the shapeshifter knew better than to give someone like Edward even a single chance of escape.

“Don’t drag it out, Fizzy. Just finish him off and be done with it.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

Overhearing the name ‘Fizzy’ jolted something loose in Edward’s memory. He twisted his neck around to look up at the golem’s face. Though it was made up of living white gold, sporting a smile that oozed of crazy and had a violent spark glowing within its eyes, it was still a visage he had seen before. In some last ditch effort to escape reality, his thoughts drifted back to Boxxy’s capture, and of a pathetic, scared, pink-haired little gnome, who could do nothing for herself but weep and beg.

As Fizzy pressed her bloodied foot firmly at the back of his neck, Edward couldn’t help but let a single thought cross through his mind.

Looks like Question was right all along. This really was all my fault. I lost everything I had, all because I got too greedy over a simple treasure chest.

It was an undeniable fact that Edward’s past actions helped shape Boxxy into the walking calamity it was today. If the Spymaster had just killed it on the spot, or maybe finished it off after interrogating it, or even just ignored it completely in the first place, then he would most likely not be in this position. This belated realization of his filled him with a profound feeling of loss and regret he had not experienced in a long, long time.

It was also to be his last coherent thought, as Fizzy was about to show him what it was like to be in the middle of a raging thunderstorm.

*KRRZZZZHHHT*

She raised the power output of her Static Field Skill to its absolute limit. Bolts of lightning poured out of her metal frame, flowing directly into Edward’s battered and soggy body. The excess energy snapped and crackled, sending arcs of power in its purest form into the air, ground and snow. The electrical onslaught caused Boxxy to instinctively shiver with fear, but it did not dare step away. It didn’t want to miss a single moment of its oldest and greatest enemy sizzling, shaking and screaming. This carried on for an agonizing six or seven seconds before Edward’s head exploded into a shower of blood and brains with a disgustingly wet pop, his corpse nothing but a charred mess.

“Come on, Fizzy! Not the head! I wanted that!”

“… Whoops? Sorry, Boxxy.”

“… Oh, I can’t stay mad at you! C’mere!”

The shapeshifter wrapped itself around its ‘trophy wife,’ eagerly licking up all of Edward’s remnants off of her body, much to the golem’s delight. It then realized the exertion it went through had made it exceptionally hungry, so it discreetly began munching on the Spymaster’s corpse while polishing the radiant Paladin. It wasn’t as good as Ambrosia’s nectar-basted human ribs, but the electrically barbecued meat was delicious beyond its savory flavor.

Realizing it would probably be best if it brought back some sort of ‘souvenir’ to the Foundation to prove the deed had been done, it stashed the arm Fizzy had blown off earlier into its Storage. It wasn’t as solid a proof as the head, but it would hopefully be enough to identify the corpse. It also thought about collecting Zone’s remains once the Overlord had gone away. Assuming it could even find them, of course.

“Uh, Master? I think you’re about to get some company.”

“What is it Claws? More rift walkers?”

“No, something different. Bigger. To be honest, I have no idea what that is.”

Boxxy tore its attention away from its prized shiny and glanced towards the webstalker. She was still struggling to finish off those unstable demonic entities from earlier, but something else was looming over her. Something about four meters in height, with the lower body of a polar bear, the upper body and arms of an oversized troll, and the head and antlers of a deer. It was a monster the likes of which it had never seen before, but it was safe to assume the gigantic centaur-like chimera was a creature created by the instant dungeon.

And judging from the way it was charging towards Boxxy and Fizzy, it was probably not coming over to give them a hug.

“Oh well, no rest for the wicked I suppose,” the golem groaned with a disappointed tone.

“We’ll have plenty of time later,” Boxxy replied. “We just gotta kill this thing, kill some time until the Overlord goes away, pick up what’s left of Stain and then head back home.”

“Sounds like a plan. What then, though?”

