As we continue through the Mine the shaft only seems to get larger, I send a message back to Chika letting them know we made it through another night, and we continue on even deeper. The Oni, bats, another creatures like that have all disappeared now and instead we are dealing with the large beastly dogs some of which even have horns, wings, or both.
It isn’t until we encounter a huge snake that has a head of an Oni however that we really begin to struggle. The fight proves very taxing on Saki and my own magic. Luckily it was only one of them or we could have been in big trouble.
A few more of the item rooms turn up and the quality of the gear within them has started to rise to that of steel. Most of the equipment we have is only slightly better than it and Yuji takes quite a few of the steel daggers as he always seems to misplace his own.
By the time noon approaches though we start to see something that is both a relief and also a concern. The main shaft has grown large enough that we can all 5 walk elbow to elbow beside each other, and still never touch the wall, but now the tunnel quickly shrinks so we can only pass single file. The walls of the shaft however are no longer stone but cuirass after cuirass of heavy steel-plated armor.
Going forward we quickly find that it becomes a maze of tunnels through the armor and just trying to walk has proved to be difficult. Even after two hours there is no sign of a door or an end to the cuirasses.
“Well the good news is when the Oni attack we could just block them off with the armor, but I am pretty sure these tunnels where made by the Oni pushing through and if they went through all this there is not a way to hold them back…”
Akane: “There is also the risk of not being able to get out again ourselves.”
Yuji: “We wanted a smaller tunnel, I guess be careful what you wish for…”
Saki: “I just hope we don’t run into another one of them snakes…”
“Don’t say that now…”
After a little while longer we finally start to see a break in the armor. As the tunnel starts widening back up however the walls and floor no longer look to be that of the mine. The tunnel is quite a bit smaller, but also it looks far more natural. Either the mine dug into a natural cavern or the dungeon theory is looking even closer to truth.
“How long is it now till we should expect the Oni horde?”
Akane: “It shouldn’t be more than 2 hours now.”
“I don’t know what’s up ahead but I think we should hold our ground here for this attack. It looks like there are several branching tunnels ahead and finding which one or how many of them the Oni come from might tell us which one to take. Not only that if things get bad we can retreat back into the suits of armor, and bring it down behind us and hopefully buy us time.”
Yuji: “That is if the whole mess of them doesn’t come down on top of us…”
“You know I am looking to Inari to grant us a little luck here you know…?”
Saki: “Mistress you know it doesn’t work that way…”
“It’s a joke… Kind of…”
With quite a while to wait there isn’t much to do… I look at the armor for a bit… If there was a way to get that entire mess back to the dungeon even at the reduced cost of breaking it down I am sure there is millions of xp worth of armor there…
Saki and Satoshi seem to be enjoying themselves as they are chatting while speaking quietly… Even Akane is sitting with Yuji in front of her, her head is on his shoulder and she has her arms wrapped around him her hands disappearing into chest area of his kimono.
Yuji is just sitting there silently with his head leaning back on Akane’s shoulder, and you can see the movement of Akane’s hands as they caresses Yuji’s chest… Are they really not still together…? I let out a deep sigh and drop down sitting against one of the walls.
If Takeshi was part of the dungeon I could at least message him and see what he was doing…I guess I can ask Chika how it is going, but I guess the condition of the village and dungeon isn’t actually what I really wanted to know about anyway…
(How are things going there…?)
Chika: (Everything is going fine Mistress, I have gained another level today it won’t be long now and I will be caught up with the rest.)
(How is the dungeon doing on xp.)
Chika: (Your xp consumption is staggering… But we have managed to at least acquire the amount for the consumption. Most days though we are able to acquire a bit extra.)
(How is Takeshi doing?)
Chika: (He’s uh… He’s been busy…)
(…Busy? Busy how?)
Chika: (I shouldn’t have said anything… He asked me not to say…)
(Chika! What is Takeshi doing!?)
Chika: (You gave me the command to obey Takeshi, so I can’t say anything more….)
