It has been a few weeks since Takeshi’s arrival and things are starting to reach a since of normality. After using a bit of xp to upgrade the protection of my crystal a bit my xp consumption has raised to 1xp/day, but with the amounts of xp that is easily available due to the Oni I see little problem.
The village finally cut us off not allowing us to acquire any more compensation from the Oni parts, as we have single handedly caused a surplus of the items. Between Takeshi, me, and then the rest we have taken out a couple thousand Oni already.
There still doesn’t seem to be any shortage of them however. As every time I step foot off the mountain top we are still being attacked. All the Oni we have killed has managed to raise my monsters and Takeshi to a higher level then myself, but with their slower progression I still remain confident in my abilities.
We have also finally managed to complete the repairs on the Temple and grounds to the best of our abilities. Upon its completion I received a new skill called Inari’s Blessing, and it granted a sizable bonus to my abilities, but not anything else.
I am starting to wonder though with the protection that is around the hilltop, and gaining this skill. Is it possible that the old gods truly do exist?
We receive our first bit of panic from the villagers when a large group enters the temple grounds one morning. Since we have supplied the village with so many Oni parts the adventurers that haven’t moved on now have to seek other types of commissions, so they were left escorting a group of the older villagers to the temple.
Old Villager: “It looks just like I remember it…”
Saki: “Thank you, we have tried our best to restore it since Inari-sama is allowing to use the grounds.”
Old villager: “I have to admit, when I heard foreigners. Beastkin adventurers no less… Moved onto the temple grounds I was infuriated, but I now see you really seem to be mindful of respecting Inari.”
Saki leads the old villagers to the shrine to pay their respects, and after a few hours of talking to the shrine and Saki they seem pleased as they leave heading back to the village.
After that the villagers have reached their own conclusion about us… With our sudden appearance from nowhere, moving in and repairing the Inari temple, and helping in driving back the Oni there are rumors being to be spread that our group might actually be messengers for Inari.
We never actively deny the rumors as they benefit us, but when we are confronted directly with it we change the subject or laugh it off being mindful to never confirm it either just in case. The villagers always treated us respectfully as adventurers, but since the rumors began to spread the respect towards our group seem more genuine then in the past.
The training of the others has begun to slow considerably as not only does it take a lot more Oni for them to gain a level, but unless I am with them they actually finding it pretty difficult to locate any. We must really be making an impact on their numbers.
The hunt for Oni has become scarce enough that the others are now going out to hunt a few days at a time instead of sticking close enough to return by nightfall. Even I managed to go down to the village yesterday without even getting attacked.
With the addition of some of the elder villagers being escorted to the temple by adventurers, Tatsuo has even begun to make a weekly appearance to the temple. His attitude towards me has changed since the rumors begun. He always seemed to like me more than the villagers did, but with the rumors now he almost seems wary of me when he visits.
This visit however he seems extremely nervous as he makes his way up the steps while speaking with a huge wolf beastkin woman. However when she reaches the top of the hill she wears a confused expression standing just outside the grounds of the temple.
“Elder Madam Erin? What are you doing here?” –I say as I approach the pair.-
Tatsuo: “So you do indeed know this woman?”
“Of course, she is my father’s… Well she helped him out when he needed it.”
Madam Erin: “Well I am glad to see you doing well. I haven’t received any messages from you in a few weeks.”
“I apologize… Nothing has really changed, and I figured you were too busy to hear about the day to day things going on…”
Tatsuo seems confused at the conversation, but he is remaining quiet.
Tatsuo: “Maybe we should step inside? We haven’t seen any Oni thus far, but I would hate to stand out here in the open and press our luck.”
Madam Erin looks at the top of the landing in front of her. “Perhaps Inari will join us back at the village for a conversation?”
Tatsuo: “We just made it here… Surely we can talk in the safety of the temple grounds?”
Madam Erin: “I like to speak over a drink, and a temple is not exactly a place for such behavior now is it?”
Tatsuo: “But after coming all this way…”
“I will let the others know I will be gone for a bit.”
