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“Fuckshitfuckshitfuckshitfuckshitfuck!”

A rapid stream of profanity rolled out of Kaede’s mouth as she ran, the weight of Hesk’s equipment rattling against her back with every step. Having no better means at her disposal, the assassin-turned-gofer was forced to stuff the mithril armor into a random fallen raptor’s backpack while carrying the Orc Poker in her hands. This extra luggage was definitely slowing her down, but she couldn’t just leave it behind. Even if her promise to deliver this stuff was just a verbal agreement with a ghost, it was a point of professional pride that she didn’t break it off if she could help it.

The same could not be said of Hesk’s remains, however. Even if she didn’t like it, Kaede had little choice but to leave those behind. The only reason she even bothered with those was to satisfy her own ego. Her own life was far more important, so she instead chose to bring only the easy-to-carry armor with her, even if it did mean her almost-a-friend’s body would be swept up by that damnable thing.

*KRAKOOOOOM*

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t making her strategic retreat any easier. Though she had left that disgusting swamp behind, the sudden thunderstorm did its best to keep her as soggy and muddy as ever. The torrential downpour was also doing a magnificent job of getting her lost. The thick blanket of water made it impossible to see any landmarks or the sun’s position, so Kaede wasn’t even sure if she was headed in the right direction. The rain had also washed away any footprints or scents, making it impossible for her Tracking Skill to pick up a trail left behind by the other adventurers.

*KRRRUKHUUUUUMMMMM*

A brilliant flash of lightning tore through the sky, lighting it up in a powerful white glow. It only lasted an instant, but it was enough to let the skull-masked girl spot the silhouettes of many large figures shuffling about through the trees in front of her. She immediately skid to a halt and turned her attention to the sizeable tree nearby. Without thinking, she lobbed the spear she was holding upward, sticking it firmly in the underside of a branch. She then brought out her slim curved blades and utilized them like climbing picks as she clambered up the wet and slippery bark. She climbed as high as she could in the few seconds she had before stopping at a sturdy limb and thinning out her presence.

“WAAAAAAAGH!”

Both the lumber under her feet and the eardrums in her head rumbled as a mob of orcs stampeded through the jungle. They rushed past Kaede’s hiding place on either side of it like a river. Though they did come from the same direction that she was headed in, it was far more accurate to say these orcs were going towards the very abomination she was running from. It was a reasonable assumption when considering this was the third wave of greenskins that behaved this way. They didn’t even register the nosferata’s presence despite running underneath and swinging right by her in great numbers. As much as Kaede would’ve liked to claim this was because of her excellent hiding skills, she suspected the truth was something else entirely.

It wasn’t until over a minute later that the greenskin herd finally began to thin out. Kaede waited a short while longer for most of the stragglers to pass her by before she retrieved the Orc Poker and climbed down from her hiding spot. After making sure the armor-filled backpack was still securely strapped to her back before resuming her tactical retreat. Or at least that was the plan, but she wasn’t even able to make a single step before a man’s voice echoed inside her skull.

“Hail, Jolly Reaper.”

A voice that, for once, was not Mortimer’s.

“What the-?! Gux?” she blurted out loud.

“Indeed.”

“Where are you?”

“Nearby. Please, follow the sound of Gux’s thoughts. Let them guide you.”

As ridiculous as that request seemed at first, ‘following the sound of thoughts’ turned out to be much easier than expected. They were coming from roughly the same direction Kaede was headed towards anyway, so she saw no reason to object.

“Alright, I’m on my way.”

“Very good. In that case, permit me to connect you to the others.”

“Others? What others?”

“Oh? Found our resident ‘stabassist’ did you?” Orrin’s jolly tone echoed inside her skull.

“Finally!” Sigmund exclaimed. “Maybe she can tell us what in Teresa’s holy name is going on here!”

“I’d love to, but I’m not holding all the cards, either,” Kaede claimed as she made her way towards them.

“What of Hesk of clan Susk, Jolly Reaper?” Gux inquired. “I cannot sense her presence nearby.”

“Oh, I’ve got her with me. In a manner of speaking.”

“Hey, I’ll take whatever you can give me at this point,” Sigmund statd. “Please, tell me what happened over there.”

“We ran into big, mean and green - Gutzstompa himself. We tried to run but he cornered Hesk and the two of them fought while I, uh, stayed out of the scary lizard lady’s way. She ended up unleashing the full fury of Axel’s butthole on him.”

