Chapter 145: A Rough Winter Begins

 

I am broke, exhausted, and hungry. Speedy is a slave driver… I ran out of gold two days ago, so I haven’t eaten since then and the most I have learned about the shady merchant Darwin is that he does in fact exist and he used to frequent Korta.

Any information beyond that though, like where he is from, just who he is, or where he might be now is beyond my reach.

“Speedy please! There is nothing more I can do. Dyson has far more resources he can put onto this, we should return and tell him what we have found out.”

Speedy: “Man up, you are an embarrassment to Master Dyson’s name!” –She says after appearing next to me.-

“He is a hundred times my level, it isn’t my fault there are things he can do I just cannot replicate!”

Speedy: “The important part is the attitude and right now you are acting like a spoiled noble’s son.”

“If I was a noble’s son I at least wouldn’t be starving to death!”

Speedy: “You haven’t gone long enough to pose any risk to yourself without water maybe, but just going without food you will live. Now, instead of complaining you could just make some gold yourself instead of expecting a handout.”

“Make gold myself? How do you expect me to do that?”

Speedy: “It really isn’t that hard of a concept to grasp… Take a commission or two, or do some work.”

“I am supposed to be gaining information for Dyson, not pretending to be an adventurer!”

Speedy: “Connections you make through completing commissions or doing work is a good way to gather information, and even a noble’s son would know that.”

“That wasn’t part of the agreement when I said I would pose as Dyson.”

Speedy: “What did you expect that you would pose as Dyson and never have to lift a finger your entire life?”

Speedy: “Well aren’t you in for a rude awakening.”

 

Two-Twelve’s PoV

It has been a few days since we escorted Belinda’s family to Exeter, and other then to confirm the most recent death of a dungeon core at the hands of Dyson belonging to the imposter rather than the real one I haven’t heard from Dyson at all.

It isn’t like we are going to run out of Dungeon Cores any time soon, but the rate this Dyson imposter is killing them is still disturbing none the less. They still haven’t killed any more dungeon cores I know, but it is surely only a matter of time if they aren’t stopped.

After sitting down with Doug, Belinda, Scylla, the Mage’s Guild Elders, and myself we have decided to start to allow small numbers to begin to enter the dungeon again. Of course I have returned the dungeon to normal operations by now, but I still can put on the act of being worried about the dungeon.

The Mage’s Guild is happy they can once again start gathering magic stones again to produce more of the runic magic stones. They have become a great source of revenue for Tobes and they have still never been able to supply enough to keep up with the demand. They are still not readily available but it isn’t uncommon to see one in use anymore either.

The soldiers are still guarding the entrance so they know the gnomes haven’t left the dungeon, but since they are taking it slow and easy it is two days after the started to enter again before they found the gnomes taking up residence in the section of the dungeon that they were using as a staging area in which monsters didn’t spawn.

Doug: “You all are planning on moving into the dungeon permanently?”

Bribri: “Some dungeons good to babas, some dungeons bad and no like babas, but Babaga dungeon really good to babas. Babaga dungeon gives babas more bock bocks and moo moos, so babas stays in babaga dungeon and make sure no get *cough cough*.”

Doug: “You aren’t going to start attacking the soldiers or adventurers that enter the dungeon are you?”

Bribri: “Humans needs babaga dungeon, babaga dungeon needs humans. Babaga dungeon lose aka bagaga dungeon no get *cough cough*. Humans no make babaga dungeon *cough cough* babas no make humans *cough cough*.”

Doug: “Killing the monsters doesn’t hurt the dungeon? But I still don’t understand how do we make sure we don’t hurt the dungeon?”

Bribri: “Humans no touchy the bling bling, babaga dungeon no get *cough cough*.”

Doug: “What is a bling bling?”

Bribri: “Bling bling is babaga dungeon heart stone.”

Doug: “The crystal? As long as nobody damages the crystal the dungeon won’t get hurt?”

Bribri: “Babaga dungeon sometimes mads, babaga dungeon sometimes glads, but no touchy the bling bling, babaga dungeon no get *cough cough*.”

Doug: “Then you might be glad to know that the Gowen Kingdom has an order to protect the dungeon’s crystal.”

Bribri: “babaga dungeon stills got *cough cough*.”