“Everyone pack up we are going back!”
Everyone is startled by my quick and loud proclamation.
Yuji: “What’s going on?”
Saki: “Did something happen to the temple!?”
“Chika was being dodgy, Takeshi is up to something but she won’t tell me what. He even used my own command against me to forbid Chika to tell me!”
Everyone quickly sighs and begins to relax again.
Akane: “Mistress I am sure you are just looking too much into it…”
“He could be messing around on me behind my back!”
Yuji: “To be messing around on you there has to be something there first. Besides I have never seen Takeshi ever even look at a woman with desire other then you.”
“The new monsters haven’t been there long. It could be one of them! I bet its Kaori, I knew she was going to be trouble…Wait did you say he looks at me with desire?”
Akane: “Of course he does Mistress! Just look at you.”
“I have never seen him even show the slightest signs…”
Yuji: “You don’t think he would do it when you are watching do you… You said it yourself back at the bonfire when the residential area was added a while back. All those men that secretly desire you, do you honestly think anyone of them would have the gall to say something like that to your face.”
“But even when he is alone he never…”
Akane: “He knows you can be watching at any time… He isn’t going to do something so obvious even if he is alone…”
Satoshi: “Don’t bring me into this Mistress. I already gave you my advice…”
“But none of that changes the facts that he is up to something!”
Akane: “Would it make you feel better if I ask Chika what is going on? Even if he prevented her from telling you maybe she can still tell me.”
“That’s a good idea!”
I wait while Akane sends the message… She seems to be sending quite a few, but she isn’t saying anything… Now she is laughing to herself… Now she is sending messages again…
“What’s going on!?”
Akane starts laughing then says. “She wouldn’t tell me either, but don’t worry Mistress I told her what you were thinking and she promised me it was nothing like that.”
“Then what is so funny?!”
Akane: “It’s nothing… Chika also said to remind you that you used a command for all the new girls to leave Takeshi alone remember…”
“Then what else could it be…?”
I however have no time to worry about it as we begin to hear the low rumble of the Oni charging through the tunnels.
Yuji: “Alright everyone, time to get ready!”
“Which tunnel are they coming from?”
Satoshi: “It’s still too soon to tell…”
We prepare for the attack, as the rumbling begins to grow louder and closer. Eventually from one of the tunnels Oni begin to pour out, unfortunately a few short seconds later, they begin to pour from another, then a third… One tunnel doesn’t appear to have any Oni coming from it, but they haven’t quit flowing yet either.
Saki and I quickly begin launching spells into the horde. We keep dropping them left and right but they just keep coming… The tunnel narrows as they start getting closer so they start getting congested as the pour through.
The first bit comes within range of the others and they quickly begin their assault as well. We can’t really retreat any without entering through the armor tunnel, so the group starts to actually suffer some damage as we have to put a bit more into offence then the last two encounters.
Saki and I both have the combat medic skill so at least we can continue casting offensive spells with one hand and healing spells with another, but it is quite taxing on our magic. The front line group is starting to lose ground, meaning Saki and I are about to be in the fray right along with them.
Saki is already showing signs of running critically low on magic, but I still have a little left. I decide to save the rest strictly for healing and dive forward with the rest of the group brandishing my staff. The amount of Oni has quit flowing, but there are still dozens remaining.
“Saki, start to fall back through the armor, that way you set the pace to make sure nobody gets left behind.”
Saki: “But we almost got them.”
“You’re about out of magic. There is nothing else you can do!”
Satoshi takes a leap back placing his hand on her shoulder using his skill to pass along magic to her. However his removal from the front line created a gap and now the Oni are starting to push. If it keeps up they are going to put us in a tight spot…
Just when things start to look pretty bad Satoshi jumps forward again. His return to the front line along with Saki’s return to casting spells is helpful, but our formation is quite broken now, and the battle is still looking pretty bad.