“Uh… You mean that giant blue light that shone above the swamp just before the rain started?” the human asked warily.

“Yeah, that’s the one. You guys saw that?”

“I think half the continent saw that, child,” Orrin chimed in.

“Anyway, long story short, Hesk died in combat, but she took Gutzstompa with her.”

“That’s… not what I hoped to hear.”

Though Sigmund had, like most of the other Heroes, only known her for a brief time, he was quite saddened to hear Axel’s chosen had been killed in action. She was honest, to the point, and treated others with far more courtesy then he ever could - all admirable traits in his eyes. Though he was not sad to hear the warlord was dead, he felt the price for putting him down had been far too steep.

“It gets worse. The orc’s corpse stitched itself back into an undead abomination right before my eyes.”

He was therefore none to pleased at Kaede’s next words.

“... I see.”

“You sound less surprised than I thought you’d be, old man.”

“Let’s just say me and Orrin ran into our own fair share of undead today.”

The two Heroes had led a joint task force comprised of their respective followers. The Inquisition troops and giant adventurers were supposed to clear out a series of old mining tunnels that the orcs had turned into a hive. However, when they actually got there, they found the vast majority of the greenskins had been turned into shambling zombies and ghouls. This actually worked to their favor somewhat since over half of the punitive force - including both Heroes - were either Paladins, Priests or Monks. Their combined holy fury allowed them to purge the place much faster than they would have been able to otherwise, though cleaning up the Blight had taken a fair bit of time by itself.

“I’ll explain more once you get here. How soon can you-”

“I’m here.”

Kaede burst through some bushes into a small clearing where Sigmund and Orrin’s people were currently setting up camp. There were a whole lot of men and women in uniform shuffling about and ten or so giants lugging entire tree trunks as they set up needlessly huge tents. A trio of griffins were resting off to the side, though they seemed as displeased as Kaede about being soaked to the bone. The other Heroes were gathered inside one of the hastily set up tents, with Orrin waving Kaede over while the other two briefly shared their grief over Hesk’s passing.

The nosferata left the Orc Poker and the backpack with Hesk’s gear with one of the Inquisition soldiers for safekeeping and, after making a mental note of his name, joined the others.

“Wait, this all of you?” she asked while looking around inside the tent. “Where are Keira and her vertically challenged friends?”

“The golem and the dwarf? They’re guarding the camp they slaughtered while the Eight tribes collect the bodies,” Sigmund answered. “As for Morgana, Gux here said she went off to check the same blue light we all saw.”

“Gux expected to meet up with her and offer support,” the raptor chimed in, “but instead stumbled upon these two. She should be in the area, but her whereabouts are unknown.”

“Oh, nevermind then,” was the only response Kaede could muster.

“More importantly, what sort of undead has our primary target turned into?” Sigmund pressed her.

“Not sure, I’ve never seen anything like it. It looked like a massive orc-shaped ghoul at first glance, but its behavior was completely different. It ignored me completely and immediately started feeding on the corpses around the battlefield, people and orcs alike. It wasn’t until I tried to sneak up on it that it even registered my presence.”

“I take it you failed to kill it with an Assassination?”

“No, I didn’t even hit it. I was sure I had the drop on it, but it blasted me with this nasty cloud of concentrated Blight just as I was about to strike. I had to back off and take a few antidotes before I vomited out my lungs.”

Not that she would have been able to take it down even if her sneak attack worked. Though this unnamed undead thing didn’t have as much HP as the original Gutzstompa, it was still in the neighborhood of thirty thousand. She was merely testing the waters on how aware of its surroundings that zombie was, the answer to which was ‘very.’ She was also fairly certain that ‘blast’ of the undead plague was actually flatulence of some kind, though that detail was probably not important to the ongoing discussion.

“Oh no,” Orrin mumbled, his face as white as a sheet. “This isn’t good.”

“Your powers of observation serve you well.”

Gux’s tone was rather harsh, though one could hardly blame the scaly sage for being upset after hearing that his friend’s killer had cheated death.

“Kaede, did this undead monster swell in size?”

The giant seemed too focused on the young assassin’s words to notice the raptor’s biting remark, however.

“Uh, yeah. Like, really quickly. It had already doubled in size by the time I’d finished detoxing myself. Growing and eating is all it seems to want to do. I ran to look for reinforcements but with all the orcs I saw running towards it I honestly have no idea how big it got.”