Doug: “The princess and her husband are the ones that helped put a stop to the ones attacking the dungeon, so they did the best they could.”

Bribri: “Too slow.”

Doug: “…Well in any case, we don’t have to worry about you attacking people as long as the dungeon’s crystal is safe is that right?”

Bribri: “Da!”

Doug: “The Mage’s Guild might want to talk to you all, but from the soldier’s side of things I guess we don’t have a problem with you being here.”

Bribri: “Babaga dungeon want babas here, soldiers no got say.”

The soldiers start posting a small patrol in the dungeon to keep an eye on the gnomes, while another patrol watches the entrance. The Mage’s Guild was quick to want to speak to the gnomes, but I made sure Bribri gave them very little.

The gnomes have invited the patrol in the dungeon to share some cooked chicken with them, but so far they haven’t had any takers, so maybe Inari was right and they won’t take the food from the gnomes. They did say the dungeon was providing to feed the gnomes, so if I add rooms with livestock now it would be far less suspicious.

The ore in the dungeon has drawn a little curiosity since the dungeon has reopened, but so far not enough to make the cost of it worth it. It may also just be to the fact winter has started to set in and first snow storm to hit was a pretty severe one.

On the up side it caused a massive surge in the sale of the small heat runic magic stones, and the locals are finding more and more clever ways to us them.

The bunnies have been slowly replacing the monsters in the dungeon we have lost, replacing some of the monsters at the new levels with things we acquired in the attack. We have gotten some action from normal adventurers, but with the timing of the reopening of the dungeon and winter setting in it actually hurt us quite a bit.

The mages, soldiers, and townsfolk alone prove more than enough xp where I won’t starve, but if it wasn’t for the inflow from Hecate, replacing the monsters would be a far slower process.

Belinda has really begun to slow down now that she is getting further along, I am sure the baby won’t be born till after the start of the new year, but I am pretty sure it will still be before winter lets up.

With the heavy winter everything seems to be slowing down, but in truth behind the veil things have never been more hectic. Two more dungeon cores have died at the hands of the fake Dyson, and this time one of them was Var who trained alongside of Dawn and Twilight.

That news seemed to shake up Dawn and Twilight pretty bad, and they want me to pay them a visit to help fortify their dungeons in a far more secure manner.  Their two dungeons are already a confusing mess of whose is whose and it was quite hard to give them any advice when together they managed to do a better job than I have.

I did give them the advice about putting their crystals in a room no bigger than the crystal itself to prevent teleportation directly to the crystal, and also locked doors and dead switches are most definitely your friend.

I hope I managed to put their minds at ease a bit, but as far as helping them I think I gained more ideas by seeing their set up then I was able to give them ideas of my own. Their ability to feed off of each other in not only xp, but in their personalities, ideals, hopes, and ideas makes my dungeon seem bland in comparison.

It seems all of my daughters are going to leave me behind. Speaking of my other daughters I have also heard from Maeve that her dry spell has seemed to have ended as well, and she said she is starting to acquire quite a few new types of monsters so it shouldn’t be long till she can pay me back.

And when I last talked to Inari she said she is going to be quite busy for a while, so I have a feeling that the corrupt dungeon that Takeshi was looking for has been found. She wanted me to be sure to let her know when Belinda has the baby though so she expects to be busy for quite a while.

I have been called to two more meetings with the elders since Laura and I have been made temporary elders, and it is quickly turning into a mess. The entire time everyone just wants to push the blame around without coming up with a solid bit of help.

Laura is trying to use her newly acquired clout to find Duke Dingleberry instead of focusing on those that are posing as Dyson. She claims it is because of the loss of Llewelyn but you can tell by the smirk on Dyson’s face and the anger in hers that apparently the Duke managed upset her on a far more personal level.

Belinda gave me a pretty hard time at Inari’s dungeon about a name for the baby, so I did a bit more digging and even paid a secret visit to Logan and her father to try to come up with a name good enough for our child, so when Belinda brings up the discussion again I will be ready.

One morning while working on the dungeon I receive a message saying to go to the city hall building quickly that there is an emergency, so I quickly transfer over and find Belinda standing back against the wall holding Scylla’s daughter while she is crying and trying to get out of Belinda’s arms reaching for Scylla and Kline, but Belinda looks terrified.