The Oni are still after me so I decide to use my [Stone Pillar] tactic again, but this time I am not going to be able to jump from one to the next because my close proximity to the ceiling of the tunnel. All I can do now is crawl casting the [Stone Pillar]s side by side.
We are starting to make headway now, but I am just not quick enough and one of the pillars crumbles before I make it more than halfway across. My legs are now dangling down and it’s enough for one of the Oni to grab ahold of it.
I manage to kick free, but now there isn’t enough time and the [Stone Pillar] collapses and I fall right into the swarm. I am quickly bombarded by clubs, feet, and claws as the Oni tear into me. The chainmail the village made me is quite the saving grace but my hp is still dropping quickly and it won’t hold out much longer.
I can hear the others screaming, but from the tearing of my kimono, and thuds against my body I can’t make out the words… I really didn’t want to do this… The suspicion is going to raise considerably in the village now, but if I don’t I am going to die…
I quickly summon Aoi and Midori. A spell from Aoi is enough to quickly push the Oni back a few feet toppling any that were right on top of me, and Midori quickly begins leaping onto Oni rending and shredding with claw and teeth.
Something grabs my ankle and begins to drag me. I start to kick at it, but realize I can feel my strength returning to me from the touch. Aoi does all it can but a caster in the middle of a mob of melee attackers means it doesn’t last long before it is beaten down.
Midori is faring a bit better jumping from one Oni to the next, but even it falls before I am out from under the feet of the Oni. Satoshi and I are both being trampled while the others attack for all they are worth, but I know my hp can’t be draining near as fast as his because not only is he taking damage from the Oni but he is still passing his hp to me.
If I don’t do anything else I am dead anyway so if I pass out I pass out. I begin using my skill firing my orbs at the Oni no longer worrying about if all elements but light are not near as effective. I just keep casting. I don’t know if everything is getting hazy because of my magic or my hp but eventually everything goes dark.
As soon as Miss Inari was down the stairs and out of sight Tatsuo approaches me.
Tatsuo: “Takeshi, you are always there next to Inari-sama, but I feel I have barely ever got to talk to you.”
“Miss Inari likes to have her opinion known. I have found it easier to remain silent.”
Tatsuo laughs. “You are quite right about that. Now that she is out of the way, at least for a little bit, do you mind having a bit of a chat with me?”
“Miss Inari instructed me to handle her affairs in her absence, so if it’s regarding that I believe I can spare the time.”
Tatsuo: “I am sure your answer is going to be no different than hers, but I just have to ask. Is Inari-sama truly not the Inari?”
“Miss Inari is very strong indeed, but I think we should both consider ourselves thankful that, no, Miss Inari is no god.”
Tatsuo: “When you put it like that I actually believe you… That might actually make this next part a bit easier then. You see the village and I would really like to do something special for Inari-sama, but it will require Inari’s help.”
Tatsuo: “You know that area beyond the residential area Inari made for us?”
Tatsuo: “The villagers and I have begun praying that in Inari-sama’s absence that Inari would open that area up, but we just didn’t know if with Inari-sama gone that Inari would hear our prayers.”
“I don’t understand you said you wished to do something for Miss Inari, but you said you have been praying for Inari to produce more houses?”
Tatsuo: “Not houses… Just a house. Inari-sama has done so much for us yet all we have done is take from her. You all started with free rein of the grounds and had to buildings set up as lodgings and the first thing we did was take that from you all.”
“You didn’t take anything, Miss Inari offered.”
Tatsuo: “I know but that doesn’t change the fact for almost a year now all of you have had to take turns sleeping, because there just isn’t any room. Not to mention now that the fact more of her servants have arrived that is bound to get even worse.”
“So you are saying you are all praying that Inari answers your prayers, and provides Miss Inari with a house?”
Tatsuo: “You all need better accommodations, and as nice as the houses are that Inari provided for the village I just feel Inari-sama deserves more…”
“I don’t even know what to say… I am sure Miss Inari would appreciate your concern, but to ask Inari for something like this I can’t say Miss Inari would approve.”