“Gux! You’re Zephyra’s guy, right? Can you clear up this storm right away!?”

The raptor was momentarily taken aback by the forceful urgency in Orrin’s voice, so it took him a few heartbeats to reply.

“… Yes. Gux can indeed silence the heavens.”

“Then do it! Please!”

One didn’t need to be a mind reader to sense the giant’s fear, though it certainly helped. Gux nodded sagely then floated himself out of the tent and into the rain, with the others following close behind. He took a few deep breaths to attune himself to the elements and raised his hands to the sky. The various tokens and trinkets hanging off of his clothes began to glow and the raindrops froze in midair as he began to channel his magic, but this was not a divine Skill that controlled the weather. Though he did have one of those, the aptly named Torrential Tempest could only be used to conjure storms, not disperse them.

“Cloud Burst!”

What the Hero used instead was a mid-Level Shaman Spell. One would think such a thing would not be powerful enough to overcome this heavy rain, which would normally be a fair assumption. Gux, however, was anything but ‘normal. He was a Ranker with a four digit AFF Attribute, which he had slowly built up over the years through his highly unorthodox lifestyle. Not only did it greatly boost the effectiveness of magic such as this, but it also allowed him access to the Legendary Affinity Perk.

Legendary Affinity
Description: A being whose connection to the natural world is the stuff of legends.
Requirements: Reach 750 Natural Affinity (AFF).
Effects: Increases the overall effectiveness of Spells and Skills that manipulate natural forces by 50%.
Reduced hostility from wild animals and monsters.

The result was that the dense cloud coverage was torn wide open, almost as if someone had made a hole in the sky. The circular gap widened rapidly, allowing the afternoon sun to shine down on this particular part of Velos far ahead of schedule. The change was so extreme that Gux’s AFF was reduced by 6 points as punishment for his highly disruptive actions. It wasn’t much of a penalty considering he had roughly two hundred times that amount, though that didn’t mean he was taking his actions lightly.

Still, even if he believed his actions to be a crime against nature, he had faith that his fellow Hero had good reason to make such a desperate plea.

The sudden change in weather caused something of a stir within the surrounding troops’ ranks, but they were quickly silenced by a stern glare from Sigmund. As for Orrin, he stared with bated breath at the water still lingering in the sky. Though the source of the rain was gone, it still took a while for the countless droplets to fall to the ground. And once they did, the Hero of the Sun almost wished they hadn’t.

A spire of flesh loomed over the treetops, its size placing it somewhere firmly between a small mountain and a wizard’s tower. It must have been at least sixty meters tall, and was comprised almost entirely of orcs, their green bodies mangled and pressed together like brick and mortar. A thick brown-green miasma spilled constantly from its top and rolled down into the jungle below, like some sort of profane volcano. Its neck was even slowly but surely swinging around in a worm-like manner, ensuring greater dispersal of its foul payload.

“What in the fires of Hell is that?!” Sigmund yelled.

“That… is a lot bigger than I left it,” Kaede mumbled in disbelief.

She momentarily questioned how it managed to grow to this ridiculous size, then realized the answer was staring her right in the face. If the ex-Gutzstompa really was in the middle of that, then it was possible what was left of him was calling out to all of the mindless drones connected to him via the Green Tide. Granted, Kaede was hardly an expert on the matter, but it would certainly explain those groups of stampeding orcs she encountered. It wasn’t hard to imagine them dying en masse underneath that cloud of Blight, only to have their corpses used to fuel the undead war machine. And with almost a hundred thousand of them roaming around - plus whatever random monsters or people they might’ve dragged along with them - there would definitely be enough raw material to make this sort of thing happen.

“What we are looking at,” Orrin said with a heavy tone, “is the Boneshaper’s secret weapon.”

“Come again?” the Hero of the Hammer exclaimed. “The Boneshaper? Here?!”

“I do not know if he has personally come, but this is definitely his handiwork. Those Blight-spewing abominations are the reason why my people lost their homeland.”

That was the true terror of the Boneshaper’s military strategy. He didn’t kill a continent simply by overrunning it with legions of the undead. Though he did have those, they only ever fought when those mobile disease factories were threatened by the enlightened opposition. The rest of the time they simply sat and waited as the thick concentrations of Blight spread throughout the land and either drove off or killed the living. Even if major cities and fortresses could stall the infection with magic, they could not prevent the contamination of the soil and water outside their walls. It was a type of siege they had never seen before, and though they did develop countermeasures eventually, it was already far too late to stop the Boneshaper’s advance.

