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The mood in the living room of the Morgana household was awkward, to say the least. Not only had Keira and Rowana been denied a late and lazy morning, but they also had an uninvited visitor. Anyone would be annoyed if some huge muscle-bound man in full ceremonial armor dropped in unannounced at their house, but the fact that it was the Hero of the Hammer made it doubly worse. Sigmund Law was the sort of person who seemed to radiate grim determination, and the fact that he was sitting in a flower-patterned armchair didn’t diminish that one bit.

Of course, none of that seemed to disturb the residents of this particular household.

“Mr. Law, could you please stop bleeding on my furniture?” Rowana asked politely.

“I apologize, miss,” he replied firmly. “I don’t mean to point fingers, but it wasn’t my choice to be greeted with a knife to the face.”

Both of them glared at Keira, who was still holding onto the bloodied knife.

“… In my defense, he looked extremely knife-able.”

Sigmund and Rowana shared a sigh. She had a point. The Hero of the Hammer cut a naturally imposing figure, and the redhead’s tenure as Hero of Chaos had made her notoriously jumpy. It wasn’t that Keira was high-strung, she just reacted badly to surprises since most surprises reacted badly to her. Frankly speaking, it was a small miracle that the matter had been settled with just a cut on the cheek. There would’ve been an international incident if things had escalated to a Clash of Fate.

“Ahem?”

Before the visitor could get to explaining himself, he was offered a fresh cup of tea by someone just outside his field of view.

“Oh? Thank you,” he replied on reflex as he picked up the cup. “Wait, what?”

He looked down at the sentient table with a look of utter confusion.

“Don’t mind him, that’s just Tablesworth,” Keira reassured him.

“Another thing like that animated wooden doll I saw earlier?”

“Ahem!” Tablesworth said indignantly while walking away in a huff.

“Don’t call them ‘things,’ please,” Rowana chimed in. “They’re house mimics. Though they look like objects, they have minds and hearts of their own.”

Now that the elf mentioned that, Sigmund was fairly certain the mannequin had given him the finger before it disappeared into another room, but he decided not to question it.

“How… many of them are around?” he asked warily.

“Quite a few,” the redhead answered.

Sigmund couldn’t help but eye the room warily upon hearing that. Now that he was actively looking for them, he spotted a cookie jar with pincers waddling across a nearby shelf. The butterfly hair clip on the elf’s head seemed to be moving around, too. And maybe he was going crazy, but he felt like the crystal dragon statuette in the corner was giving him the stink-eye. Was the carpet in on it, too?

“Relax, they’re harmless,” Keira reassured him. “House mimics are quite literally incapable of harming people. So for real, calm down.”

“Ah, yes. I apologize, this is just a bit… bizarre to me.”

The man realized he was starting to get needlessly paranoid.

“Also, don’t freak out,” the redhead smirked, “but you’re sitting on Sir Seatmeister the Third.”

Or perhaps he wasn’t paranoid enough.

“Keira! Stop teasing our guest!” Rowana scolded her. “I apologize Mr. Law. She must’ve gotten up on the wrong side of the bed today.”

Her tone was polite and her words kind, yet Sigmund couldn’t help but feel that she had taken a metaphorical jab at him for disturbing them at this early hour.

“Yes, well,” Sigmund regained his composure, “I admit I was a bit inconsiderate. At the very least it’s good to see you haven’t lost your edge, Miss Morgana. I know we didn’t get much chance to talk the last time we met, so let me just say I personally appreciate your aid during the orc invasions on Velos.”

“Yeah, yeah. Cut the crap, Sigmund,” Keira crossed her arms demandingly. “Why are you here?”

“Alright, I’ll get straight to it,” the man leaned forward, putting his elbows on his knees. “It’s not just me that visited Azurvale. Orrin and Gux are here, too. As is the new Hero of the Sword.”

The beastkin raised an eyebrow while Rowana excused herself and left the room upon hearing the ‘h-word.’ It would appear she anticipated this was a topic she probably didn’t want to be directly involved in.

“That didn’t answer my question,” Keira pressed.