Tatsuo: “That is why we want to do it. Inari-sama wouldn’t ask for anything…”
“Why is it you are telling me all this?”
Tatsuo: “Well as I said I wanted to know if Inari-sama was really Inari or not. We didn’t want to look foolish asking Inari to provide itself with a house for it and its servants… But if she is not Inari then we can ask without restraint because for once instead of asking Inari to save our miserable selves we want Inari to help someone who truly deserves it…”
“Well if you are already praying to Inari about it, I don’t see what else can be done. If Inari believes Miss Inari deserves it then Inari will provide.”
Tatsuo: “You think our prayers will really reach with Inari-sama gone? What about those two foxes, you think they could relay the message directly to their master?”
“I am really not sure I am the one you should be asking these kinds of questions too, I am just Miss Inari’s shield, Miss Yuzuki in the shrine I am sure could help you far more then I could concerning matters of Inari.”
Tatsuo: “I guess we have done all we can then… I just hope Inari hears our prayers… I know the conversation was a bit strange, but it was really nice talking with you. Maybe once we get some more alcohol you and I could sit down for a drink.”
“I am sorry, after an incident with a few of Miss Inari’s aunts… I do not drink…”
Tatsuo: “See that’s a story I would like to hear! Even if you don’t drink I would like to hear more about Inari-sama’s youth and what made her the way she is now…”
“I’m sorry, I really can’t say anymore without Miss Inari’s permission, I don’t know if I am permitted to speak of it.”
Tatsuo sighs. “Well it was worth a shot… I am going to the temple to ask Inari one more time, and then I am going to see if I can find those foxes. You take care now.”
“Have a good day…”
He seems like a good man, I really wish Inari would hear a prayer like that… Miss Inari really does deserve something like that. Unfortunately she would never allow us to spend xp in such a way. I have a lot to do in Miss Inari’s absence I best get started…
Later that evening as things are starting to wind down I am checking with the others to see to it they know what tomorrows plan of action is, but after that is taken care of Yuzuki mentions what Tatsuo was talking about.
Yuzuki: “Did you hear about the villagers begging Inari to build the Mistress a house…?”
Hotaru: “It wasn’t just a few of them either. It was like the entire village was in on it.”
Rin: “Chika don’t you have permissions for the dungeon, couldn’t you do something like that?”
Chika: “I would have to have Takeshi-sama’s permission.”
Kaori: “Takeshi-sama could we please…?”
“Miss Inari wouldn’t forgive us for throwing xp away like that. Besides those small houses she built in Inari’s name raised her xp consumption considerably, something for like what the villagers are praying for… I couldn’t even imagine the cost.”
Chika: “What if it doesn’t cost us anything…?”
Chika: “The floor is already there… If we were to just remove the wall, then maybe the villagers would take that as a sign, and it wouldn’t cost the dungeon anything.”
Rin: “That’s right the buildings that the villagers build don’t raise the Mistress’s xp consumption.”
“The amount of time it would take to build such a building… Miss Inari would be back long before they even completed the foundations.”
Chika: “Mistress allows each of us a negligible amount of xp to spend on personal items from the dungeon right…? If we pooled that all together don’t you think that would be enough for at least the foundation?”
Kaori: “That’s right! And we could leave instructions behind on the way we want it constructed.”
Yuzuki: “We would have to take Inari into consideration as well. Mistress wouldn’t want us to do something that might anger Inari or we might lose the protection.”
“How can you all even be considering this without Miss Inari’s permission?”
Akihiro: “Come on Takeshi… The Mistress gave us life. Of course we would like to pay her back somehow.”
Chika: “That’s right! And the only thing we would need your permission on is to remove the wall on the bottom floor. Please Takeshi-sama let us do at least that much for our Mistress…”
“I am telling you it won’t be complete by the time Miss Inari returns.”
Rin: “It will be far enough along though that she couldn’t turn it down without it looking like she was opposing Inari’s wishes though.”