Scylla: “Good you have arrived.”

Belinda: “Two-Twelve it’s not them!”

Kline: “You need not worry, I will release them when I believe you have done what I asked.”

“You are the other old god?”

Scylla: “In a manner of speaking.”

“I told you last time, if you wanted something from me this isn’t the way to go about it, and now you are even threatening those we care about?!”

Kline: “It seems that busybody Ceres has decided to stick her nose into things and I had to be sure I got your attention.”

“You surely have our attention now, but not in a good way if you want us to do something for you.”

Scylla: “I don’t know, I think it is in the perfect way.” –She says as Kline grabs a small stiletto from the desk placing it against Scylla’s throat while Listel is still crying for her mother and father fighting to get out of Belinda’s arms.”

“Belinda, take her to the house.” -She then nods transferring from the room taking Listel with her.- “Don’t hurt them…”

Kline: “That all depends on you.”

“What do you want? I have done everything you asked.”

Scylla: “And then you turned around and undermined everything I am trying to achieve by helping Ceres.”

“At least Ceres never threatened my family. If you have a problem with Ceres take it up with her not with us.”

Kline: “Oh I intend to, but first I need you to do something for me. I need you to kill Dungeon Core #245”

“#245…I can’t.”

Scylla: “You can’t can you?” –She says as Kline presses the stiletto harder against her throat enough to draw blood.-

“Inari has already passed me in strength a long time ago, so even if I wanted to I couldn’t kill her.”

Kline: “But she trusts her dear daddy, so surely you could get it done if you put your mind to it, or would you rather lose these two?”

“Scylla…Kline… I know you can’t hear me right now, but I am sorry I can’t. Entire villages full of people depend on Inari, so even if I could kill her I won’t.”

Scylla: “Very well then you can watch them both die.”

Kline: “Or better yet, you can watch her die and then explain to her husband how you let him carve up his own wife!”

If he is going to kill them anyway I have to try something so I quickly cast [Blink] reaching Kline trying to pull the stiletto from his hand as it slides across Scylla’s neck. I quickly start casting a heal spell as the blood flows from Scylla’s neck.

With Kline’s level I should have no problem overpowering him, but I just can’t seem to overtake him, and the more I struggle against the stiletto the more gashes appear on Scylla’s neck. As I struggle against Kline I hear a voice.

The voice rings out, but not just in the room. The single word is in my head, and down to my bones the voice reverberates through my entire being. The word seems to echo on for eternity, but is uttered in a single instant and the entire world seems to heed its command as everything comes grinding to a [Stop].

The very next instant everything has changed. I am no longer fighting against Kline, as Scylla is laying on a nearby sofa with a chair next to it in which Kline sits. The blood on our hands is still there, but the blood on Scylla’s neck is gone. Shelves, the desk, and the rest of the room is in total disarray with parchment scattered everywhere a broken inkwell on the floor with the ink held within sliding down the wall.

Standing in front of me is a small feminine figure with like pink hair every strand of which standing on end as it seems to be putting off a bright light which instantly fades and the hair finds gravity and slowly begins to fall. Ceres stands there red faced and breathing quite heavily as every strand of her hair seems to fall into its own perfect place.

In one hand she is holding a blade, but unlike any blade I have even seen before it doesn’t even seem to follow logic as it bends and twists in different directions. Her other hand is clasped over her stomach with the front of her shirt and hand soaked with a shiny golden colored liquid that seems to burn up as it drips to the floor leaving scorched marks where it hits.

“Ceres, are you ok…?”

She smiles weakly and says. “I’m sorry I was late, everything is changing so fast it is hard to keep track.”

“What happened?”

Ceres: “Well I won if that counts for anything… The battle at least, but I fear I might have just cost us the war…”-She then seems to faint, but I as I try to catch her she passes straight through my arms, and when she would hit the floor she just disappears.-

“Ceres!”

As I call out Kline and Scylla both stir quickly looking around asking what happened and what is going on.

Scylla: “Where is Listel!?”

“Belinda has her, I sent her back to the house.”

Kline: “Well what happened? We were talking about the winter solstice festival with Belinda and then we were here like this.”