“I know, and I’m getting to that. The thing is, after settling things on Velos, we decided to extend our collective partnership. As I’m sure you’re quite aware, a Shift is most likely on its way, and we decided that it was our duty to prepare ourselves for whatever it may bring. And we can’t do that without the help of the Hero of Chaos.”

“I think you’re barking up the wrong tree,” Keira sighed. “Hero or not, I’m just one person. I’m nowhere near significant enough to steer the course of history by myself.”

After all, entire civilizations could rise or fall in just a few years during a Shift. Yes, Keira Morgana was a famous adventurer that had certainly left her mark on the world, but to think she alone could influence a Shift was ludicrous. Which wasn’t to say that Boxxy T. Morningwood couldn’t make an impact, but that was beside the point.

“I know, and I’m not asking you to,” Sigmund stated firmly. “We just want your input and opinion on a number of topics that we need to discuss.”

“Let me get this straight. You and a bunch of other Heroes came all the way to Azurvale… for a consultation?”

“It sounds silly when you put it like that, but that’s basically it, yes,” he nodded. “I would also like to state that it wasn’t my idea, but Miss Hilda seemed adamant that your unique experiences and perspective might show us something we missed. She sends her regards, by the way.”

“Tsk,” Keira clicked her tongue. “That old bat always makes good points, doesn’t she? What’s she been up to, anyway? Haven’t heard from her in months.”

“Last I heard, she remained on Velos. Apparently she intends to retire there.”

“Really? I always imagined she’d be eager to challenge the Dragon Festival.”

“Mmm, yes, well, I do not know her circumstances, but it appears she’d rather spend her twilight years slaughtering orcs for sport.”

“Heh. Just wait until she runs out of booze, she’ll be back here in no time,” Keira chuckled. “But, if Miss Hilda thinks I may be of some help, then I suppose I’ll at least hear you out.”

“Thank you. I promise it won’t take more than a day. In fact, we can probably get it over with before evening if we leave now.”

“Alright, give me ten minutes to get ready and we’ll head off.”

Sigmund agreed and spent the wait sipping at the tea he was given and trying really hard to ignore the way the chair seemed to shift underneath him. Figuring the combined weight of his body and armor might be hurting the living armchair, he stood and let his eyes wander around the room. He began to feel a bit envious of how cozy and comfortable it was once he got used to the house mimics. Being the head of the Inquisition naturally came with all kinds of perks, one of which was top-tier accommodations. However, it had been an almost unbearably lonely post ever since those triplets left his care.

Speaking of which, Sigmund had already heard through the godly grapevine that Nao had taken over their education. Keira had apparently done her best to teach them self-reliance in the short time they had been together, but had to send them away because of how unstable Azurvale had become in recent months. Though the man didn’t know how to feel about that turn of events, he agreed that it was probably for the best. He had a fairly high opinion of the Hero of Magic, having worked with him extensively during the initial Velos incident. Unfortunately, he now had absolutely no idea what his ‘nieces’ were even up to, or where they actually were.

And since he didn’t want to bother his divine patron with what were basically an old man’s worries, he decided to bring the topic up with Keira during their walk to the Hero meeting.

“So, have you heard anything from the girls?” he asked her after they left the house.

“You mean Lydia and her sisters?”

“Yeah.”

“I assume you know Nao’s looking after them.”

“I do, but I have no idea how they’re actually doing. I thought maybe you would know.”

“Funny you should ask. I actually got a letter from them a few days ago. They probably sent you one too, but I’m guessing you missed it.”

“Ah, I must have. I came here straight from Velos, so it’ll probably be waiting for me when I get back to headquarters.”

“Probably,” she shrugged.

“So? What did it say?”

“Uh…” Keira hesitated for a moment. “You know how they were supposed to study under Nao?”

“Yes?” Sigmund raised an eyebrow. “Is he not teaching them properly?”

“Oh, he’s teaching them a lot of things, I’m sure. Especially since they’ve done a lot more than just study together.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

The look of puzzlement on the man’s face made it clear that nothing short of the cold, hard, truth would get through to him, so Keira decided to stop trying to hint at it and just get it over with.

“Nao got all three of them pregnant. At once.”

Sigmund’s eyes blinked a few times as he processed this information.

“… What?” he asked dumbly.