Orrin had not seen one of these things in person before, but as someone tasked with his people’s revival it was only natural he’d be well acquainted with how they fell. The especially painful part was that the giants of Percepeia could have stopped this if they had reacted quicker and with greater force. All they had to do was mobilize and wipe out the undead and their damnable Blight factories before the plague grew too thick for their people to handle. Something that obviously didn’t happen, due in part because of their peace-loving nature, which had ultimately been their downfall.

A mistake that Orrin would not allow to happen again.

“We need to destroy that thing!” he shouted while pointing at it. “Quickly, before it forms foot soldiers to protect itself!”

“What thing?” Gux asked in a confused manner.

“What do you mean, ‘what?’ Can’t you see-! … Nevermind.”

The giant could be forgiven for momentarily forgetting that the raptor was sightless. Though he was extremely proficient at taking in his surroundings with a combination of Psionic and Shaman abilities, these did not extend that far out. This also made it extremely difficult to aim and control the Torrential Tempest at anything that wasn’t in close proximity, greatly reducing the potential of the Hero of Rain’s greatest weapon.

“Uh, yeah, you guys do that,” Kaede stated as she warily stepped back. “Meanwhile I’ll be right here. Not dying.”

Though she was all for ridding the world of the foul undead, she drew the line at challenging genocidal murder-towers that had over 200,000 HP.

“You’re just going to run away?” the giant asked in an accusatory tone.

“What do you expect me to do, exactly?” she snapped back. “Anything that I could’ve done was already spent trying to save Hesk! In vain! As far as I’m concerned, the only way I can contribute to this is by not adding my body to the pile!”

“Calm yourself, Jolly Reaper,” Gux attempted to intervene. “Times of crisis are when maintaining a cool head is most-”

“Shut it, weirdo! How about you get some fucking eyes before lecturing me about ‘the situation!’ Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a job to do. One that doesn’t involve handling shit far above my pay grade.”

Kaede then stormed off to find that soldier she left Hesk’s gear with so she could deliver it before she got as far away from this god-forsaken continent as possible.

“Uhm… Gux is having a hard time grasping the situation. Can Gux please borrow one of your heads for a moment?”

“Yeah, here, you can use mine.”

Sigmund stepped forward and let the raptor place a hand upon his shiny scalp. A few moments passed by while Gux borrowed the human’s memories of the last few minutes, focusing mostly on the sights he had seen.

“Ah… Gux understands why the Jolly Reaper’s words were so harsh. This is not an opponent she can hope to face.”

“I know. I shouldn’t have made unreasonable demands of her,” Orrin lamented. “Apologies can wait for later. Right now we need to stop that thing while we still can.”

“Well, you’re in luck, big guy,” Sigmund said while rubbing his slightly aching head. “You just so happen to be in the presence of Teresa’s Grand Inquisitor. Willis!”

Law’s second in command, who had watched the entire exchange in silence, stepped forward and saluted.

“Your orders, sir?”

“Get in touch with field HQ, tell them we have a code ‘Black’ and to bring as many able bodied Paladins and Priests they can. Not just from the Inquisition, but from the adventurers and locals as well. I don’t care if its by griffin, teleportation, or a miracle, you get those people here as fast as possible.”

“What about those already here, sir?”

“You are to maintain a perimeter and monitor that thing’s movements until they arrive. We also need to limit its food, so don’t let anything approach the… Uh… What’s that thing called, again?”

Sigmund glanced at Orrin inquisitively, who nervously scratched his beard.

“Historical records refer to them as ‘smokestacks,’ but I don’t know if that’s the actual name.”

“Close enough. As I was saying - Willis, feel free to crush any orcs or lesser undead that come your way, but do not challenge the smokestack directly. Understood?”

“Not even for reconnaissance purposes, sir? I could have Coleman’s squad board a griffin and test the target’s defenses.”

“Hmm… Alright, but tell them to be wary of counter attacks. Something tells me this ‘smokestack’ won’t take kindly to being blindsided. Now go, and fear no evil!”

“Aye, sir.”

The soldier ran off to deliver Sigmund’s orders, letting him focus his attention on the other Heroes.

“Who is this Man of Coal?” Gux asked matter of factly.

“Coleman’s people are some of the best Spell-slingers the Inquisition has at its disposal. They’ll be seeing if anything other than holy magic is effective against it.”

