I woke up feeling a little guilty this morning with Belinda in my arms. I know Listel freed me so I could come back to Belinda, but I still can’t help feel this is wrong, and not only because of Listel, but also Two-Twelve and Belinda…
Just one look at her sleeping face and the guilt vanishes. I try to slide out from underneath her without waking her, but she wraps her arms around one of mine.
Belinda: “Please, not yet…”
I run my hand through her hair and kiss her forehead. “Our training was cut short, and Dyson’s task ended up as a dud, so we need to start looking into what we should do next.”
Belinda: “That can wait at least a few more hours.” –She says as she crawls back over the top of me and kisses me.-
Needless to say I don’t argue, and it’s well into morning before we finally leave bed. Once we finally do head downstairs we find Roxy and Zoey waiting.
Roxy: “We didn’t know if you had anything planned for today so we thought we should wait and find out.”
“Sorry to keep you waiting, you could have sent a message.”
Zoey: “No you’re not. Sorry that is, or at least I wouldn’t be, but if we knew it was going to take hours we could have at least ate some breakfast while we waited.”
Belinda: “I whip something up real quick…”
Roxy: “Don’t listen to her, we are fine. What are our plans moving forward though?”
“Honestly I am not sure. With Belinda’s brother finding out about the dungeon I am a little worried.”
Roxy: “Wait Doug found out about the dungeon?”
“It’s a bit of a long story, but yea he found out because of Aria. I don’t think we have to worry about any danger from him, but I am still a little worried he might tell Logan or Belinda’s father.”
Roxy: “Well nothing seemed out of the ordinary when they left earlier. They left out not long after we arrived this morning.”
Belinda: “Really nothing?” –She says seeming a little disappointed.-
Roxy: “They both appeared a little tired still, but no, other than that they said good morning and then left.”
“I still think we need to train everyone more, but I am also a little worried about you gaining too many more levels before we have some skills available to teach you all.”
Belinda: “The first group we sent out, to look for you while you were missing, should be arriving any day now, maybe they have learned new skills and will make them available when they return? Although they have been searching for you, and not training, so they might not have gained much in the ways of levels.”
“I guess you could use [Gate] to recall them, but even if they bring back skills I am sure they will all be low level skills and that will only slightly help our progress.”
Zoey: “My progress alone is proof enough we are much stronger than those typical of our levels, so shouldn’t we just start focusing on raising our levels?”
“You and Belinda are the exact reason I feel we should hold off till we get more skills. You said you were one of my weakest sentient monsters, but now you have easily passed Belinda’s strength. If we keep leveling all without more skills in the future we will have the same problem we are having with Belinda.”
Belinda: “But even if we get new skills we still have to have enough xp to purchase them.”
“That is true as well, maybe we should summon quite a few more groups of monsters to send out to gather xp and hopefully bring back skills and xp.”
Belinda: “But forcing a sentient monster out to fight and possibly die like that doesn’t seem right.”
“Well that is what monsters are summoned to do…”
Belinda: “I know, but I already feel bad enough about the groups we summoned. Not giving them a choice… It makes me feel like a slave owner…”
Zoey: “It’s not that bad… Like Boss said we are summoned for that reason to begin with. That’s like you saying it’s not right that you are a princess. Look at me I even begged Boss to re-bind me after you let me go.”
Belinda: “Well I have mixed feelings about that as well. I became an adventurer to try to escape that fact, but surely not every monster we summon is going to feel the same way.”
Roxy: “Most people especially slaves aspire to be adventurers, so I think as long as you treat them right I don’t think there should be a problem.”
“If there are any that don’t like it once they make up their cost in xp then we could release them.”
Belinda: “Then would you like me to use [Gate] to collect the dispatched groups?”
“We might as well. There are 6 groups out right? That’s quite a bit of magic, but I don’t think we should be using it for much else today. With Azami’s near endless supply of magic we could teach her [Gate] but its xp cost is really high and I am afraid with her personality she might not be able to cast it accurately…”
Zoey: “What about me boss? I can help!”