“Lydia, Madeline, and Robin are all heavy with Nao’s children,” she repeated herself. “And I mean heavy. Apparently all their bellies are already swollen to the point where they can hardly walk. Madeline says she’s even expecting twins.”

Upon hearing both the confirmation and elaboration, Law tilted his head back and thrust his fists towards the sky.

“YYYYEEEEEEEEES!” he screamed at the top of his lungs. “NOT ME!”

Rather than being upset or angry, Sigmund was overjoyed. All things aside, he still thought of the triplets as his own daughters, and had been dreading the thought of having to do unfatherly things with them. He was also quite happy that they’d chosen Nao as their partner. He knew that boy would do right by them, and wasn’t one to run from his responsibilities. Speaking of which, though he did approve of the union, he wasn’t quite sure how to deal with the moral ramification of one man having three simultaneous partners. He assumed they had probably worked out some kind of arrangement, but nevertheless felt it necessary to personally ascertain the nature of their relationship.

Thankfully Nao and the triplets were still going to show up for Keira’s wedding in about two weeks’ time, or so the redhead claimed during the walk. Sigmund decided to stick around Azurvale until then, but for now focused on the impending meeting. He used a Comm-crystal to inform the other Heroes that they were on the way, then led Keira to one of the most expensive and luxurious hotels in Azurvale. They passed through the lobby and, after having a chat with the receptionist, were escorted to what was either a small banquet hall or a huge meeting room, with the rest of the gods’ chosen already waiting for them.

“Keira! It is good to see you are well!” Orrin greeted her with his usual sense of mirth.

“Same here, old man,” she smiled sweetly at him.

“Gux would say hello,” the levitating lizardman was next, “but his mind is currently visiting his late grandmother.”

“Uh-huh. Any idea when he’ll be back?”

“Shouldn’t be more than a few minutes.”

“And you must be the new Hero of the Sword I was told about,” she turned towards the last person in the room.

Standing in the corner was someone wearing the same set of mithril armor that Hesk had used during her final battle against the orc warlord. The equipment had been lovingly cleaned, repaired, and refitted to better suit its new owner. His face wasn’t visible, but his build and height alone were enough to determine he was a male raptor. His weapon of choice was an imposing greatsword that was leaning against the wall next to him. Upon being greeted by the beastkin, he pulled himself away from the corner, took a few steps towards her and slammed his fist into his breastplate.

“I am Kut of clan Susk,” he spoke calmly. “It is an honor to finally meet you, Crimson Lotus.”

“Uh… just Keira is fine. Where did you even hear that nickname?”

“It was carved into the flesh of the orcs that fell by your blade. The blooms of blood left in your wake are truly befitting your moniker, Crimson Lotus.”

“Please don’t make me sound like some kind of violent psychopath,” she sighed.

“Says the woman that greeted me with a knife to the face,” Sigmund crossed his arms.

“Wahahaha!” Orrin chortled, much to the man’s discomfort. “Come now, Sigmund. What’s a few cuts between friends?”

“We are not friends,” he and Keira replied in unison, much to the giant’s continued amusement.

Once everyone had settled down and Gux’s mind had returned to reality, the second conference of Heroes finally got underway. First order of business was to catch Keira up on what had happened with Aleister, the Boneshaper’s rogue lieutenant. She naturally acted quite surprised to learn that Jennifer Jackson, the former Gilded Hand agent known as ‘Zone’ and the woman who had killed the beastkin’s mentor, had been the one to land the killing blow. Not to mention her apparent transformation into a ‘winged harpy-like creature,’ as Sigmund described her.

The reason they had brought that up was because they thought the Hero of Chaos might have some inkling as to how and why such a transformation happened.

“Why are you asking me?” she said defensively.

“Because your mithril companion is the only other such case we know of,” Orrin informed her. “We thought her condition might provide some insight as to-”

“We’ve been over this already,” the beastkin cut him off. “Fizzy is the way she is because of a cursed Artifact. She may have found some joy and meaning in it since then, but it wasn’t exactly her choice to become a lump of unfeeling metal.”

“Perhaps not, though there are those of us who are willing to undergo the change should they be given the option.”

The giant’s uncharacteristically grim words hung in the ensuing silence for several seconds.