“Forgive Gux’s ignorance, but does not Teresa’s Hammer already possess an extremely potent weapon?”

“If you mean Judgement From Above, then yes, I do have that,” Sigmund nodded. “However, it’ll be useless unless I can get close enough to use it.”

There was also the question of whether said Skill would be able to eliminate that spire of death in one hit. It certainly had the power to purify its bones and flesh until they became salt, but the target was far too big for Judgement From Above to envelop it completely. Therefore, while it would certainly be a huge blow, it was necessary to consider what would happen after Sigmund brought down Teresa’s wrath upon that vile abomination.

“What about yourself, Gux?” he shot back. “You got any massive attacks that could be of use?”

“Gux does possess the power to unleash the fury of the elements. However, though Gux will be fine thanks to Lady Zephyra’s grace, your soldiers will get caught up in it.”

“Understood. Orrin?”

The Hero of the Sun did indeed have access to a powerful Skill on par with the others. It was called Celestial Avatar, and could be used once a day to flood the user with the sun’s blazing heat for up to ten minutes. Not only would it greatly increase his HP and MP, but also grant him temporary access to several powerful light and heat based abilities that could be used to heal or harm in equal measure.

The downside was that the Hero needed to be in direct sunlight in order to use it to its full potential. That wasn’t a problem since Gux was kind enough to disperse the storm, but Orrin’s patron was starved for faith at the moment. It was highly likely the Celestial Avatar would either not last the full ten minutes, or would not be able to unleash its full potential. That said, if push came to shove, Orrin would not hesitate to unleash his god-given powers on that vile abomination.

However, it was rather questionable whether he would have the chance to do so.

“Uhhh, Sigmund?” the giant said while staring at the disease-spewing smokestack in the distance. “I think someone already beat us to the punch.”

A flaming ball of rock had appeared in the sky while the three of them were sharing information and giving out orders. It left a thick black trail of smoke as it hurtled groundward at a relatively shallow angle, colliding with the smokestack’s midsection in an explosion of crimson flames. The undead spire lurched dangerously to one side, the force of the impact forcing it to bend over like a wet noodle. Its body then suddenly sprang back into its previous position, launching the remains of the magically conjured ball of molten rock away from itself and into the surrounding jungle. Streams of concentrated Blight shot out from countless tiny holes in its surface as the smokestack attempted to snuff out the flames that clung to its side. Something that proved to be a futile effort, as the disease cloud itself was instantly set alight and burned away in the blink of an eye.

And it was only then that the distant din of the Meteor Spell hitting its target washed over the three Heroes.

“It’s just one thing after another today, isn’t it?” Sigmund grumbled.

“Gux could feel that aftershock in his bones,” the raptor commented. “Was that your Man of Coal’s doing?”

“No. He hasn’t even left the ground yet. Orrin, you said you had clairvoyance magic, right? Can you try to find the caster?”

It was an unnecessary request to make, as the giant was already ahead of him. He had stuck the bottom of his golden sun-staff into the muddy ground and was holding it with both hands as he channeled his Lightbinder magic through it.

“Far Sight!”

Images of the undead spire flashed on the inside of his closed eyelids as he gained a bird’s eye view of its surroundings. The jungle directly around its base had already withered into a barren wasteland, though the pyrotechnics display probably helped bring it to that sorry state. As for the one that had called down that attack, it was a being that Orrin was not ashamed to admit was outside of his realm of comprehension.

She was clearly female though, that much seemed plainly obvious. She had a voluptuous figure with massive breasts, thick thighs and hips yet joined by a slim waist. It was without a doubt the same kind of overtly sexualized shape one would expect to see on a succubus. The dull red yet surprisingly shiny skin and ribbed jet black horns like that of a ram were clearly indicative of a demonic heritage. However, though her outfit was both extremely revealing and fittingly tempting, one would be hard pressed to call this thing a succubus.

For starters, her ‘clothes’ were made up of a writhing fleshy substance with a rich purple color, the mere sight of which made Orrin’s skin crawl. The same stuff also made up over a dozen tentacles that dangled off of her scalp and waist, each one tipped with a short metal blade. Her eyes were like hollow circles of yellow light floating amidst a sea of darkness, not to mention that she had an odd number of them. Two were located right where one would expect them to be on that pretty face, while the third was in the middle of her forehead and surrounded by what looked to be tiny teeth. It was almost as if the vertical slit couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a second mouth or an extra eye, so it tried to be both at once.