“Didn’t you land on your face the first time you used transfer…?”
Zoey: “You didn’t have to remember that memory…”
“Besides between Roxy, Belinda, and myself that is only two trips each, so it shouldn’t be too bad.”
We then divide the teams up and send messages out to get their locations and the descriptions of the area they are at. The leader of the first group I am going to retrieve, Is a name I know, Poppy. Poppy does a good job describing their location and their position. They seemed to be the farthest group out so they are still within Adra.
After casting [Gate] I step through arriving at the place she described, which is an arid plain. A familiar group of four quickly gets to their feet when they see me. The area is so barren that I don’t think I would have been able to use [Gate] without being able to focus on the group as well.
Poppy: “Master… It’s so good to finally meet you.”
“Well I don’t know how much Belinda has told you, but we have met before when you were in Catalina.”
Poppy: “Yes… Mistress Belinda told us. You were so close and yet we failed you and Mistress Belinda…”
“Listel did a good job on keeping my identity secret. My memory of that time is still a bit fuzzy but if I can recall I didn’t say more than a few words to you all then, so I am sure I am just as much to blame.”
Poppy: “Well I promise on behalf of all of us we won’t fail you again…”
“Well I found my way back in any case. Why don’t we head back now, it’s so hot here even I might start to sweat…”
We then use [Gate] to return to the ballroom of the house. I receive 3 new messages about monsters returning, and can see two more groups already have returned. None of the messages are very impressive, but I don’t see Roxy or Belinda so they must be going after their last group already.
I then look over the map we have stretched on the table and then reread the message I received from the second group I am supposed to go after. They seem to be just outside of Gowen in Calhoun. They are even on the northern edge of the forest, so it’s not hard for me to reach their location.
My arrival is greeted with a quick scoff from a woman with black, grey, and white fur. She has little pointed ears and a large bushy tail that is got black rings around the grey and white tail. The only parts of her body that consist of skin are her face, bosom, stomach, and parts of her arms, and legs. Her clothing if you want to call it that doesn’t cover much as it appears to be more of a series of straps and belts then actual clothing, I can’t even tell if the object wrapped around her hips is a skirt or just a thick belt…
Raccoon: “This is what Mistress Belinda was having such a fuss about? Don’t get me wrong, thanks for your dungeon giving me life, but if I was the mistress I would have left you lost and found a better looking man.”
A young man with a mage robe with bags under his eyes and an exhausted expression quickly says. “Bandy! That’s no way to speak about master! I’m sorry master, I am Chase. Please forgive Bandy she is a bit blunt at times…”
The other two human women in the group briefly and respectfully greet me then quickly go silent again. It appears this kind of exchange is something they have gotten accustomed too.
“I don’t mind, in fact I find my appearance rather bland after wearing the appearance of Arngrim for a few months…”
Chase: “Don’t say that Master, I am sure Mistress Belinda loves you for your personality not your looks.”
“I don’t know if that was a compliment or just made it worse…”
Bandy: “Yea and I am sure it’s a huge personality at that. It has got to be at least twice the size of Chase’s.”
Chase: “Bandy!” –He says while blushing profusely.-
Bandy: “You didn’t seem shy about it at the time. You couldn’t get that robe off fast enough.”
“Maybe we should just return to the dungeon…?”
Bandy: “Beats walking.” –She says as she disappears though the portal.-
Chase: “Please forgive her master…” –He says as he passes me and enters the portal himself.-
The other two human girls thank me and then walk through the portal as well, I then follow them back to the house. The ballroom is plenty big enough but even with the 30 people inside they are all staying in pretty close nit groups.
The raccoon Bandy appears to be the only one exploring the room while the rest of the group follows her, and Chase quietly begs her to behave. Belinda, Roxy, and Zoey are talking with one group, but once they see me they part and move over to me.