“… I see. You need people like Fizzy to reclaim your homeland.”

“Sharp as ever, aren’t you, miss Keira?” the Hero of the Sun smiled weakly.

The main thing that kept the living from taking back the continent of Percepeia wasn’t the undead. Though the legions of the damned were a force to be reckoned with, it was the constant miasma of Blight blanketing the landmass that was the biggest hurdle. Even if there were people capable of surviving the intensely diseased air of the Blighted Lands, their food would rot and their water would be fouled. Not to mention that the plague would sap the strength of the living even if it failed to rob them of their life.

However, golems needed neither sustenance nor rest, and were practically immune to all but a select few magical diseases. Combined with her zealous faith and developed Paladin Job, Fizzy seemed to be the only viable candidate to mount a campaign against the Boneshaper. The issue there was that a one-golem crusade was… statistically improbable to succeed. No matter how mighty the former gnome was, there was only so much she could do by herself before the Boneshaper’s hordes overwhelmed her.

But, if there was an entire army of people with Fizzy’s inorganic constitution, then wiping out the undead presence on Percepeia would no longer be an impossible dream. Purifying the landmass of Blight was also accomplishable with the help of the totems that the Empire used to finally clean up the aftermath of the Calamity of Monotal. Magic items that had only been made available because Fizzy had convinced the remnants of the subterranean civilization that created them to reconnect with the surface world.

In a way, that radiant construct had single handedly provided Orrin and his people with the tools necessary to restore their ancestral homeland to its former splendour. Her very existence was almost like some kind of divine providence as far as the Hero of the Sun was concerned. The man was perhaps grasping at straws, but he and his followers were clearly desperate. In their minds, if they could attain the power to defeat that ultimate evil, then sacrificing their enlightened nature was a small price to pay.

“Sorry, that’s not going to happen,” Keira spoke coldly. “I’m not going to pretend like I don’t get it. Really, I do. Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures. For what it’s worth, I think it takes a lot of courage to go that far for what you believe in. I would help you if it was in my ability to do so, but it isn’t.”

This, of course, wasn’t quite true. In fact, the ‘golem eggs’ that Boxxy had plundered during its recent underwater adventure were exactly what Orrin was looking for. The shapeshifter had quite a few of them tucked away in a corner of its hoard right at that very moment. A single one of the spherical devices could, in theory, be used to create an army of war golems, and Boxxy would happily hand one over to the Hero of the Sun. For an exorbitant price, of course. The price of salvation was far more negotiable than most people cared to admit, but this was neither the time nor the place to be having that kind of discussion.

“However, it is possible Mr. Sandman might be able to help you out,” Keira helpfully offered. “Obscure curses and relics are one of the things he deals in. If you’re willing to meet with him, then I might be able to arrange a face-to-face.”

“I see,” Orrin replied solemnly. “I do not know who this ‘Sandman’ is, but I would be grateful for the opportunity.”

Sigmund, on the other hand, was well aware of the masked mercenary’s reputation. He clearly had some reservations about this, but it wasn’t his place to judge another for the methods they employed to carry out their god’s will. Not after all the lives the Inquisition had ruined during their forceful removal of the Empire’s corrupted nobles. Kut and Gux also remained silent, albeit for their own reasons.

With that matter settled, the conference moved onto less potentially heretical topics. The visiting Heroes brought up what kind of turmoil the Shift could bring. None of the discussed scenarios were end-of-the-world situations, but were still potentially devastating on a nationwide scale. For instance, if Emperor Joseph Frederick von Einhart the Third were to be assassinated before he could sire an heir. Or if a new elder dragon emerged from the Shattered Isles and decided to take up residence on Terrania.

After presenting these hypothetical crises, the Heroes would then speculate on what would need to happen to minimize the loss of life should any of them occur. Keira then helpfully pointed out the various ways that their plans could fail and make things worse. It seemed mean-spirited at a glance, but this sort of brutal feedback was exactly what the others wanted to hear from her. A plan was, in essence, a list of things that could go wrong. And if anyone would be able to anticipate the myriad of freaky and nonsensical ways in which reality could fuck people over, it was the Hero of Chaos.