I head into the temple then message Takeshi. “Elder Madam Erin has shown up unexpectedly, she for some reason doesn’t want to speak inside my dungeon, so she has requested I meet her down in the village.”
Takeshi: “Are you sure that is wise? Remember what Master said.”
“I understand, but she has come all this way, I should at least hear her out.”
Takeshi: “Very well, I will get ready immediately.”
“No, the others only left yesterday, and shouldn’t return for a few more days. I need you to stay here and keep an eye on the place while I am gone.”
Takeshi: “But I am your shield.”
“And by being my shield you will protect the dungeon while I am gone. I seriously doubt an elder would attack me, and with her around I doubt we have much to worry about from any outside threat.”
Takeshi: “Very well… But Miss Inari, please be careful.”
I take my staff from the dungeon inventory, and change my kimono to a lightly reinforced one that I had them make me down in the village, and I then rejoin Tatsuo and Madam Erin. After my return we begin to head back down to the village.
Madam Erin and Tatsuo didn’t say anything about being attacked on the way, and nothing came out of the forest when I left the hill top, but I thought with two dungeon cores the Oni wouldn’t have been able to resist.
Maybe we have thinned out their numbers so much they don’t have the numbers to attack… That line of thinking is however quickly dismissed with the appearance of a dozen Oni and another creature that shares their traits but appears far larger and more menacing then any Oni I have seen before.
Tatsuo begins to panic when the Oni begin to pour out of the forest, but with the appearance of the larger more menacing Oni his face loses color.
Tatsuo: “It can’t be… There has never been an Oni General seen anywhere near these parts…”
Madam Erin: “This looks quite fun. Do you got it, or do you need some help?”
I look to Tatsuo and then say. “I think we should take this threat seriously Madam Erin.”
Madam Erin: “Fine, fine…”
Without another word Madam Erin practically disappears as she leaps through the air so fast I can’t even follow her movement. She clears the entire group of Oni to land next to the larger more brutish Oni.
They are roughly the same size, but Madam Erin simple grabs the creature’s head in one hand and beings beating the normal Oni using the larger one as a club. I quickly begin to cast [Bullet of Light] spells at the Oni that are being flung around like dolls.
They don’t stand a chance, but they don’t ever give up either. They just keep getting back up and charging either Madam Erin or myself until there isn’t a single one left alive. Madam Erin finally drops the larger more brutish Oni with little more than his head and half of his torso still connected together.
After rubbing her hands together she says. “Well I guess that took care of that, we should go before the other group makes it to us.”
Madam Erin: “Yea, the others will be here in a few hours if they maintain their current speed.”
Tatsuo: “Wait… A couple hours? How do you know that?”
Madam Erin brushes her nose with a finger. “Being part wolf has its advantages.”
“Well if Madam Erin says it to be true, so I take her word for it. We better hurry then.”
Tatsuo is speechless as we continue our way to the village. Once arriving in the village we make our way to the adventurer’s guild and have a seat. Madam Erin orders a couple drinks and once we sit down she looks over to Tatsuo who has joined us.
“I appreciate you showing me the way to the temple, but now I think its best if I spoke with Inari alone.”
Tatsuo: “Oh… Of course…” –He looks hesitant, but he gets up and starts to walk away but stop.- “But if you need anything I will be just over there.”
Madam Erin nods and waits till after he is out of earshot before talking.
Madam Erin: “You seem to be fitting in quite nicely around here.”
“I was extremely lucky with my placement, anywhere else and I think I would have been overrun.”
Madam Erin: “I see… I am interesting in hearing more about your “Base”. “
“Well there isn’t much to tell. Anytime I step foot off the hilltop I am attacked like earlier, but there seems to be some kind of protection around the temple grounds that the Oni can’t cross, so as long as my “Base” is there I should be safe from them”
Madam Erin: “I have seen others choose old temples or churches as locations for their base, but I have never seen anything quite like yours. Does it have any added benefits other than the local monsters being unable to enter?”