Belinda: “This is everyone I think.”
I clear a few messages about the return of monsters again, this time it seems there are quite a few items added to the list, and the xp is quite a bit larger as well. There seems to be a few added skills but nothing really notable…
Everyone quits their chatter and looks at me.
“First of all I want to thank all of you for your efforts in trying to track me down. I know it must not have been easy on you all. From my understanding Belinda promised you all that if you went out to look for me, on your return she would unbind you so you could do what you like. If any of you would like to be unbound just get with Belinda and she will see to it along with getting you enough provisions and supplies to get you by for a while.”
I then wait for a little bit but only a handful step forward heading over to where Belinda stands. 5 of which appear to be sword maidens, 2 of the warriors, and 1 monk. It appears none of the beastkin are the ones to have stepped forward. This surprised me, as I thought with the conversation with Bandy she would have been the first to step forward.
“The rest of you, I will now let you know your tasks going forward. Some of your groups have been broken up a bit, so we will rearrange you all in groups between 4 and 6 then let you go back out. We are going to send you to different areas to gather xp, and once every month or so we will use [Gate] to bring you back to provide the dungeon with xp. As long as you continue as adventurers gaining xp for the dungeon you will be free to act on your own as a group. The items you acquire will be yours to keep, but if it’s an item unavailable to the dungeon we will add it to the summon-able list then return it to you. At any time you wish to be unbound from the dungeon if your group has at least provided enough xp to cover your original summoning cost then you will be allowed to be unbound from the dungeon taking any items you have acquired along with you. Are there any questions?”
Bandy: “What do we get in return?”
“You get to gain levels, and get to be an adventurer, but I guess if you acquire a useful item, spells, skills, or an above average amount of xp I am sure we can find some measure of compensation for that.”
Bandy: “Even if it is to summon another person to our specifications?”
“Well summoning monsters is quite expensive, but if what you bring back is good enough I am sure that can be arranged. I won’t summon a sentient monster to be a slave however, so they will be bound by the same set of rules.”
One of the others chimes in as well. “What if we want to become a hero?”
“Well you are acting on your own accord as adventurers, so I guess it’s a possibility, but I would ask you check with us first to make sure the dungeon isn’t an ally, or that we have some form of agreement with them.”
We then go over a few more items and once everyone seems to be satisfied Belinda has finished with the ones that are leaving.
“Alright, now let’s see who and what we got left.”
We still have all 8 beastkin, 5 human sword maidens, 2 warriors (1 male, 1 female), and 2 male monks, and Chase the human mage.
“Alright that should leave us with three groups, each with 6 members.”
Poppy: “The four of us would like to stay together, but we would be happy to take on 2 more.”
Bandy: “Me, I want to group up with the big guy.”
Chase: “Then I am going too…”
“Chase you and Lynx are our only mages, I would like to have at least 2 groups with mages.”
Sword Maiden: “All of us can use basic spells, nowhere near as specialized as a mage, but we are considered caster classes.”
“Their group would also be one of the groups with the extra sword maiden as well.”
Bandy: “Come on Chase, don’t get hung up on the one time… Look that girl is quite the fox, literally, or you could have some fun milking that cow girl there. You could take turns jerking on each other swords with that warrior girl, and not to mention the plethora of sword maidens you could turn into sword hussies.”
Poppy now seems to look less pleased with the raccoon that was so eager to join their group…
Lynx: “If that is where your decision rests miss raccoon, then I believe you are about to make a mistake. Not only is my species not compatible with beastkin or humans, but I also prefer males.”
Poppy: “… Really?”
Bandy: “Terrible shame… So who wants to join the group with the only other mage, and that is sure to receive the best rewards from our master!?”
Nobody steps forward but the male cat feral beastkin with the thin blade on his hip.
Swashbuckler: “I assure you I would not interest you in the slightest, but I am willing to give your group a shot if you are indeed trying to be the group that pleases our master the most.”