The hours went by as ideas were thrown around the room. Passions flared, arguments were had, and at one point the new Hero of the Sword took a swing at Sigmund after the latter spoke harshly of the Eight Tribes’ traditions. The young raptor apologized immediately afterwards, though. Kut had only been a Hero for about a month, and had accompanied the others because he felt the need to repay them for the aid they had given his people. Allowing his temper to get the better of him over mere words showed that he was still immature. Sigmund forgave him, of course. The man knew just how abrasive he could be since he always spoke truthfully without attempting to dress up his words.

As the day and the meeting drew to a close, everyone was left with plenty to think about and take home to their respective homelands. This had ultimately been nothing more than a glorified brainstorming session, and convincing the rest of the world to heed their warnings would be a huge challenge in and of itself. One that Keira had stated she wanted no part in. True, she had some influence with the FIB and the Republic government, but she was ultimately nothing more than a teenage girl with a talent for getting into trouble. Her ‘official’ stance on the matter of the Shift was that she would do only what she was capable of - protecting herself and her loved ones. It sounded selfish, yes, but it was a realistic and down-to-earth aspiration that the other Heroes could not, in good conscience, fault her for.

“Hey, Gux, can I borrow you for a minute?” Keira asked once the Hero conference was over. “I’ve a personal issue I was hoping you could help me with.”

“Of course, Daughter of Discord,” he agreed readily. “What troubles you?”

“I’ve been having these… blank spots in my memory. Like I have no idea where I was or what I was doing for hours at a time. You’re a Level 100 Psionic, do you know what could cause this sort of thing? Like, a curse, or some Spell, or something else?”

“Hmm… a faulty mind is a difficult thing to diagnose with words alone. Would you be willing to let Gux take a closer look at it?”

“Absolutely not. No offense, but I don’t trust anyone to poke at my brain with magic. You just might make it worse.”

“Your caution is understandable. Unfortunate, but understandable. Still, Gux does know of many things that can cause gaps in one’s memory. Possession by a malicious entity, for instance.”

“That’s not it,” the beastkin shook her head. “My girlfriend would notice if I’m acting weird and call me out on it. Same with the guys at the guild and our neighbors.”

Admittedly every single thing Keira did could be classified as ‘weird,’ but neither she nor the old lizard were in the mood to argue semantics.

“Gux was merely giving an extreme example. In truth, he doubts you can be so easily taken over. A spirit forged in strife is difficult to conquer, and yours is likely hardier than most.”

“Uh… thanks, I guess. Then what’s a more likely cause?”

The old lizard went silent and idly scratched his jaw as he pondered the matter. He asked several questions regarding the catgirl’s circumstances or her symptoms, but spent most of the next few minutes in a contemplative silence.

“There are too many unknowns for Gux to unravel this mystery,” he declared after a while. “The most prudent course of action would be to undo the damage that was done. Restore the lost memories, and the truth of the matter will surely reveal itself.”

“Yeah, why didn’t I think of that,” the redhead rolled her eyes, then realized something. “Now, wait. Why didn’t I think of that?”

“What is obvious can easily become obscured by one’s perspective,” Gux sagely said. “It is the same reason the Heroes sought your advice regarding their own troubles.”

“I suppose so,” she shrugged. “Anyway, I guess I need to go figure out how I can cure my partial amnesia without having someone brain-rape me.”

Alchemy seemed like an obvious alternative to invasive mind magic, but it wasn’t the only one.

“An interesting turn of phrase, but Gux might be able to help with that,” the old lizard declared. “He heard some of the clever little gnomes to the east have developed a technique called ‘electroshock therapy.’ Though Gux does not know the details, it is likely your chromatic companion would be familiar with it.”

“Huh. Now that you mention it, I think Fizzy may have referenced it once or twice,” the redhead cupped her chin in thought. “I suppose it couldn’t hurt to ask. Thanks again, Gux.”

“You are most welcome, Daughter of Discord,” he bowed his head. “Gux will remain in Azurvale for four more days, should you require further aid.”

