I wake up the next morning pretty refreshed… No messages or anything yet… I slide out of bed and the two foxes hop off the bed following me around the core room as I look though the screens. I understand the mine, but surely they noticed the change in the farm as soon as they went to work this morning.
In the screens showing the farm I can see a few of the farmers working away, but the entrance to the next floor remains undisturbed… I check the mine and there seems to even be two of the villagers working away there, but surely they should have at least seen the entrance when they went in the mine…
Looking through several other screens it looks like nobody shows any sign of anything being out of the ordinary. Well I thought about using the foxes to be the messengers so I guess it is a good time to see if it will work.
I quickly access [Menu] summoning two small leather bands one in green another in blue putting them on the foxes necks like collars. I summoned each one with a name on them so now unimaginatively the green-eyed fox is Midori, and the Blue-eyed fox is Aoi.
I tested the intellectual ability of them before when they were both just shadowy figures and they seemed to be able to understand me pretty well, and could follow complex instructions after all Aoi is even capable of casting spells.
I tell them to both sit and they do as they are told I then I explain to them exactly what I want them to do. They both stare at me so intently while I explain to them, that I wish my other monsters listened to me this well…
When I finish Aoi makes a few short chattering barks and Midori stands. I then look over a few of the screens till I find an area that looks unoccupied where I can send them down without being spotted. I find Tatsuo in his house finishing his preparations for the day and find a spot just to the back of his house and send the foxes down.
I watch both the foxes on one of the screens as they make their way around the house, Midori starts to scratch on Tatsuo’s door while Aoi lets out a few short barks. From inside the house I see Tatsuo with a confused look on his face, as he tries to determine where the sound is coming from.
Once he figures out it’s the door he moves over and opening it looking around. Aoi darts into the house circling his leg and darts back out the door while Midori sits just outside the door.
Tatsuo: “What in the world! What are you two doing here…” –He says looking at the two foxes and quickly looks around outside.-
Midori then stands walking a few feet before looking back at Tatsuo over its shoulder, while Aoi prances around. Tatsuo still has a confused look on his face, but then something seems to don on him and he quickly slides into his shoes stepping out the door.
Both the foxes then start heading for the farm stopping every few feet to look back to make sure Tatsuo is still following them. By the time they reach the stairs for the farm they have drawn quite the crowd as people keep asking Tatsuo what is going on and he just shrugs his shoulders.
It’s kind of an odd sight watching almost a dozen of the villagers following the two little foxes as they make their way across the farm ground. Once they start getting close to the stairs down they dart off towards the stairs.
Tatsuo: “Hold on! Not so fast!”
Tatsuo quickly starts to sprint to catch up with them but once the dart down the stairs he quickly skids to a halt.
Villager: “Tatsuo… That wasn’t there yesterday was it…?”
Tatsuo: “I don’t know… I am pretty sure we would of noticed it if it was though.”
The two fox’s poke their heads back up from the stairs and Aoi lets out another series of chattering barks.
Villager: “Do you think it’s safe…?”
Tatsuo: “They seem to want us to go down, and I don’t think even Inari-sama could deny that these two are messengers of Inari.”
Villager: “Maybe we should ask her to be safe, or at least Saki-san.”
Tatsuo: “I don’t want to risk making Inari mad… I am going to go down, one of you go back and try to find Saki-san or Inari-sama.”
None of the villagers makes a move, so he finally has to tell one of them to go, and then he heads for the stairs.
Tatsuo: “I hope you aren’t leading me into trouble little ones…”
Aoi lets out a few more chattering barks and then they both head down the stairs. The next floor is just the better farm, so I don’t think it is that big of a deal but the look on Tatsuo’s face is quite priceless. Aoi prances around till it gets Tatsuo’s attention again and both of them run off towards the other stairs.
Tatsuo: “Wait up!… Please don’t fall in a hole…” –He says as he hurries along.-
The two foxes then circle around the next set of stairs.