Bandy: “See not even the cat is a pussy, come on just 3 more!”
The two cow beastkin then step forward.
Bandy: “There we go, just one more now.”
“I don’t want to force anyone… But it should be one of you 3…” –I say to the group of sword maidens that are grouped together.-
They quickly look to each other in a panic and the smallest of the group a young blond girl gets volunteered when the other 2 step back leaving her by herself. She quickly looks back and panics but then says. “I’ll… Do my best…”
Bandy: “Don’t worry blondie we will take good care of you.”
After that the male warrior, both rabbits, and the other monk join the two remaining sword maidens, leaving the female warrior and feral fox beastkin man to join Poppy’s group.
“Is everyone good to go, or do you need to rest some before setting back out?”
After a quick nod between Poppy and her group she speaks up. “We are all set Master.”
Bandy: “If they are ready, then so are we!”
Chase: “But miss Bandy…”
Bandy: “Shut it Chase you had your chance now deal with it.”
The third group then nods as well.
“Alright, Belinda, you take that group north to Calhoun. Madam Erin has an agreement with us to allow us to train monsters there right?”
Belinda: “It’s not an agreement per say, but she has said it’s alright.”
“You take that group there and get them started, and I will take care of the other two groups.”
Belinda nods and moves over to the group, makes sure they are ready, and then the 7 of them disappear through a portal Belinda summons.
“You twelve with me.”
I cast [Gate] and step through. Off in the distance is a city of dilapidated buildings and a large pristine castle at its head. The two groups quickly arrive behind me and look around.
“That city there is Mar, the beastkin will have quite a bit of trouble there. With Adra to the north, Merretta to the south, Sarnova to the south east, and the Adra/Merretta border to the west there is an abundance of dungeons within a short distance of here, so I will leave it up to your two groups which direction you go. With the exception of Mar here, the rest of the dungeons are fair game as far as I know.”
Poppy: “I think we have spent more time then I want to in the arid plains of Adra. We never entered Merretta last time following along the Duscae and Livinston border heading north so I think we will head down into Merretta this time.”
Bandy: “Since master won’t let us show elder Dyson what’s what, I guess we will head west, because I don’t want to dig the sand out of my cracks and crevices in Sarnova.”
“Alright, now be careful. I would rather you make it back alive with small amounts of xp then throwing your lives away.”
Bandy: “You don’t got to worry about us. We will show you that we have 4 of your best monsters in our group.”
Chase: “Miss Bandy there is 6 of us…”
Bandy: “Damn, getting cocky aren’t we Chase? I was at least going to give the other groups the credit for 2, but now you got to work twice as hard to prove your bold statement.”
Poppy: “Take care of Mistress Belinda… She looks so much happier now that you have returned.”
“Alright… And I mean it Bandy, be careful!”
After bidding them all farewell I step back though the portal heading back to the house.
“Man that was quite tiring… Is Belinda not back yet?”
Roxy: “Adventuring in Madam Erin’s dungeon takes a bit of planning so I am sure she is going to take a little while with them to make sure they got everything handled before returning.”
“I see… I wonder if I should summon one more group of monsters, it looks like we have enough xp for it. After all we just went from 6 groups down to 3… I would like to put a group way up north in Clement or Dailian, but Exeter is too hard for a low level adventurer group to travel through alone and I haven’t been very far north into Livinston.”
Roxy: “Even if it takes them a while to get there once they are there you should be able to teleport to them then right? So for that reason alone wouldn’t it be worth it?”
“You may just have a decent point. If Belinda returns before I come back tell her I am consorting with the bunnies.”
I then transfer to the core room.
Lylah: “Hey Master, it looks like you had a house full.”
“Yea we recalled all the groups that were out and about. A few more then I expected decided to be unbound from the dungeon, so I wanted to check with you if the xp was enough that they brought back to summon another group of 6 without putting us in a bind.”