I send a message to Belinda to make sure she and Listel are indeed safe.

“I’m not quite sure, but I got a message from Belinda about there being an emergency and when I arrived you both where under the control of that old god that had Samuel. He threatened to kill you two if I didn’t kill Inari, but Inari has so many that relay on her so I just couldn’t do it. There was a scuffle and the next thing I know you both were there, I was here, and Ceres was here, but she looked in bad shape and I think she was bleeding. She then seemed to faint, but I couldn’t catch her and she just disappeared…I don’t know what is going on, if Ceres is even alive, or what she meant about losing the war.”

We start to pick up the office while we talk about what just happened. Belinda then returns with Listel and Scylla and Kline both hug her tightly. I then tell Belinda what happened.

Belinda: “What do we do now?”

“We have to warn Inari, I don’t know why he wanted her dead, but if he is still out there she might be in danger.”

Belinda: “Of course.”

“Kline, Scylla… I would like you three to join the dungeon. I asked Ceres a while back if Samuel really was Kline’s ancestor, and if he still posed a threat and Ceres said any beastkin, dwarf, elf, demi-human that wasn’t bound to a dungeon can be taken over. If that god isn’t done with us I don’t want him using you three against us again.”

Scylla: “Of course!”

Kline: “I’m not sure how this all works, but wouldn’t that cost you a great deal of xp?”

“I don’t care of the xp cost if it keeps us safe.”

Kline: “We won’t end up like the others and change will we?”

“I don’t think so. I believe that only happens when a normal dungeon would have access to a new boss monster.”

Scylla: “What about Listel? If we were part of the dungeon when she was born it would let you add her then, but I don’t know if it will let you add her if she can’t choose to accept or not.”

“I don’t know, but I am going to at least try it. I need to go tell the bunnies about using the xp.”

I transfer to the dungeon core room and tell the bunnies what is going on, they seem rather worried because they didn’t notice anything on the screens, but they are focused on the dungeon so it isn’t surprising they didn’t see something that happened in town.

I figure it up with Lila on how much it would be to add Scylla’s family to the dungeon, and we are cutting it very close… So close I actually have to break down a few items in the dungeon inventory to have enough xp to add them, but at this point I would rather they be safe.

I send a quick message to Inari telling her about what happened, and return to the city hall building. I set it up and add Scylla and Kline to the dungeon easily enough, but for Listel it is a bit different. Just by adding both Scylla and Kline it asks to add Listel. It isn’t a discounted xp amount that you would pay to add them at birth, but at least I am able to bind all three to the dungeon.

Belinda: “What do we do now?”

“Honestly I haven’t a clue, I am still waiting to hear back from Inari, but I should warn the Elders as well. I would also be very careful of any non-human that isn’t bound to the dungeon for a while.”

Belinda: “What about Kaelmathis? He is at the house with Azami.”

“I don’t know how strong Kaelmathis is, but under the old gods control I couldn’t over power Kline, so I think we should warn them both.”

I spend the next few hours warning everyone about what has happened, and I eventually hear back from Inari.

Inari: (That sounds really bad, are you sure everything is ok Daddy?)

(He wants you dead so I am more worried about you.)

Inari: (Don’t worry about us, we will take care of ourselves, you just take care of Mommy and Aunt Scylla.)

(I know you didn’t say anything, and it isn’t my business but if you managed to discover another one of those corrupt dungeons this timing doesn’t sound accidental, so if you do mess with one of those dungeons please be extra careful.)

Inari: (We still are not 100% sure it is another one, but we really do believe it is. I hear you though and I don’t care if Yuji throws a tantrum we will take it extra slow to be on the safe side.)

Dyson and Madam Erin seem to believe me, but I am not sure about Lucille and Draco. I even warned Laura, but she laughed at me, but I did my part so the rest is on her.

Queen is not only surrounded by her own beastkin, but others that have arrived on their own accord as well, so I warn her, and any other dungeon cores that it might be put in a bad way because of the old god.

That evening when Belinda and I finally sit down to rest for a while she looks positively exhausted.

Belinda: “With everything going on…What kind of world are we bringing out daughter into?”

“There isn’t much we can do about it, except keep giving it our best.”