“Then… I suppose I can start figuring out how to safely rob a dragon. Actually, are dragons tasty? I bet they’re tasty.”

Though it had finally turned the page on the last loose thread of its early life, Boxxy’s seemingly endless hunger for tasty and/or shiny things was far from satiated. It wasn’t sure when or how such a thing could be made possible, but it had a feeling it would be when it was able to pluck all those shimmering stars from the night sky. Admittedly the odds of it pulling that off were so astronomically low that it stood a better chance at turning into a celestial body itself, but it didn’t let that bother it.

After all, what sort of Hero of Chaos would Boxxy be if it didn’t ignore the odds and challenge these non-zero chances anyway?

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About the author

Exterminatus

  • Chestiest Chest That Ever Chested

Bio: I'm a programmer, a mythical creature that survives completely on beer and cynicism. We skulk in the dark, secretly cursing and despising everyone else. Especially other programmers.

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Taki @Taki ago

Thanks for the chapter.

CrimsonWarden @CrimsonWarden ago

Who needs sleep when you get chesty goodness.

MasterofNova
Premium

Zeal Iskander @Zeal Iskander ago

You fucked up a /window i think! You used /windows instead of /window.

Ink Deity @Ink Deity ago

Thanks For The Meal~!

Alreadyded @Alreadyded ago

Loved it. Keep up the great work, and ALL HAIL BOXXY!!!

RWXR
Premium

RWXR @RWXR ago

Okay, I am REALLY dissapointed that Boxxy isn't going to get to absorb the corpse. (I also understand why that ability is getting less and less use, it was needful to make Boxxy able to survive)

Same with Zone, just getting vaporized by Kora was such a let down after all the buildup of her character and cool art. :)

    korsbaek @korsbaek ago

    technacly we dont know if zone is dead or not, all we know is she is missing an arm nothing more, that is the problem with someone that suposibly gets blown to bits so small

    psyChoblasT25 @psyChoblasT25 ago

    "Vaporized"

    "Mind Games"

    "Just an arm left"

      Jockster @Jockster ago

      Why would Boxxy want to search for Zone's remains if she really was vaporized and "just an arm left"?

      All her recent character developments would just be wasted if she really has died in a simple explosion. And now that Edward died, she doesn't have anymore "debts" with him.

    Cheato1 @Cheato1 ago

    If you mean cadavar absorbtion then i believe it was because it was inflating his stats too much and causing him serious problems with the sickness thing that stopped him using it so much, no reason has been given tho if im not mistaken so this is just assumptions.

      RWXR
      Premium

      RWXR @RWXR ago

      He can still learn skills, he figured out how to get rid of the extra stats. He just became more selective when it was "safe" to use it. Really VIPs are the ones to hit because they have Ultimate Skills that in theory can be learned as well.

      Hook is still around too, I beleive. When last seen he was having a staredown with Stain.

      Olinn @Olinn ago

      any skill that only has a single level cannot be acquired by cadaver absorbtion, as it always targets the skill with the highest exp gain, so in this case it'd go for one of the high tier level-10 skills. also, it was mentioned that there was a limit to how much boxxy could bleed its stats with its method.

    Cimmerian @Cimmerian ago

    Ditto. I REALLY want to see the murder box dump the Cat job and pick up something interesting.  Why is this not a priority again?  I fail to see why a smart box would ignore the possibility of getting a job more valuable than "Cat" after all this time.

    Again, unsure why electricity would make a head explode moreso than any other body part, but maybe... magic? (Actually, delicate organis exposed to air, like the lungs, or male genetila would be more likely to burst into flame first; also, in a snowstorm, he would likely be grounded, so...)

      psyChoblasT25 @psyChoblasT25 ago

      Exploding genitalia would probably ruin the scene too much haha

      Who are you neppu @Who are you neppu ago

      He can’t get the cat job removed unless he somehow finds a intelligent cat with the scribe job of a high enough lvl. Exterminatus has stated that is the requirement, which would be really hard to find.

      psyChoblasT25 @psyChoblasT25 ago

      I thought Adrian would get rid of it for him? If he finishes the divine quest.