Lilah: “Lilah doesn’t know Master… The Lizardman Lord in the water wing was killed today, that is going to cost master a lot of xp to replace.”
“One of the bosses was killed? What about the sword?”
Lylah: “That is what the group used to kill the Lizardman Lord with, they lost a few members and placed the sword back so they could escape the remaining Lizardman Chieftains, but we were still dealt a major blow…”
“Did the orb return to the boss room like it was supposed to when they fled the dungeon?”
Lila: “Yes shortly after they left the dungeon the orb found its way back. I don’t think they knew its purpose, and just thought it was just a valuable gem. One of them shoved it in their pack and I doubt they even realized it was missing till they made it back to Tobes.”
“It sounds like pure luck they didn’t make it off with the sword as well… So how much xp are we going to have left after we replace what was lost?”
Lila: “Due to the fact we started replacing the Lizardman Chieftains with rifts the only cost is the Lizardman Lord. Even still after replacing it we will only have 10,318xp remaining at the end of day if no other expenses occur.”
“And we need over 20,000xp for another group don’t we?”
Lila: “21,000xp if they are all basic beastkin, but if you are talking humans in the manner in which Belinda was summoning them it would be 26,250xp for 6.”
“Well in case they do end up in Dailian they should at least be mostly humans… I guess that group will just have to wait, but I am more concerned that the adventurers will soon take the mythril blades…”
Lilah: “Master should we remove them till we are able to increase the protection of them?”
“Their disappearance now would cause quite a commotion I am sure, so no worst case scenario we lose the swords, but I still think it will take a lot more than that for them to get through the main path of the dungeon.”
The bunnies and I then discuss a few plans to follow in the immediate future, and then I return to the house.
Belinda: “I was just about to go check on you, Roxy said you were going to summon another group?”
“It appears we are too strapped on xp for the moment to do that.”
Belinda: “Is everything alright?”
“Dungeon should be safe at least, but we might suffer heavy losses soon. The amount of xp acquired by the dungeon is quite limited isn’t it? We need to find a way to really boost the amount.”
Belinda: “You already covered the entire town… I don’t see how you could possibly get more people than that.”
“There was a large influx of adventurers and mages when the elemental rooms were added because the value of the components right?”
Belinda: “You added them while we were out training, but yes that seemed to be the result. Mindy is even in talks with the mage guild in having a branch built in either Tobes or the capital.”
Belinda: “It’s a branch of the adventurer’s guild but it deals strictly with mages, having a branch in Gowen would be the highest honor, I don’t even think Exeter has one.”
“So we have about tapped out the adventurers and mages, what about other groups? We could add some mining tunnels to the dungeon with ore, or something along those lines.”
Belinda: “I discussed that with you one time before you lost your memory not long after we acquired Katie. You told me at the time that dungeon walls are unbreakable, so for a mining dungeon you need to have the available type of interior. I think it is supposed to be normal for dungeon’s but you never have been a normal dungeon core.”
“What else is there we could add?”
Belinda: “Inari, that’s one of the cores you trained. She told me after the villagers moved into her dungeon she added mines and even farmable land inside her dungeon to produce food for the villagers.”
“Farm land would take massive rooms… The xp cost alone. You said this was a dungeon I trained?”
Belinda: “She is like our daughter… She went to the island nation of Shima and due to her circumstances it’s hard for her to leave her dungeon, but she is able to gain massive amounts of xp quite easily.”
“Well if we get ahead on xp that might be something to consider, but for the moment I don’t think we would be able to try any undertaking like that. I guess the only option we have is to go out and gather the xp ourselves then…”
Belinda: “After the entire day, we have just come around full circle then ending back up right were we started…”
“Yes it seems that way… What if we decided to take a more active role in the war?”
Belinda: “You mean kill other humans…?”