Keira left the meeting room and then the hotel. It was already dark out, and way past the time she was supposed to be home, but there were more important things afoot than Rowana’s inevitable complaints regarding her future wife’s punctuality. Not to mention that, since Fizzy didn’t need sleep or food, her workshop was technically always open. With that in mind, the beastkin strode off into the night and made a beeline for the mechanized mechanic’s overhauled warehouse.

Once there, she greeted Plus’s remote-controlled mithril doll at the front, got ahold of Fizzy, and explained her reason for being there.

“I dunno, that seems rather extreme,” the golem sounded skeptical.

“Can it work, though?” the redhead pressed her.

“I mean, theoretically, yes. The study I read on electroshock therapy said that subjecting a brain to electrical fields of certain intensity over specific periods of time can alter the way it works. There’ve been reported cases where it has helped meatbags deal with dementia, paranoia, and a bunch of other stuff.”

“There’s a catch, isn’t there?”

“Yeah. There is. Everybody seems to react differently to it, and in its current state, the therapy is ineffective on most test subjects. It’s also more likely to cause memory problems than solve them.”

“So? How much worse can my blank spots get?”

Those words weren’t a dismissive statement along the lines of ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ It was a genuine question filled with concern, and not one that Fizzy had an answer for. Boxxy had already informed her of the full extent of its current condition, but she wasn’t exactly an expert on the subject of electroshock therapy. The only reason she followed its development was because she thought it would be useful to her as an Arclight Artificer. And it had been, seeing as that knowledge had helped her construct the HERPES meant to control Boxxy’s hylt nectar addiction.

Whether that particular device had done more harm than good was another topic entirely.

“Honestly, there is no way of knowing without actually trying,” was Fizzy’s answer. “And I really don’t want to put that kind of current right into your brain. Forget aggravating your memory problems, I might just straight up kill you.”

“You won’t,” Keira said with utmost confidence. “You’re the most brilliant Artificer that has ever lived, and I will never hesitate to put my life in your hands.”

The golem’s magical core skipped a few ticks when she heard that.

“W-well,” she turned away awkwardly. “If you’re willing to trust me that much, then I suppose the least I can do is live up to it.”

“Thanks, Fizzy. I knew you’d understand.”

“As if anyone else could. Now sit tight while I get everything ready.”

The golem immediately started rummaging through her shelves and cupboards, gathering the necessary materials and parts.

“… Wait, we’re starting right now?” her ‘patient’ asked.

“Well, yeah,” she replied without looking back. “Electroshock therapy isn’t a one-time thing. It’ll take weeks of constant sessions before the treatment starts to show any lasting effects and we don’t have a lot of time. You won’t exactly be in a position to get your brain zapped on the daily half a month from now, so you’d probably want to know if it works or not before then.”

“Oh. Yeah, that’s a good point.”

It only took fifteen minutes for Fizzy to reconfigure the HERPES so that it could be used for the experiment. It might have failed to fulfil its original purpose, but it had still provided the golem with plenty of information regarding Boxxy’s electricity tolerance levels. It was how she knew the shapeshifter’s catgirl Facade would come undone as soon as the session started. Fizzy had been told that some nosy investigator had been buzzing around Keira lately, and the way Boxxy remained in-character implied it wanted to be extra cautious about its secret being exposed.

Hence why, once Fizzy was done fine-tuning her invention, she led the doppelganger into the new bunker she’d installed beneath her workshop. She had decided she needed a sturdier and more secure testing facility ever since Boxxy’s first corruption-fuelled rampage trashed the old one months ago. She felt confident this new place could contain a MOAB detonation without anyone on the outside noticing, though she hadn’t been stupid enough to put that boast to the test. Still, it would prove more than adequate to completely obscure what was about to happen from all prying eyes. Well, so long as they weren’t a god’s.

It took several more minutes to finish setting up the electroshock therapy. Fizzy used her magnetic abilities to bend some steel plating into a high-back chair and strapped the catgirl-shaped doppelganger into it. She then attached the tweaked HERPES to its cranium and spine. It let out a mild grunt of pain as the device dug into its flesh and clamped onto its bones, but this was nothing new. Once everything was in place and Fizzy made doubly sure that the device was physically incapable of producing enough power to shock Boxxy to death, she was ready.