Belinda: “But even Ceres has given up, you said it she said the war was lost.”

“Well she wasn’t exactly at her best at the moment.”

Belinda: “At her best? Do you even know if she is still alive?”

“No, I don’t.”

Ceres: “You haven’t given up on me have you?” –She says appearing on the couch next to Belinda startling her.-

She is wearing different clothes, but I would say she was back to her usual self, she doesn’t appear wounded, but she looks exhausted.

Ceres: “Easy there, don’t get to excited and go into premature labor. Things are out of sorts enough as it is. Then again maybe something like that would put things back on track.”

“You never gave me a chance to thank you for what you did before, so thank you.”

Ceres: “Don’t mention it. I look out for what’s mine.”

“Except I’m not yours.”

Ceres: “The choice is yours, but don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

“Can you at least tell us what is going on?”

Ceres: “I’ll tell you everything if you don’t mind paying for the consequences.”

“What will happen if you tell me?”

Ceres: “Don’t know.”

“What will happen if you don’t tell me?”

Ceres: “With the way everything has been changing? …I don’t know.”

“So for all you know telling me what is going on could change things for the better?”

Ceres: “That is why I gave you the offer.”

“Unless you can tell me for sure that not knowing will bring us less harm, then I want to know what is going on…”

Ceres: “Where should I start?”

“Well first thing is first I guess, after seeing your blood, and what you did. You are one of the old gods, aren’t you?”

Ceres: “Am I one of them the humans referred to as the old gods? Yes I am, but am I a goddess? Well I guess that depends on your definition of the word.”

“Then what are you?”

Ceres: “Well we created the dungeons, so I guess we are your gods, but for who created us, humans, and everything else. I guess you could call them or it the ancient god or gods.”

“Then what happened to them?”

Ceres: “Him, her, they, it, whatever the case, created everything and then us to keep things in check, and then they were just gone.”

“If it left you in charge, why did the old gods then disappear?”

Ceres: “Some of us wanted more, some just wanted answers, so we created the dungeons like we were created and most of us then set off to find the one that created us, but the one we left the dungeons to. Well I guess she had other plans…”

“I guess you being back means you didn’t find the ancient ones?”

Ceres: “Some of us gave up quicker than others, and a few are still out there searching, but when I got back I couldn’t believe what the dungeons had become. I couldn’t call my sister out for what she had done to the dungeons, because of the fact in how far the humans have come, so I resumed this form and decided to just keep an eye on things on the sidelines.”

“Then the one controlling the dungeon’s [Menu] is your sister?”

Ceres: “Well as much as any other the other “old gods” are, but her name isn’t something that can be pronounced with speech, so I just called her my sister.”

“If we were intended to be your replacements then what happened…?”

Ceres: “My sister seemed to resent the fact our creators had left us, or maybe she just resented us for leaving her behind, but what should have been a means for our creations to become gods in their own right she turned into a tool giving parts of it to our creations and instead turned you all into dungeons.”

“Then the changes that have been happening in [Menu] are those her doing or yours?”

Ceres: “Well some of use felt that even though you didn’t become what we intended, that doesn’t mean you didn’t become something just as interesting all the same. We started with you, cutting a few of the cords to see what would happen if you were all just left to your own devices, and although you have stumbled a bit along the way you have managed just fine on your own.”

“Then the reason I am different than the others is what some kind of experiment on your part?”

Ceres: “One that has seemed to pay off, and now since you have managed so well we decided to give you all bit more freedom. Now the current dungeon cores are bound to [Menu] through their crystals, and there isn’t much that can be done with that, but your children, or your children’s children. They will be continuations of what we started with you.”

Belinda: “Our daughter won’t be a dungeon core?”

Ceres: “She will still be a dungeon core, but she will be her own crystal, or maybe I should say she will be the first actual dungeon core.”

“Does that mean she will never be able to leave her dungeon then?”

Ceres: “Oh no, things will work much differently for her. She won’t be restricted to any one location, because she will be the crystal itself, she can walk right out of the dungeon. If she doesn’t return to the dungeon it would begin to decay like any other, but depending on its size that could be hours, days, or even years.”

Belinda: “Then if she doesn’t want to make a dungeon she doesn’t have to?”