"Tenticubus" by dmaxcustom

As for the reason why Orrin got such a solid look at those facial features, it was because their owner was staring right back at him through the Far Sight. He was certain this was the case, as there was no other reason why she would be looking skyward while smiling wickedly and floating effortlessly through the air. It was almost as if she was trying to peer into his very soul through the remote viewing Spell, to the point where the giant felt strangely violated. Thankfully for him, this terrifying stranger turned her eyesight away from him and back towards the smokestack.

Though messing with the peeper certainly sounded like fun, Boxxy was on the clock. The Malefic Union with Xera was both temporary and difficult to control, and it had already spent a bit too long making sure everything was set up. It was already quite short on time, so it couldn’t afford to be distracted right now. Especially since the giant lump of XP in front of it had just launched its first real attack, which took the shape of countless shards of bone that flew out of numerous holes in its massive body. They soared through the air like arrows, each of them aimed directly at the demon-infused doppelganger. However, though it certainly looked impressive, it was nevertheless an entirely physical attack that was unable to hit the Mist Form that Boxxy had borrowed from Xera.

The shapeshifter-turned-vapors reformed itself once the volley had ended and immediately split into multiple copies of itself. Not in two or three, but sixteen different bodies. The smokestack kept firing at all of them at random, but it failed to hit any of them. That was because only two of those had physical substance - the original and its Mirror Image - while the rest were conjured illusions. This was a good bit of information, as it showed this thing relied on some sort of sight rather than an MLG. Boxxy’s next move was therefore rather obvious.

“True Darkness!”

A twenty meter wide sphere of absolute blackness engulfed the shapeshifter, obscuring it from view. The smokestack focused its attacks on that point while also stepping up its efforts. This time it launched diseased balls of flesh that disappeared into the darkness, only to explode in a shower of boiling bile and burning bones akin to a Necromancer’s Corpse Explosion. It certainly looked like a powerful attack with many nasty side effects. Yet this assault also failed spectacularly, mostly due to the fact that its intended target was no longer within the shadowy sphere.

“Reality Slash!”

Boxxy dropped out of invisibility on the opposite end of the diseased spire while releasing its favorite Warlock Spell. The unseen blade of magic tore deep into the creature, leaving a sizeable wound that immediately gushed with a small waterfall of disgusting pus-like fluids. The spire also let out a deep groan and intensified its anti-air measures. Needless to say, it was a much more extreme reaction than bashing it with an oversized ball of rock and fire. Though the Succubus Job’s Penetration Expertise Skill allowed its Spells to bypass a portion of the target’s defenses, it was clearly more vulnerable to force magic than fire magic. The thing had even stopped spewing out the Blight, though that was probably because it needed to focus all of its attention on this new threat.

Unfortunately for the undead colossus, as well as anyone that might have been controlling it from the shadows, Boxxy had already gathered all the information it needed. Moving onto the next phase, over thirty Mirror Images that had been lying in wait rose out of the surrounding jungle and surrounded the smokestack, each of them bearing the shapeshifter’s demonically charged form. They didn’t need to, though. In fact, Boxxy’s flesh and bones were so extremely malleable in this state that the monster could achieve shapes that it never could before.

However, while it was like this, the creature saw no reason to hide. Perhaps this was a result of the arrogant ‘mightier-than-thou’ attitude that Xera bore towards all except her Master, but suppressing her overwhelming lust was already taxing Boxxy’s willpower to capacity. It couldn’t completely keep her twisted personality in check, which was the major downside of using this tactic.

The payoff, however, was access to phenomenal arcane might that easily surpassed that of any enlightened Spell-slinger.

“Gravity Well!”

All of the Mirror Images chanted as one, their voices and thoughts in perfect sync thanks to Boxxy’s Spirit Echo. That, combined with its Synchronous Chant, amplified the Spell it was using to the point where even that tower-sized monstrosity found itself crashing into the ground below. It writhed and spasmed like a trampled worm as its own weight threatened to crush it into a messy goop. That wasn’t enough to kill it though, nor was dealing a fatal injury the Spell’s purpose. Gravity Well’s job was to keep the thing nice and still, as Boxxy’s next move required quite a bit of time to pull it off.

The sexy-yet-terrifying tentacled abominations gathered at the main body’s position while the smokestack was still struggling to move.  They joined their tentacles together, forming a spider web of pseudo demon flesh that hung ominously in the air.