“You think I would just freely give that kind of information about my own base?”
Madam Erin: “Well it was worth a shot, but I think I found out the information I wanted just by paying you the visit, so it was well worth the trip.”
“That must have been some bit of information you found out, as this couldn’t have been an easy trip.”
Madam Erin: “Not at all. After your little friend gave me the helpful information about the adventurer’s guild magic, I can come and go as a please now.”
“Well I am glad you seem to be enjoying yourself, but is there something you actually want to talk to me about?”
Madam Erin: “As we have discussed, Shima has been much of a dead zone since the arrival of these goblin like creatures the locals are calling Oni. Now that there is an active core in the area I thought it would be a good time to do some digging.”
“They seemed to no problem for you though, so why wait all this time to investigate, it just seems odd to me that after all these years only now you decide to check it out.”
Madam Erin: “Well with no cores in Shima before now there was little reason to, and it’s not like Shima is the only place where cores die not long after their birth, but after your messages about the behavior of the Oni creatures I thought it would be worth checking out.”
“I too would like to know why they seem dead set on single-mindedly killing me, after all they only attack humans if it’s convenient. Like the walls around this town, if they wanted to they could walk right though them but they are enough to deter them from trying.”
Madam Erin: “I am also curious about their reluctance to enter the temple grounds. If there really is power remaining from the old gods, is this temple of yours a unique instance, or are there other shrines or temples dedicated to the old gods out there that still hold some of the old god’s magic?”
“Well, all I know of the old gods is they predate the dungeons, and haven’t been heard of since the arrival of dungeons. In that sense Faron might have been right, maybe the dungeons are a replacement for the old gods.”
Madam Erin: “Well Faron doesn’t need any help letting the power of the humans worshiping him going to his head, but perhaps you are right. As far as I know this old god Inari, wasn’t even one of the major gods though, so why is this temple still active when most of the others, including those according to the humans are of far greater power, and have still faded from existence.”
“I don’t know, but what I do know is as long as this power remains I will continue to treat Inari with respect.”
Madam Erin: “Well then I guess that concludes our discussion then, besides we have gained a few extra pair of ears as well.”
At that mention not only Tatsuo, but several of the others in the building quickly advert their gaze. Madam Erin then rises from her chair and walks out the building. After Madam Erin is gone Tatsuo returns to the table with a troubled expression.
Tatsuo: “I apologize if I may have heard some of your conversation, but I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions?”
“Well I thought we had a bit of a better relationship to you resorting to eavesdropping, and as such I don’t really feel inclined to fill in blanks to a conversation you were not even a part of.”
Tatsuo: “Well I did apologize, but forgoing the conversation. Can I at least ask you some other questions then?”
“Well when we came down here Elder Madam Erin said there was a large group of Oni that would arrive in a few hours, so I would suggest your time would be best used in preparing for that. That being said I must get back to the temple as well just in case.”
Tatsuo looks a little upset at me, but he eventually nods, and I then depart from the guild as well heading back towards the dungeon. I have to deal with a few stragglerss on the way back but nothing a few [Bullet of Light] spells can’t handle,
When I arrive back at the dungeon I quickly read though the “monsters returned from battle” message and then closes it. I then go to find Takeshi who I find sitting quietly in the temple.
Takeshi: “I am glad to see you return unharmed.”
“Well like I said, I doubt an Elder would come all this way to cause any harm, but I am still left to wonder what exactly she did want for paying us a visit why out here.”
Takeshi: “So you were unable to uncover any useful information?”
“Concerning Elder Madam Erin, unfortunately no, but we did come across a tougher version of the Oni on the way down to the village, and by what Elder Madam Erin said it appears there are quite a few more heading this way.”
Takeshi: “Do you think they will enter the dungeon?”
“Well I can’t say how strong the protection around this place is, but I think we should at least be on guard just in case. I will also send a message to the others to return as soon as possible. Elder Madam Erin seemed to make the tougher Oni look like they were nothing, but by Tatsuo’s reaction I don’t think we should underestimate them, and I am not sure if the others are ready to take on something like that.”