“Well the dungeon does that every day already…”
Belinda: “But adventurers know what they are getting into…”
“And you are saying soldiers don’t?”
Belinda: “But to actually kill them with our own hands…”
“You have never killed a human?”
Belinda: “I have never sought to kill one… I have killed a few after being attacked but that is just self-preservation at that point.”
“Would fighting in the war really be that much different?”
Belinda: “Well it’s true it is either you or them, but making the choice to enter a battle instead of it being forced on you is where the difference lies…”
“I guess since you were born human it’s different for you. I honestly don’t see it being any different then entering another dungeon.”
Belinda: “Don’t get me wrong it’s not just humans, I feel the same way toward sentient dungeon monsters. It was only after much debate and finding out that the dungeon core was going to try to spread a plague that I became a hero, and I still felt terrible afterwards.”
“And Two-Twelve… I mean I used to feel the same?”
Belinda: “Well you kind of worked into it. At first you felt the same way as you do now, and we have even had this same conversation in the past. I think after becoming mayor though I think the humans started to grow on you.”
“Well none of that changes the fact we need to find another way to gather xp.”
Belinda: “Well I know you wanted to gather more skills before training further but that is the only other way I can see us gaining xp quickly.”
“You may be right, and I think no matter what there will always be new skills that we will learn that I will have wished we learned sooner…”
Belinda: “Where should we go then? Back to Exeter, there are a few more dungeons there and I am sure we could even press into Lodia and gather xp from the undead. It would also prove more good will with the queen.”
“Well traveling would be a pain, so I think that would be a sound idea. I guess we should inform the others and set out tomorrow.”
Belinda: “You really don’t like to relax do you…?”
“Well the point of all this is we need a quick source of xp if we waited days before leaving it wouldn’t be very quick…”
Belinda: “I jest, but I was hoping to get to spend some more time together just the two of us.”
“We do have the rest of the afternoon all to ourselves.”
After a brief time informing the others of our plans Belinda and I retire for the rest of the evening and even giving the early start it’s still not till long after I receive the new day notice in [Menu] that Belinda eventually go to sleep.
When I wake in the morning I am still quite tired after so much exertion, but somehow Belinda is already wide awake, fully dressed, and presenting me a cup of coffee with kiss, and bright smile on her face.
Belinda: “Roxy and Zoey are finishing up breakfast downstairs, and we can be ready as soon as you are.”
“You seem to be in a great mood this morning.”
Belinda: “I know there is still a lot you don’t remember, but even if the rest of your memories never return. I know without a doubt my husband is back.”
“You mean to say marathon sessions like that for us are common…?”
Belinda laughs. “That’s not it at all. In fact I can say all that extra endurance you got from becoming a hero really was a pleasant surprise… But you said us not Two-Twelve and I. Not only are you saying it but I could see it in your eyes as well, you aren’t fighting to keep the old you and the new you as separate people.”
“I’m sorry, I was just trying to do what I thought was best. I felt that keeping the old me and the new me separate was the best way to make sure I didn’t disrespect the man I was before.”
Belinda takes the coffee from my hands setting it on the table next to the bed then crawls into my lap and kisses me. “Don’t be. That kind of attitude is part of what makes me know that even without all your memories you are still my husband.”
“Well your husband seems like a dubious character.”
Belinda laughs and says. “Maybe a little, but if it’s important he always knows just what to do.”
I then jokingly say. “Now you are making me wonder if we aren’t two completely different people!”
She laughs and kisses me again, this time practically melting in my arms, but she quickly tenses up and pulls herself from the bed.
Belinda: “Well we better get downstairs now, or I’m afraid we won’t make it at all.”
“Is that a problem…?”
Belinda then lets out a short ragged breath, shakes her head, and says. “Maybe too much endurance…” She then throws a pair of clothes at me that she had draped over one of the chairs. “Now hurry and dressed.”
I then quickly get dressed and finish off my coffee before we head down stairs to meet with the others.