      Soulxlight @Soulxlight ago

      It isn't so much that it isn't a priority, it is just that it has to find a Scribe it can trust that also has the required skills to remove jobs.

      jackalope @jackalope ago

      To get rid of the cat job, Boxxy has to finish a quest that involves going across the ocean. There is a lot of work involved in it.

      Yes, getting a new job would be nice, but remember that Boxxy's experience gets split among jobs, so every new job sucking up experience reduces its gains for its main jobs. So replacing the cat job isn't nearly as big a priority as it otherwise would be.

      Faruel @Faruel ago

      wasn't the cat job meant to be removed by the god of chaos as a reward and if I do remember this correctly so why is he not doing his job removal job

      Cimmerian @Cimmerian ago

      Pretty crap reward. If I were Boxxy, I’d just kidnap a scribe and family, then dangle them over a cliff while requesting said work get done. Betrayal, under the circumstances, would be unlikely. Then, let go.

      Vincent1875 @Vincent1875 ago

      That's not really how jobs work, Jackalope. Jobs only suck up the experience when they play a part in the kill. If there's no overlap in the kill then there won't be a problem.

      Cimmerian @Cimmerian ago

      What makes you think it needs to be a cat?! A scribe can amend any job from a person of any race.

      Jockster @Jockster ago

      Boxxy will need this slot for its evolution anyway, and don't forget that skill of the Cat job is still useful for Boxxy to keep its secret identity so people won't feel that dreadful aura.

      Granitefish @Granitefish ago

      Monsters get a free slot upon Evolving for their New Monster Job. While not stated in the story Exterminatus has stated it elsewhere.

      Metrux32 @Metrux32 ago

      The author. He stated already, multiple times, that you need to understand to take out. And just like boxxy couldn't understand the acid skill it got at first, so wouldn't a common Scribe understand the cat job. He needs someone who can understand it, so the most probable is some form of cat humanoid...

      RWXR
      Premium

      RWXR @RWXR ago

      That is not true, only the job he USES gets the XP. That is why he leveled Warlock so much when his demons were amok. As well as his Blade Dancer skill. (and his Ranger is... back there somewhere)

      jackalope @jackalope ago

      Vincent1875, yes, but when I say it splits experience I mean that sources of experience are split among the jobs used to get it.  Like if he gets a psion job and kills stuff through psion powers, whatever it was he killed could have just as easily been killed with a spell and given experience to either warlock or wizard.

      Either the new job sucks up experience that would otherwise go elsewhere or it doesn't grow at all, unless he gets a job that involves stuff he already does that isn't covered by existing jobs. Like, I dunno, a Gourmet job. Otherwise the job would either suck up experience from other jobs, or sit there ever ungrowing.

       

      Olinn @Olinn ago

      @RWXR not quite true, for example, fizzy was losing XP to her paladin job since hitting things with a weapon also fits paladins. for this reason similar jobs like warrior and blade dancer might not make the be combinations as, in this case, it'd be impossible to focus on the blade dancer job, since using a sword would split the XP between them.

    Soulxlight @Soulxlight ago

    Eh, Zone probably isn't dead. We get a mention of her left arm getting blown off and that's it. Her character probably isn't dead for a number of reason. First all of the buildup and shit for her. She also never gets her epic fight with Boxxy. Third, she pretty much didn't betray Edward and fuck off to fight Boxxy because she felt she owed him, not because she particularly cared about him or any of the others.

    Zone loves to fight and kill. She's a Monster pretty much born as a human. With Edward dead, and the entire organization in tatters, she's gonna be obsessing over Boxxy at every turn. No way that entire storyline goldmine was just blown up.

EverShadow @EverShadow ago

Thanks for the chapter!