“Okay, I’m going to start the session, now,” she said. “I’m going to administer ten shocks, each will last four seconds and there will be a gap of two seconds between them. It’ll hurt like your brain is on fire, but you need to endure it for the full minute.”

It wasn’t exactly textbook procedure, but Fizzy was quite confident that there was no such thing as a book titled ‘Electroshock Therapy for Amnesiac Doppelgangers.’

“I’ll manage,” the redhead nodded. “Do it.”

Having gotten the confirmation she needed, Fizzy flipped the switch. The shapeshifter’s entire body started convulsing. It flailed against its restraints until the pulse stopped, but wasn’t given the chance to recuperate before the next one started. As the agonizingly slow minute progressed, the catgirl’s dusky smooth skin began to revert to a hylt creeper’s gray hide, just like Fizzy knew it would. Boxxy’s true form didn’t emerge all at once, but slowly bubbled to the surface like splotches of ink being splattered across a piece of paper.

When the session was over, most of its left side had been left exposed for what it truly was. The shapeshifter was left panting and gasping for air, bits of it smoldering from the intense current, but its monstrous HP was far from empty. Fizzy unbuckled its restraints while it was still dizzy, and waited until it had recovered from its stunned condition before she spoke to it.

“Well, Boxxy?” she asked expectantly. “How do you feel?”

The creature looked at her, its face split right down the middle between beastkin and doppelganger, but nevertheless gripped by confusion.

“… Boxxy?” it spoke, its voice a twisted and garbled version of Keira’s. “Why did you call me that?”

“Uh… Why wouldn’t I?”

“Because, that’s not- Wait, what’s wrong with my voice?”

It then looked down at the rest of itself, and an expression of pure terror washed over the Keira side of its face.

“What’s wrong with my arm?! And my leg?! What the fuck’s going on?!”

And then, in a screeching tone that only the most vicious of monsters could produce, the left half of Boxxy replied to its right half.

“That’s what I want to know!”

It was at that moment that everyone in the room instantly understood the root cause of the shapeshifter’s recent troubles.

The mask known as Keira Morgana had developed a will of her own.

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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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Dustin Brooks @Dustin Brooks ago

And just like that its a good day Very Happy

Boyo_cat @Boyo_cat ago

So late.

 

DIO!!!!

charchomp @charchomp ago

WOAH MIND BLOWN

That's really so cool, I wonder if boxxy will split into two entities upon ranking up, Keira and Boxxy. Either way I look forward to seeing what happens next!

    MInsanity @MInsanity ago

    Insert "OH SHIT" meme that you know and like for maximum effect XD XD XD

    Edit:  . . . Now that I think about it, our "hero's" of chaos may be able to just pin the blame on their Patron god for the weird occurence of a single "hero of chaos" splitting into 2 seperate entities with their own individual identities, one as an "enlightened" race, and another as a "intelligent monster" race . . . Now we can have our "hero of chaos" in 2 places at once as 2 different identities as Keria Morganna and The Sandman XD XD XD

    Nnelg @Nnelg ago

    Why stop two? Throw in The Sandman at least. Rank up to the hivemind and assimilate Rowie as well!

      fanobody @fanobody ago

      Abyssal Hivemind but they are two and they didn't evolve so they can chose two evolution right?

      MInsanity @MInsanity ago

      1.) The Sandman has not been active as Keira Morganna so to speak, not as actively used.

      2.) Maybe more importantly, The Sandman is one of Boxxy's OLDEST personas or "Mask" identity, so if anything, The Sandman should have been the one to develop it's own will first. But it is just a fake physical identity meant for the public, but still all Boxxy in personality and actions, so no real split.

      emberwing @emberwing ago

      It's the oldest, but it it's also the one with the least amount of effort/acting/personality in it, the sandman barely has a personality whilst keira has an entire life.

      Boxxy doesn't often use the sandman unless he needs to communicate whilst being Boxxy so it doesn't really feel like a mask to him more like a shape that is able to communicate with the tasty two-legged (and finned I guess) ones.

      Keira is used to accept quests, gain reputation, fool an entire nation, marry for exp, etc. and most importantly has a personality that is different from Boxxy.

      So yeah, despite being older Keira gets more use and is different enough to be a real mask, an act, an honest facade...