Tatsuo: “There is more?!”
After Aoi barks the two foxes disappear down the stairs. This time as he comes down the stairs Tatsuo falls to his knees after seeing the small houses lined up. Midori moves over drinking some water from the waterway and then finds a place curling up and lying down.
Tatsuo on his hands and knees seems to be shaking as he fights back tears. Aoi moves over to him and licks one of his hands. Tatsuo then rubs Aoi’s head and that’s when he notices the collar.
Tatsuo: “Aoi… Is that your name?” –After Aoi barks Tatsuo continues.- “Aoi, tell your master no matter what it asks from me, even if it’s my life, I will gladly pay it for everything it has done for us.”
Aoi barks again and then circles around, prancing around a bit. A few of the other villagers have slowly braved the stairs themselves heading down to meet Tatsuo.
The villagers and Tatsuo talk for a bit several of them pet, and scratch Aoi behind the ears. Midori doesn’t let anyone get close to it, but it at least lets Tatsuo read its name before sticking its nose in the air, curling up, and lying back down.
I of course told Saki what was going on, so when they villagers found her she quickly joined them with Tatsuo not long after. I have also received a message from Yuji, stating that the villagers are looking for me.
I decide its time, so I transfer down to the building we are using for our house, and then make my way to Tatsuo, Saki, and the others. By the time I reach them the crowd has gathered quite a few more people, and several of them are checking out the houses.
They seemed to of found the stairs going down as well as a villager pokes their head out from them calling out.
Villager: “It’s another area, but it’s much smaller, and it doesn’t seem to have anything down there.”
Tatsuo is talking with Saki who is holding one of the foxes, and I feel the other rub against my leg. When I look down I find it is Aoi… So Midori at least lets Saki hold it. Midori seems to be enjoying the scratches it receives for Saki, but is keeping a piercing gaze on Tatsuo.
Tatsuo then notices me quickly bowing to Saki and making his way over to me.
Tatsuo: “Inari-sama, do you see this?!”
“I do… I just checked out the floor above, it looks like Inari really did hear our prayers, and who is this? –I say reaching down picking up Aoi.”
Tatsuo: “That one is Aoi, and the one Saki-san is holding is Midori. They were the ones that showed me the way. They have got to be Inari’s messengers.”
“Well they seem friendly enough.” –I say while scratching Aoi under the chin while it looks on with such content.-
Tatsuo: “Yes, that one does. Saki is the only one that the other one will let near it though.”
We spend the next few hours talking, which ends up as a full village wide festival before it’s all said and done. By the time the sun goes down there is a large bonfire on the temple grounds and more than half of the villagers are already passed out drunk.
The foxes get quite a bit of attention as well, which Aoi seems to greatly enjoy, but Midori seems very particular about who it lets near it. I start to notice a pattern to it though. Midori only seems to want attention from women, not only that but women who are not involved… He even rejects Akane.
Which doesn’t make me feel any better when we are sitting around the bonfire drinking with the villagers I both foxes are sitting on either side of me with their heads in my lap… Quite a few people are dancing about.
Of course most of it is just drunken rubbish, but with Midori’s action I feel a little perturbed, so I jump up.
“Dance with me Takeshi.”
Takeshi: “Miss Inari, that wouldn’t be proper…”
“It’s either you or Satoshi, and I can make him if I really wanted to, so what’s it going to be?”
Takeshi looks to Satoshi who is having a pleasant conversation with Saki while she fills his cup with my alcohol.
Takeshi: “Fine, but only for a dance.”
I then pull Takeshi to his feet and we make our way over to where the others are dancing. I have to say the dance is rather awkward as Takeshi tries his hardest to keep me at arm’s length. Feeling even more frustrated I decide to stage a trip.
As I start to fall Takeshi quickly catches me in his arms.
Takeshi: “Miss Inari! Are you ok?”