Takeshi nods and then returns to what he was doing. I watch him for a minute and he appears to be taking care of the shrine much in the way that Saki usually does when she is here. I send Akane the message to return along with the warning of the tougher Oni.
“Takeshi, what exactly are you doing?”
Takeshi: “Saki asked me to care for the shrine in her absence, so when they go out training I make sure it is taken care of.”
“The shrine sat neglected for 30 years or longer, I doubt a few days will make a difference.”
Takeshi: “Saki is very partial to the shrine, and I figured that was the least I could do to help out. Besides I would think with the protection Inari provides you would be eager to keep Inari pleased with your presence in her temple.”
“I am not saying when Saki isn’t around to disrespect the shrine, I am just saying I don’t see the need to keep the incense burning and such.”
Takeshi: “Well Saki asked me to, so I am. Unless you plan to order me not to, but even then it isn’t like I am one of your monsters that is required to follow your commands.”
I narrow my eyes at Takeshi and am about to reply when I receive a message back from Akane that distracts me long enough that I miss the chance for the comeback.
Akane: “Yes, we have already noticed the great increase in numbers of Oni. In fact we were already on our way back to report the change and to regroup. We haven’t seen any stronger Oni like you mentioned, but we have noticed they do seem a bit more aggressive, if not a little more intelligent as well.”
I click my tongue and then tell Takeshi. “Fine do what you like.” I then head out of the temple and then send another message to Akane.
“Great increase? I heard there was a large group coming, but for you to be able to notice the increase in numbers, just what size of a group are we talking about?”
Akane: “I honestly don’t know, but I wouldn’t use the word group as much as I would wave. They don’t seem to be traveling like an army, but you can tell the groups slowly increasing in numbers. I think it would be fair to assume if they keep moving in the same pattern they are now they will easily replace the numbers we have cleared out the last few months, and then some…”
“You are saying there is literally thousands of Oni heading this way?”
Akane: “Like I said it’s hard to be curtain with them traveling in no more than groups of 5 to 10, but I do think that would be a fair assumption.”
…Of course that might not be anything to an Elder, but thousands is just a large group to her… Just how strong are the Elders?
“Alright, just get back here quickly and we will have to take some precautions just in case.”
Akane: “Yes Master, we should arrive at least a good hour before the Oni begin to arrive.”
“That is cutting it pretty close, but do what you can.”
I then head back into the temple. “Takeshi, maybe you should get your gear ready. Elder Madam Erin, apparently downplayed the situation quite a bit, things might get pretty rough here pretty soon.”
Takeshi: “How bad is it?”
“As long as they don’t all hit us at once we should be fine, but hopefully the protection from Inari holds out…”
Takeshi equips his gear and we wait for the others to return, when they finally arrive we can see the extent of the Oni from their appearance. None of them are injured, but by the state of their armor and kimonos you can tell they must have been in quite a battle.
Their battle results message confirms it for the most part, the xp I acquired from them just from their two days out is equal to what they have been getting in a full week of training in the last few weeks. Once on the grounds most of them collapse with a sense of relief, but Akane quickly approaches.
Akane: “You were right about the tougher Oni, we encountered one about an hour ago. They are very formidable, we might have been able to defeat it if it was alone, but with all the normal Oni surrounding it, we were forced to retreat.”
“Wait you each can easily deal with one of the Oni on your own now, but to say it would take all 5 of you to deal with the new ones?”
Yuji is lying sprawled out on the ground. “I am sorry Master, but Akane is right… If it wasn’t for Satoshi’s skill to transfer his magic to Saki and being able to heal as well we would of lost Ryota and Saki…”
Saki: “I am sorry we failed you Master…”
“I should have warned you when I first heard of the Oni approaching. I underestimated them due to the way Elder Madam Erin mentioned them. Rest up for a bit then prepare, we don’t know if the protection around the dungeon is going to hold out if that many head this way.”