 “Dark Infusion!”

Next, they all empowered each other in a chain, temporarily increasing their already formidable INT Attributes by a staggering 52%. Something that was only made possible through the combination of Mirror Image and Spirit Echo, as one could not normally use Domination magic on themselves, regardless of their intentions. The real Boxxy then opened up its Storage and retrieved two items - a Masterwork-grade staff designed to bolster force magic, which it held firmly in one hand. The second object was a vial of glittering blue liquid, which it immediately drank.

You have consumed a Distilled Quintessence of Magic.
The effects of the next Spell cast within 2 minutes will be doubled.

It was an especially expensive elixir when considering it required that the shapeshifter had to sacrifice a portion of its INT in order to have it made, but the effects were well worth it.

“Amplify Magic.”

The next step was for Boxxy to use another borrowed djinn Skill, causing bright rings of yellow light to briefly envelop its body. Just as its name suggested, it boosted the effects of both incoming and outgoing magic by yet another 40%. The creature would have gladly used it on its target as well to ‘double dip’ the effects, but the ability could not be used more than once every 20 seconds. It was also not the last empowering effect that the shapeshifter was going to use. That particular ‘honor’ was left to Power Overwhelming, which caused the center of the fleshy web to flare up and crackle like a ball of lightning. Then, once again, came the Synchronous Chanting.

“Sed risus ex, semper a lacus condimentum, molestie malesuada nisi!”

However, though the Spell being collectively channeled was nothing out of the ordinary, the language that Boxxy and its clones used was the secret tongue of both deities and demons.

“Pellentesque sagittis auctor turpis pretium diam!”

Translating the chant like this meant that the magic took a lot longer to invoke, though the payoff for doing so was, as one might imagine, quite extraordinary.

“Remulus Secare!”

A hair-thin wave of destruction traveled outward, covering a distance of nearly a hundred meters at a speed that even its ridiculously perceptive caster could not track. True to its original name, the heavily augmented and amplified Reality Slash seemed to rip open the fabric of existence. The ground, the jungle, the smokestack, even the very air itself were split asunder and, for the briefest of moments, opened wide enough to let a small house fall through the resulting void unhindered.

The wound in the world then slammed back together with calamitous results. The earth groaned, creaked and rumbled in protest, sending out tremors that could be felt almost fifty kilometers away. The air screamed and thundered as it had been violated at a speed that surpassed that of sound. Tornado-like winds followed in the wake of the sonic boom, ripping trees out by their roots and sending them flying into the distance along with whatever creatures or objects were unfortunate enough to be caught up in the cataclysmic event. Even Boxxy found itself hurtling uncontrollably through the sky for a few seconds before it could regain control.

Your target has been obliterated. Target HP -263,648.
Feat of strength performed! You have unlocked a new Perk: The Destroyer.
Level up!
Level up!
Congratulations, you are now a Level 83 Warlock! INT +4. MNT +4. END +4.
Proficiency level increased. Ruin Mastery is now Level 22. INT +4. WIS +2. END +2.

Needless to say, the target of that ridiculous display of power did not survive the encounter. The entire sequence of events was a test run of Boxxy’s dragon-killing strategy, so it was safe to assume not even traces of the undead smokestack could be found anymore. Casting a Spell by chanting it in the language of the Gods made it so that its nature would come that little bit closer to its ideal, its concept. In the case of Reality Slash, it meant that a small part of the world was quite literally removed from existence, hence its especially destructive nature and abnormally long reach. Both the results and the rewards from this little field experiment were quite impressive to say the least, but such tremendous power came with a price.

A special action has been performed. FTH -15.
A special action has been performed. AFF -25.

Not only did ravaging the environment with magic significantly reduce Boxxy’s AFF and thus directly reduced its maximum HP, but the monster also suffered a marked reduction in FTH. Though Boxxy’s Spell did succeed, it was a flawed aberration of magic conjured by a mind that could not hope to fully grasp the true nature of the powers it was playing with. As a direct result, it ended up leaving a mild curse upon the land it had just ripped up. The exact nature of the affliction was yet unknown, but there was no doubt it would become a source of headaches for the locals in the near future.