“Better now.” –I try to slide his hand that is around my waist down.-
Takeshi quickly pulls his hand back. “Fine Miss Inari, I am going back to the others.”
“That’s not fair! I promise I won’t do anything else, but please at least dance with me right.”
I finally get Takeshi to agree, and we begin to dance again. This time he is doing a proper job of it but every time a move brings us closer together he turns his head. Even still it is far less awkward then it was before, and I start to enjoy myself.
Akane and Yuji join the dance as well, but they are both drunk enough that they are no better than the rest of the villagers. Satoshi appears to want to ask Saki to dance but Midori remains in-between them with a piercing gaze making him keep his distance. I will have to make sure to give Midori a special treat later.
After a while we go sit back down, Yuji and Akane give it up as well collapsing back on the ground with us.
Saki: “Does that mean you two are going to finally admit that you are in a relationship together?”
I guess I wasn’t the only one that noticed it, but both of them still try to deny it.
Yuji: “It was just a bit of dancing…”
Akane: “The alcohol… I blame the alcohol.”
“You two have been sneaking off together every chance you get for months now. I haven’t said anything because it has been quite entertaining to watch, but I have grown rather bored with it so just admit it.”
They both look shocked that they have been outed, and even Takeshi makes a comment that he didn’t realize that they were even trying to keep the relationship a secret and that everyone knew. He then looks rather sternly at me and says.
Takeshi: “What do you mean entertaining to watch?”
“You know full well I can see everything, it shouldn’t be that big of a shock.”
Takeshi: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Besides you make it sound like you went out of your way to spy on them.”
“It’s my dungeon I have a right to know what goes on within it! Besides it’s not just them is everyone.”
It seems like all the favor I gained with Takeshi during the dance is now lost, and for some reason Saki and Satoshi are both blushing I really might need to keep a closer eye on them two…
Takeshi: “Things like that are private, and you should stay out of it!”
“You would be surprised the kinds of things you can find out about people when they are intimate with someone. Like the leatherworker, did you know she was sleeping with the blacksmiths partner long before the Oni killed him? Apparently her husband could never take care of her like his partner could. Although it does lead to some misunderstandings as well like I thought Tatsuo was quite the ladies’ man till I realized he didn’t sleep with any of them he was just comforting the widows that lost their husbands in the attack. Although I am sure quite a few of them wouldn’t have turned him down if he tried.”
Takeshi: “Miss Inari!”
“12 is the number of villagers that called out just like that while masturbating. At least I know I have some options. Although Akane’s name is on a far more number of lips and for some odd reason even Saki’s name is more popular, but for her it seems to be most of the older men for some reason.”
Akane: “You hear that Yuji, you screw up and I can drop you like a rock.” –She says while Saki covers her blushing face with her hands.-
“Don’t get to full of yourself, quite a few women favor Yuji as well. Not as many as Takeshi of course, but they would have to go through me first.”
Takeshi: “Miss Inari, you really must stop watching such things!”
“I wouldn’t have to if you would just make a move already.”
Takeshi: “I have had enough, and I am going to bed!”
Takeshi then storms off but before he makes it too far I call out to him. “Remember I’ll be watching!~” He stops in his tracks, but after a few seconds he starts moving again disappearing behind the temple.
Akane: “Mistress you may have gone too far this time, he seemed quite mad with you…”
“He’ll get over it, so Satoshi you want to hear how many woman you have stirred up?”
Satoshi is quite embarrassed as well, and looks like he is about to say something but decides against it remaining silent. I then get the start of a new day message, and I notice I am in quite the dire straight with xp, so starting in the morning we are going to have to begin focusing on rebuilding my spent xp.
“Well everyone get a good rest tonight. After what I added we need to start rebuilding our stores of xp for a while.”
We spend the next few weeks getting my xp back to a more comfortable level, but with my consumption level being so high now it is actually quite hard to reach over 25,000xp again. I would like to summon another group to acquire xp but at the moment trying to explain how they got here would be tricky enough.