Ceres: “Well sure, if she wanted she could live among humans, and never even access her [Menu] if she wanted.”

“What about her xp consumption?”

Ceres: “Well she can use xp to sustain herself like a dungeon core, or sustain herself like a human through food and drink. She will only use xp to sustain herself if she doesn’t do so the human way, and only if she has neither xp or food and drink will she begin to starve. Once she is old enough though, she will be able to preemptively sustain herself with xp if she decides against consuming food or drink.”

“You said when she is old enough, so that means she will age like a human?”

Ceres: “These second generation dungeon cores will age like their respective races, so for your child yes, and like a dungeon monster once they reach maturity they will cease to age. I won’t say indefinitely, but well no current dungeon cores have reached the end of their life span and it will be the same for them.”

“What about human dungeon cores? They still can’t have children.”

Ceres: “We wanted to test the waters a bit, and only allowed 5 of the second generation cores for now, but if it works out the other dungeons will then begin receiving the option, and we will raise the number.”

“5 you mean there are already going to be 5 of these new cores going to be born? I knew about Draco’s, but who else is having a child?”

Ceres: “There is your daughter, the 3 dragonkins, and the succubus.”

“3 I thought Draco only was having 1?”

Ceres: “That was the reason for us putting a limit to only 5 at the start, as he has tried over 2 dozen times since.”

“So much for the agreement of only one per Elder… And how did Dyson already manage to get the succubus pregnant, shouldn’t he have needed to be able to summon them first?”

Ceres: “No, not him. The wolf beastkin Elder used the same method as your beastkin ladies did to impregnate her succubus.”

“Madam Erin?!” –Just the thought of that makes my body shudder. I then change the subject to try to get that thought from my head.- “What about the other god? You said you won the battle but may have lost the war, what exactly does that mean?

Ceres: “Well I am sure he is still licking his wounds, but he will be back and next time he won’t be caught off guard again.”

“Then he is stronger then you? And just who is he?”

Ceres: “One on one I should be able to manage, but if this escalates there are others that might side with him and cause quite a problem. He has gone by a few names in the human language, but the most commonly they just called him the great hunter. Even before the dungeons we created a few of the monster races like goblins and kobolds, he was the one that controlled them.”

“But what about beastkin, and the others why can he control them?”

Ceres: “They may have been created by the dungeons, but [Menu] is still ours, so he can control them as well.”

“You said some might side with him, what about those that might side with you?”

Ceres: “Most will remain neutral, and won’t get involved, but I am still going to try.”

“How do I protect myself from him?”

Ceres: “I managed to deal a substantial wound, and we don’t exactly heal the same way you do. I was able to patch myself up but it may be years before I am back at full strength and the same goes for him. You did the best you could by having your monster and her family join your dungeon, but from now on any dealings with dungeon races that are not bound to a dungeon, you will have to be extra careful.”

“He wanted me to kill Inari, do you know why?”

Ceres: “The “old god” Inari, will probably side with me, it has been using your daughter Inari to stop the corrupted dungeons in Shima, but we still don’t know who the ones responsible for making the corrupt dungeons was. I don’t know if the great hunter is the one that is responsible for it, if he is trying to help the one that is so they will side with him, or if he is just trying to get the “old god” Inari out of his way.”

“What about the ones attacking the dungeons in Dyson’s name? I know you said it was a dungeon core problem, but anything you can tell me on that?”

Ceres: “I tried to give my sister the benefit of the doubt, and although I still do believe it is only a dungeon core that is behind this, I think she might be bitter for some of us coming back and changing the rules of [Menu] so although she isn’t doing this herself, she may have given a dungeon core an edge he or she wouldn’t have normally had otherwise.”

Even though Ceres has no wound anymore she suddenly winces so I ask her. “Are you sure you are ok?”

Ceres: “Like I said it may take quite a while for everything to be back to normal… I know you are sure to have many more questions, but I think we are going to have to hold them off for another day while I recover a bit.”

Belinda: “Thank you for protecting my husband, Scylla, and her family.”

Ceres then just smiles and nods before disappearing from the room. After Ceres is gone I get up from my chair and take a seat next to Belinda where Ceres was sitting and Belinda lays her head on my shoulder. Belinda and I then just try to piece together all the information we just learned.

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