“She will be mad at all of us for this…”
Hotaru: “I bet she would quickly forgive us if we combined her room with Takeshi-sama’s.” –She says and giggles.-
Chika: “Then you’re considering it?”
Rin: “If he won’t let us combine their rooms what if we make them conjoined? It might be enough to make the Mistress happy and if any danger were to befall her Takeshi-sama would be right there to protect her.”
Hotaru: “That’s a great idea! You would have the privacy of your own rooms but if the need arises you could be by her side in an instant!”
I am a little worried as Chika, Rin, and Hotaru seem to be giving each other looks that are reminiscent of Miss Inari’s aunt Zoey, but I have to admit it would make it easier to protect her. Wait… That means I have already decided to allow them to do this. Oh Miss Inari please forgive me…
“Alright fine, but the villagers have to build it or the xp consumption would be far too much.”
Chika: “If we are going to pool our xp allotment for the foundation…Can we make a few alterations to the room for things that we might need.”
Hotaru: “That’s right it would only make sense for the Mistress’s house to have its own bath, and the floor would need water to do that.”
I sigh… “Nothing… I repeat nothing over 500xp.”
Chika: “I can work with that… We can work with that, right girls?!”
The girls then quickly form a huddle and quickly start making plans…
Akihiro: “Takishi… They just played you good…”
“What do you mean?”
Akihiro: “The Mistress allows us an allotment of 1000xp, between the 5 girls that is 5000xp. The small houses on the residential area were cheap they just had a high consumption rate. You can resize a room for 500xp, so setting them a limit of 500xp they could probably supply the entire house in resources. The villagers will still have to build it but they would only have to put it together. The hardest thing would be the foundation, but you gave them permission to use [Menu] for that.”
“You think I messed up…?”
Akihiro: “I don’t know, but I will say this I am going to add my allotment to the mix as well if they let me make a few suggestions… Besides that conjoined room… After the Mistress sees that I am sure all will be forgiven.”
…What did I just agree to…? I am a man of my word though so I will just have to face the consequences of my actions.
“And everyone, you cannot say a word of this to Miss Inari while she is gone do you understand?”
The damage is done now I am going to bed while they work out the details… The next morning I want to check to see what they have accomplished. I can’t transfer about because I am not part of the dungeon but Aoi can so I grab the little fox and have it take me to find the others. I find the girls still talking away on the bottom floor of the village.
There are building materials everywhere and a very large foundation covering almost the entire floor… there are several water sources worked into the foundation including a large area covering almost the entire back side of the foundation with water, but that water is literally steaming…
“What are you girls up to…?”
Chika: “Oh… Takeshi-sama… Don’t worry we are almost done and then we will go to bed.”
“Bed? It’s morning, and the villagers will soon be out and about. With their prayers to Inari I am sure one of the first things they are going to do is check this floor in hopes that their prayers were answered.”
Rin: “Morning?! That can’t be…”
“Well whatever else you have planned you better get it done, and get it done fast.”
Kaori: “Right… You brought Aoi that should save us a step.”
“Aoi…? What are you planning on doing?”
Chika: “Well Mistress uses Aoi and Midori to act as messengers for Inari, so we thought we would send Aoi with the instructions tucked into her collar to Tatsuo.”
“Miss Inari has never made verbal communication claiming it to be Inari, so I don’t know if this is a good idea.”
Yuzuki: “Don’t worry Takeshi-sama I vetted the letter myself, there should be no problems with what is written considering Inari.”
Kaori takes Aoi, and they fold a piece of parchment up stuffing it under Aoi’s collar and then tell it what to do.
Chika: “Alright the only thing left to do is clear out and scrap the wall.”
“Alright, if you are going to use Aoi, do you mind transferring me back?”
Hotaru: “Right… I will wake Akihiro and have him transfer you.”