Takeshi hasn’t seemed to forgive me for the comments I made during my drunken state at the party, but he doesn’t let it affect his protection of me which actually feels worse than if he shunned me completely.
My two little foxes have seemed to fit right in the village now, they pretty much do whatever they want and people pamper them. Aoi will take anything given to it, but Midori still will only associate with the single women.
Yuji and Akane have seemed more distant lately. They still spend some alone time together, but it seems they don’t put the effort forth as much as before. Now that they have been found out it almost seems like they are not near as interested in each other anymore.
New villagers have begun to arrive as well. At first only 1 family arrived which worried Tatsuo quite a bit, but the next week was 3 families, and the last caravan had 8 families almost doubling the town’s population. Most of the new people are all farmers, which is ok because that’s what we needed the most of, but I hope if any more arrive they start having more occupations.
The villagers still haven’t discovered the next floor of the mine yet, but giving there are only a small handful of miners I think the ore respawns at a faster rate than they can gather it, and they don’t go very deep, so it may take a while.
When my birthday rolls around I receive a message from Mommy, and she tells me about the two new cores that were born in daddy’s dungeon this year. It seems they are doing good, and Mommy and Daddy are even planning to get married at the end of the month.
Unfortunately it would be too hard for me to try to attend, as our xp is still in an unstable way, and the traveling would just be too difficult. My monsters and Takeshi try to make a big deal out of my birthday. They even rope in Tatsuo, but with the state of the village and my dungeon at the moment. There isn’t much that they can do.
There isn’t even any alcohol left after the celebration a while back so my party results to just everyone just gathering around and talking. From the few gifts I receive from the villagers it’s clear they still think I am Inari, or at least one of Inari’s messengers. I was hoping the foxes would have put that kind of talk to rest, but it looks like it wasn’t as effective as I would have hoped.
The next month goes pretty smoothly and I start to reach a comfortable level again, and about a week after Mommy and Daddy’s wedding I receive a message.
Madam Erin: (I am going to be in the neighborhood, I would like the chance to sit down and chat again, perhaps this time without the human poking into our business. Shall we meet in the village tomorrow morning?)
(The village has been relocated to inside my dungeon. That won’t be a problem will it?”
Madam Erin: (And by your dungeon I assume you mean within the grounds of the temple? What of the adventurer’s guild? Is it within your dungeon as well?)
(That is correct. The Oni made a move on the village taking it out only a small portion was able to survive and the chose to relocate to the safety of my dungeon.)
Madam Erin: (How convenient for you… If the adventurer’s guild is inside of your dungeon it may prove more difficult for me to visit you. I will contact you further when I find out more.)
In the neighborhood she says… It seems like she was purposely coming to talk with me specifically. It seems her way of teleportation can’t be within another dungeon, but even wanting to talk in private yet asking to meet in the village and not my dungeon means I wasn’t imagining the fact that she is purposely avoiding entering my dungeon.
I would like to know what she knows of [Inari’s Providence] but I am afraid of asking about it because I don’t want to give her more information than I have to. For now I guess I will just have to keep building my xp up, and wait.
It takes another two weeks before I head from Madam Erin again, and by then I have started to build up enough xp again that even if something comes up and I have to give my monsters a few days rest we should still be fine.
Madam Erin: (On further investigation I have been able to find a way to visit, however it is still very costly. I will arrive this afternoon and expect you to meet me just after noon at the base of the stairs leading up to your dungeon.)
(As you can understand leaving my dungeon is quite the difficult, especially with all the villagers in my dungeon, and the attacks from the Oni when I step out.)
Madam Erin: (As I am a more sizeable target I am sure you won’t have any problems reaching the base of the stairs. As for keeping an eye on your dungeon I am sure you wouldn’t have allowed the villagers within the dungeon if you were that worried.)
(Fine I will be there, however for my protection I will have to bring quite a few of my monsters along.)