    Brian P. @Brian P. ago

    Hey, that IOU has to be used at some point, and separating out the two would certainly be a godly task.

      MInsanity @MInsanity ago

      The IOU is could be used for what my comment mentioned after Edit to become a reality, as in seperate entities that are both the "Hero of Chaos" but originally one. And hey, Boxxy could be passed off as an repressed personality born from all the negative parts of Keria Morganna's past given shape and form towards all the abuse and sense of lost caused by the empire in her (fake) past, that had developed a will all of it's own and split from the original, just like how demons of The Beyond are born from the negativity of the enlightened races sent/received through The Beyond by the gods XD XD XD

      XD XD XD Though it would in actuality, it would be that Keira Morganna is a personality that developed it's own will and split from Boxxy instead of the other way around. Though if it was played as Boxxy coming from Keria Morganna, then it could be a way for our psychopathic murder box of a doppelganger/mimic to be publicly known and accepted into society XD XD XD I would not be surprised if that would be what happens anyway, in fact I would be DeLiGhTeD at such a prospect XD

      Boxxy Trap Morningwood, a publicly known secret XD XD XD

Stultus @Stultus ago

fucking lol shoulda known

    Almarna @Almarna ago

    But how could you know, exter is not exactly known for his predictable nature

      Stultus @Stultus ago

      By expecting the unexpected. Something as unpredictable as this should be par for the course by now.

      Plus, I've seen this plot twist in other books, although granted, it was only a couple other unpopular manga

      Mayouki @Mayouki ago

      He did foreshadow this when nao asked his magic book what Keiras favorite food is and it treated Keira as an individual being

      M_Class @M_Class ago

      There was a massive, glaring amount of foreshadowing.

      But @GraniteFish continually incited everyone to shout it down when it was brought up because he/she insisted it didn't exist.

      Ironically, his/her inability to catch ANY of these obvious "mistakes" as well as his complete narcissism (which caused him/her to miss these "mistakes" even when they were repeatedly listed for him/her) stopped those of us who might have cracked the plot twist from being able to communicate. This caused the surprise to remain entirely fresh as though ALL of us were as dumb and blind as the ever arrogant, @granitefish 

       

Keifru @Keifru ago

Wear a mask long enough, and it becomes your true face.

Or something like that

Moridain @Moridain ago

Well. Crap.

I can't tell if this is a good thing or a bad one.

    yellingbrian2 @yellingbrian2 ago

    Keria could end up Boxes arch-enemy if she splits from him!

    Also if she does split how do there skills work, does Boxy lose his sword and blade dancer Jobs! Who becomes the Hero of Choas???

      Moridain @Moridain ago

      Good questions. it was Boxxy who became the Hero first before Keira was even conceptualised, however publically it is Keira who is the actual Hero. The blade and bomb skills are also a well known part of her kit.

      If they split and Keira takes 'just enough' to keep up her facade, then that is a lot of levels and skills and yeah potentially the Hero title.

      Boxxy would then be left with the Warlock and Mage Jobs and its racial levels?

      Oninomad @Oninomad ago

      He can already split more of himself off so I doubt he'd lose anything. The hard part would be making a mirror image that holds just Keira while not having her stay in Boxxy. Although I'm pretty sure just removing the Keira personality would be much easier.

      Moridain @Moridain ago

      Yeah it is the seperation that I think would cause the actual loss of skills/levels and things. Too many skills and things are tied to the Keira persona.

      Of course with Boxxy being the greedy thing it is I doubt it would let the Keira persona 'Steal' from it without a fight, so it might just kill it off entirely if it can.

      Almarna @Almarna ago

      What happens to the hero effects the god!

      so are we going to see the dean of wrong face of against the pope of pop?

      Vincent1875 @Vincent1875 ago

      I'm almost positive that this is only happening so that the author can kill her off properly.

      Oninomad @Oninomad ago

      Doing the expected by splitting them, having Keira live on and have a happy ending doesn't really fit this story does it. I only still consider it an possibility because at this point doing the expected would be incredibly unexpected.

MasterofNova
Premium

MasterofNova @MasterofNova ago

.... Very unexpected. Dont know how to feel bout this.