Miss Inari really does unnecessary things… I didn’t realize it before but Miss Inari’s command to the girls to keep away from me means they are not capable of even transferring me because that would require them to touch me…
Akihiro appears to be sleeping on a pile of mats the girls summoned in so he would have had to be woken up anyway, so after they wake him he transfers me back to the barracks.
“I want you honest opinion Akihiro, do you think that Miss Inari will really approve of what the girls have planned?”
Akihiro adverts his gaze… I sigh and then head out of the barracks onto the temple grounds just in time to see Aoi prancing up to Tatsuo who seems to be in a hurry as he exits his house.
Tatsuo: “Does that mean?!” –I can hear him call out as he then quickly starts making his way for the stairs heading underground. Aoi quickly chases after him.-
Too late now I guess… I am a bit behind but I follow after them. When I finally reach the bottom floor Tatsuo is looking around with a confused look on his face.
Tatsuo: “Takeshi-sama… It looks like Inari heard us, but I am not sure I understand…” –He says when he notices me come down the stairs. Aoi is circling his legs with the note still tucked inside her collar.-
He then starts looking through everything while Aoi keeps trying to get his attention, but he seems to be growing more and more confused.
Tatsuo: “I don’t understand why would Inari grant our prayer like this, only to leave it uncomplete.”
I move over and pick up Aoi stretching it behind the ears. I then pull out the folded parchment, and say. “What’s this…?”
Tatsuo: “What is it?”
I unfold the parchment and hand it to Tatsuo. “I don’t know it was tucked into Aoi’s collar.”
The girls thought they planned everything through, but they didn’t think Tatsuo would have been too excited to notice the note… I watch the confusion only grow on Tatsuo’s face as he reads the note, but by the time he finishes it something seems to click.
He then quickly takes Aoi’s head in his hands looking it in the eyes as he says. “I understand… I will gather everyone at once!”
Tatsuo then runs off back upstairs with the note still in hand… I don’t even know what it said… The next few hours are pretty hectic. Tatsuo has seemed to gather every single villager minus the ones that are required to be elsewhere.
After everyone has finally gathered Tatsuo addresses everyone.
Tatsuo: “As you can all see it appears Inari has answered our prayers! This time Inari even left a message for all of us.”
Tatsuo then takes out the parchment reading from a section of it.
Tatsuo: “I have heard your request and take pride in the acknowledgement that you wish to thank my disciple for her service to me. The houses I provided for my followers met an immediate need, but for my disciple I feel more is required. I have provided the foundations in which you must prove not only to my disciple, but to me. That not only are you willing to ask, but also work towards the goals of your prayers. May the building you build not only stand as a home, but a testament to your dedication to me and a thanks you want to offer to my disciple for which brought you all back into my grace.”
Miss Inari has told me of the skill she received saying she is an acolyte in the name of Inari, but a disciple…? I can’t say she will be pleased to hear that the villagers received a letter from Inari that makes her Inari’s disciple…
Tatsuo: “I gather that means that Inari wants us to build Inari-sama’s home to the best of our ability not only for her, but to also prove we will not sit idly by only begging Inari for help, but willing to put forth the effort ourselves to prove we are worthy of Inari. So I ask you all now, that until Inari-sama’s home is complete we dedicate every moment to furthering its completion.”
The girls are all at the back of the group with tired, but content looks on their faces. After a few cheers from the villagers Tatsuo quickly makes his way around assigning tasks to the villagers as they begin work.
Tatsuo: “What of you Takeshi-sama? You will help as well right?”
“I have Miss Inari’s affairs to attend too, but when not handling that. Yes I will be willing to assist.”
Tatsuo: “And the others?”
“They have strict orders to maintain the protection of the village and to continue to bring down the Oni population in the forest, so much like the villagers that have tasks like farming they have a task that simply cannot put on hold.”
Tatsuo: “I understand…”
Chika: “But we too must prove not only to our Mistress but to Inari too that we are willing to put forth the effort, so once our tasks for the day are complete I promise we will do what we can to help as well!”
After that we spend every waking moment not taking care of the dungeon to working on the house along with the villagers.