Madam Erin: (Even all of your monsters together would prove to be no threat to me, so I have no objections. I will see you in a few hours.)
The longer I am out of the dungeon the more the Oni gather, so I don’t want to show up to early, I let the others know and then wait till the last possible moment to move out. Without being able to keep an eye on it I decided against using a lure this time as we make our way down the stairs.
We encountered a large group of Oni right at the beginning but since then it has died down a lot, maybe what Madam Erin said is true and they are all bothering her at the moment. As the bottom of the stairs comes into sight it all but confirms it.
At the base of the stairs stands Madam Erin, but surrounding her in every direction is Oni after Oni corpses piled up. As we approach she deals with a few more Oni heading her way and then summons up some massively thick earthen walls from the ground. They then stretch outward scattering the many corpses until my monsters, Madam Erin, and I are the only things within it.
Madam Erin: “Far from permeant but this should be able to keep them at bay long enough for us to have a little chat. I see you didn’t bring Takeshi. Getting to speak with him in great detail before sending him I was hoping to speak with him again.”
“As he is still not bound to my dungeon we are unable to gather xp with him being in the group, so he often stays behind to keep an eye on things if I have to go out. I am sure you didn’t come all this way to speak with him however.”
Madam Erin: “Indeed, my first question for you is the protection surrounding your dungeon. What more have you learned of it?”
“It has continued to keep me safe, so that is all I need to know.”
Madam Erin: “Surely by now you have tried to learn more about, or test its limit. I see you haven’t spread your dungeon beyond the temple grounds, so are you not capable of spreading beyond it?”
“It sounds like you arrived earlier then you let on, I guess that means you have been snooping around?”
Madam Erin: “There are quite a few things that have left me curious about it, so I am not going to apologize for it, and besides as I haven’t entered your dungeon what I do outside of it should be of none of your concern.”
“As a matter of fact I have placed rooms outside of the temple grounds, but they are not offered the same protection so the Oni attempts to destroy it. The gathering of Oni worries the villagers so I was forced to break the rooms down.”
Madam Erin: “You have quite a number of floors to your dungeon now, does the protection extend down as well then?”
“Well you know as well as I do dungeon walls are indestructible unless summoned in a way that allows it, so even if it doesn’t I don’t think I have to worry about the Oni trying to dig into the dungeon or anything.”
Madam Erin: “So much of this situation is peculiar as it is. What about the cause of the protection, have you been able to determine if it was really was from one of the old gods?”
I don’t know if I should say anything else, but if I don’t at least give some information I might never learn anything else. Madam Erin is an elder so even if I can’t completely trust her I should be able to at least see if I can get any more information.
“I will only speak more about this if you guarantee that the conversation does not pass to anyone else.”
Madam Erin: “As an elder you have my word.”
“This includes the other elders.”
Madam Erin: “It will be our secret.”
“I have determined that [Menu] recognizes it as being from Inari, but just the fact that [Menu] recognizes it might mean the exact opposite as well.”
Madam Erin: “What do you mean [Menu] recognizes it?”
“When I placed a room outside of the temple grounds [Menu] warned me about placing rooms outside of [Inari’s Providence] however even searching [Menu] for it I couldn’t find any more information.”
Madam Erin: “[Menu] doesn’t work well for me out here, but I will further investigate it when I return. If I find any information that might be useful I promise to share it with you. The next item I would like to ask you about is the Oni themselves. Have you learned any more about them?”
“No, after your last visit that waves that followed brought the stronger Oni Generals, but since then it hasn’t changed.”
Madam Erin: “You are no closer to finding their source?”
“At the moment they are providing me with much needed xp, so their source is of little importance as long as they keep coming.”
Madam Erin: “Are you not the least bit curious?”
“Curious yes, but I can’t leave my dungeon for more than a few hours without their numbers becoming too great, and the situation with my dungeon I can’t afford to send my monsters out gallivanting around, so for the moment I will just take what I can get while I can.”