Something the shapeshifter was fully aware would happen, as this was not the first time it had used the language it learned from Ambrosia to invoke magic. Granted, it had never used this combination in its entirety before either, but that didn’t change the fact that it had knowingly and willingly created a cursed plot of land. Which was a direct violation of Lunar’s Taboo. Not a major one, but a violation nonetheless. Something the Goddess of Magic and Learning would no doubt give ‘Twitchy’ an earful over. All things considered, however, she would surely agree that was a small price to pay to make sure that Velos did not follow in Percepeia’s footsteps. The shapeshifter was also a bit surprised it got a Perk out of the ordeal, but it certainly wasn’t going to complain after seeing its effects.

The Destroyer
Description: Even their ancestors felt THAT one.
Requirements: Deal 100,000 points of damage to a target in a single hit.
Effects: Increases all damage dealt by 1% for every 1,000 points of damage dealt in the last 30 seconds, up to 50%.

As for the one who had witnessed the terrifying might of Boxxy T. Morningwood up close and personal, he quite literally had his hands full dealing with the aftermath.

“Rrrragh!”

Orrin grunted with effort as he pushed off the massive boulder that had been pressing down on him, making it fall to the side with a heavy thud. The terrain-altering magic had hurled it over a kilometer away and threatened to crush him and his two fellow Heroes. Thankfully the Hero of the Sun was born with an exceptionally strong and healthy body, even by giant standards, so he was able to catch the rubble before it could do any damage.

“Are you both alright?”

“Gux appreciates the assist,” the raptor said with a sagely nod. “It was so sudden that Gux’s Telekinesis was not able to cushion the impact completely.”

“Ah, so that’s why it felt so light,” the giant remarked. “What about you, Sigmund?”

“Koff koff! I’ll live,” the Paladin replied as he dusted his armor off. “What of my troops? Anyone hurt?”

“They’re fine. We were the only ones lucky enough to be hit by debris.”

“Yeah, speaking of which, what exactly happened out there? You were watching, right?”

“Gux would also like to know that,” Zephyra’s chosen butted in. “Gux heard the world scream out in agony, could feel it bleeding from an open wound.”

Orrin let out a heavy sigh and looked down at the others with a grim expression.

“The good news is the smokestack is gone. It’s hard to imagine even a dragon would walk away from that sort of power unscathed.”

“And the bad news?” Sigmund asked warily.

“I have no idea who or what the thing responsible was, nor could I make sense of the magic it used.”

“Great. Just great,” the smaller man rubbed his temple in frustration. “I’ve heard of the old ‘there’s always a bigger fish’ saying, but this is just ridiculous.”

Needless to say, he had no idea how to even begin to tackle the issue of this mysterious savior. He was hardly the only one who suddenly had a lot more to think about, either. Orrin, for instance, questioned whether it was a smart idea to even mess with something that absurdly powerful. With the immediate danger over, Gux was currently preoccupied with thoughts of that divine raspberry jam he was once treated to in a small village at the foot of Atica’s tallest mountain.

Granted, not the most relevant of conundrums, but focusing on tasty things was his way of dealing with absurd happenings that defied explanation.

Kaede, on the other hand, was doing her absolute best to ignore the terrifying possibility that the thing masquerading as Keira Morgana was the one responsible for that terrifying tremor. Even Nao, who had only been tangentially involved in the day’s proceedings, was not spared of a few headaches. He had just been told by his patron deity that he had a new curse to unravel and dispel, a duty he was hardly thrilled to carry out. As for Hesk, it was highly unlikely she would ever find out what had transpired after her death, which was probably for the best.

And last but not least was Boxxy, who had landed in an unfamiliar part of the jungle and was currently undergoing something of a crisis of its own.

“Damn it! There’s nothing to eat around here but orcs!”

Granted, not the most relevant of conundrums, but focusing on tasty things was its way of dealing with its post-fusion hangover.

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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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Pubeard @Pubeard ago

Thanks for the chapter! :)

Moridain @Moridain ago

Bit of a snaffu with the table.

Great chapter though. Also thought for a moment that was Boxxys evolution.

stads @stads ago

yay for boxy creating art in the world even if people dont like it but like all true artists there never appreciated in there own time

thx for writing this chapter

Mirikon
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Mirikon @Mirikon ago

Well, it isn't quite a full-on Exterminatus, but it'll do. Wink

Benztaubensaeure @Benztaubensaeure ago

That was awesome XD Thanks for that.

ShadeMage @ShadeMage ago

Made me laugh and clap for boxxy i hope kaede dont get a mission for the taboo breaking, it was almost a crusade after all is said and done

Raph772 @Raph772 ago

welp that was both anticlimactic yet incredibly satisfying at the same time