Akane nods and finally collapses with the rest. Curiously Takeshi moves over to Saki helping her back up and talks to her while helping her into the temple… I must really have underestimated Saki as well, I am going to have to keep a closer eye on them two.
For now though I need to focus on the dungeon, I have been putting off increasing the defenses of the dungeon because of the protection, but I better not put it off any longer. I transfer to the core room to work on the dungeon a bit.
I bring up a screen of the temple and see Takeshi help Saki to a pillow in front of the shrine and as exhausted as she must be the first thing she does is begin to pray at the shrine while Takeshi takes a seat further back just watching her.
Maybe I was concerned over nothing… I keep the screen in view however as I begin to work on the dungeon. I haven’t added much since my initial building of the dungeon, so there is a few traps set up in the rooms down the well, but I have little in the means of monsters.
I haven’t used much xp so I have a fair amount, but I still opt out of going deeper for now and add a few more rooms, filling them with more waterways and traps. I also decide to start summoning some monsters to protect me as well now.
I add several schools of carnivorous fish into the waterways in each of the rooms. Light favored element monsters would be the most effective, but they are also the hardest to summon, so I have little available to summon.
There are some weak spirit and wisp type monsters that favor the light element but even with their advantage I think it would take quite a few to take on a single Oni. I am not like Daddy so my only option for now is to summon a couple dozen of them and hope to unlock some stronger types, but even with exhausting half of my stored xp I still haven’t unlocked anything.
I didn’t notice it before but my available monsters has a lack of non-elemental based monsters, like goblins, slimes, and such, so even though the Oni are strong against elemental attacks I still summon a few different types of elemental creatures to hopefully keep them busy while the wisps and light spirits do their thing.
I still have quite a reserve of xp, but I decide to stop there to be on the safe side. I check on the others through the screens and they have begun to move around now going about their business. Saki is no longer praying at the shrine but she is still tending to things in the temple while Takeshi has appeared to step out for now.
After a final look though the screens I transfer down to the temple grounds.
Yuji: “Master, we are ready if they attack. We will make sure they get nowhere near the well.”
“Well first thing this is to open of an area, if they manage to pass the barrier we will fall back into the well so we can bottleneck them, it would be pointless to try to defend the open area.”
Yuji: “But what about the temple?”
“They have always been focused on me anyway, so if we are down in the well I doubt they will even bother with it. Besides the temple can be rebuilt, but if they take out my crystal it would be all over.”
Yuji: “I understand, but do you think Saki would agree?”
“Well maybe we won’t have to even worry about it, but I am more worried about the village. Akane said they appear more intelligent than before, so they might actually attack the village now, and that wall will do little to stop them if they really tried to get through.”
Yuji: “Well let’s make sure we are safe first…”
Time passes while we all gather in front of the temple waiting till late that evening, but we never hear or see any of the Oni.
Akane: “Surely by now many have already arrived in the area, do you think they just keep moving?”
“Well maybe, but I am more inclined to think their arrival wasn’t an accident. We have been clearing them systematically from the forest, and I feel this is the response to that.”
Takeshi: “Maybe we should check to see if they are out there then?”
“Well the biggest problem is in preparation of making sure they don’t storm the dungeon, I am sure they have had plenty of time to build up numbers outside in the forest there. Well we won’t find anything out waiting in here, before we lose any more light we might as well check it out.”
Akane: “Maybe we should go first?”
“I don’t think we will really know what’s out there unless I step out there.
Takeshi: “I don’t know if that is such a good idea…”
“I also want you to stick back, we can’t bring any xp back to the dungeon if you fight, so unless it’s a life or death situation I want you to stay out of it.”
Saki lightly places her hand on Takeshi’s chest. “Don’t worry Takeshi-sama. We have gathered quite a bit of strength, we won’t let anything happen to Master.”
Takeshi still looks a little concerned but he forces a smile then ruffles Saki’s hair. Saki’s sweet demeanor made me think she wasn’t a threat like Akane, but she might be after Satoshi and Takeshi