Madam Erin: “That is a bit of a shame, I was hoping we could look forward to placing more dungeon cores in Shima soon due to your success, but it appears not much has changed.”
“The arrival of the Oni Generals after your last visit, and the Oni’s attack on the village, I would even go as far to say as it has gotten worse. Of course that only seems to be in effect around this forest, I have found out that the rest of Shima seems to be getting along like they have been for the last 30 or so years.”
Madam Erin: “My next question is how much do you plan to play out this Inari thing?”
“I have made it abundantly clear that only my name is that of Inari, because with the protection around my dungeon I don’t want to anger Inari in any way, but of course quite a few of the humans still think if I am not the god Inari, that I at least serve it. With the continued growth of my dungeon in which helps the humans all being in Inari’s name however I guess you could say I serve Inari in a way.”
Madam Erin: “I have heard of spells, weapons, and the like that are said to be from the old gods, but they are mere legends at best. Something like this barrier of yours is quite interesting, but also terrifying in its own right. If this means the old gods really did or do exist where does that leave us dungeon cores?”
“I am choosing to believe in the old gods, or at least Inari for that matter. Not only the barrier but a few of my skills I have gained are in Inari’s name. I am sure that answers your question as well. For all we truly know maybe the old gods are behind [Menu] maybe everything dungeon cores do is in some way benefiting them.”
Madam Erin: “Since our arrival humans have turned away from the old gods so I find that hard to believe. Even going as far to worship some of us like Faron, so I am sure if they do exist and are still around they wouldn’t be happy with most of us.”
“Well as much as I can say I don’t much mind, the philosophical debate, I am sure that isn’t why you are here.”
Madam Erin: “Everything has been changing so fast these last few years. I am starting to wonder if we even know what we are doing anymore… Maybe Dyson is right.”
“I just think for a lot of years dungeon cores were just doing everything they could just to survive, and only now do some dungeon cores now get the chance to not only survive but start to live. Humans lifespans are so short they have easily forgotten many of the troubled times, but the other elders and you don’t have that luxury. As more and more of the newer dungeon cores find their own ways in the world you got to just ask yourself can you adapt or are the scars just too deep to heal?”
Madam Erin: “And here I thought you said you were done with the philosophical debate…”
“I am just telling you my perspective on the situation. Elder Dyson isn’t a particularly old dungeon core, he just had the unique ability to spend time as a human and I think that alone was enough to grant him the ability to see it from the other side. New dungeon cores are born with knowledge from past dungeon cores, so it’s only natural that after Dyson’s experience the newer cores being born would be more adaptable as well.”
Madam Erin: “I have never thought of it that way… You definitely think a lot like your father.”
“Well daddy is a special case in a lot of ways, but I think I will take that as a compliment.”
Madam Erin: “Well I believe I have taken up enough of your time. I didn’t get to learn all that I wanted to but perhaps I can figure out more about this [Inari’s Providence] back home, and I can definitely say it was an interesting conversation to say the least.”
“Yes it sounds like it is starting to get quite rowdy outside. I assume you have a plan when you drop the walls?”
Madam Erin then casts a spell and the walls fall outward. Most of the Oni were fighting to get through them so they are crushed by the tons of stone. The few remaining Oni are not too hard to pick off and after bidding Madam Erin farewell my monsters and I then head back to the dungeon.
Takeshi: “Miss Inari I am so glad you made it back safely.”
“I told you it wouldn’t be a problem, although I can’t say it was a very productive meeting either.”
Saki: “I think Inari-sama really managed to impress Madam Erin-sama. I also think Inari would be happy as well.”
“I don’t know about all that… Well Madam Erin knows about [Inari’s Providence] now so there isn’t any going back. We should begin training even harder just to be on the safe side.”
With that we begin training even harder every day. That is until a week later when I receive a message from Mommy.
Belinda: (Your daddy has been kidnapped.)