Chapter 152: A Surprise During the Winter Solstice Festival

 

After sending a message to 754 currently living dungeon cores, I received responses from less than 50 back. Sending all those messages also gave me a bit of appreciation for my wife, as she did something similar when I disappeared, and as far as I know those are the only two instances that anyone has tried to contact every dungeon core at once.

After spending an entire day sending the messages, acquiring communication parchments, the hardest part turned out delivering them. I know some of the traitors have received the message, so they would be able to catch me quite easily when I delivered them, so I had to get a little creative in my delivery method.

With the nature of the communication parchments I at least only had to write the message once this time, but it is an apology and explanation why I popped in and out of their dungeons before they even realized I was there.

When I returned home that evening exhausted and out of magic I find Ceres in my house waiting for me to return home.

Ceres: “Well that was rude…”

“Sorry, it has been a long day.”

Ceres: “You look like hell.”

“Well, thank you…”

Ceres: “Just what have you been up to the last few days, I haven’t been able to track your movements, or even catch glimpses of your immediate future for days.”

I tell Ceres everything, about Chansey, Merretta’s King, the traitorous dungeon cores, Draco’s death and curious circumstances around it, and my seemingly failed efforts to unite the dungeon cores.

Ceres: “This isn’t right! None of this is!”

“You’re telling me…”

Ceres: “I am serious. I haven’t foreseen any of this!”

“You haven’t exactly been on the top of your game since your run in with the great hunter.”

Ceres: “Things have been getting harder and harder to see as so many paths have sprung up, but this? None of this was in any of it.”

“What could cause something like that?”

Ceres: “One of my siblings… It’s the only way.”

“Well we know the great hunter is up to no good, but this sounds more along the lines of your sister that watches over [Menu]. You said you were starting to think she was more involved then you thought, so maybe she is way more involved then you thought.”

Ceres: “But that is impossible! Her very existence is tied to [Menu] so to do something like this to tear down its integrity just doesn’t make sense.”

“I actually wanted to ask you about that, I am receiving justicar points for stopping these people, but if they are assisted by her, isn’t that going against what she is trying to do?”

Ceres: “The only way that makes sense is if she intended you to stop this from the start. She has pushed back at us ever since we created you, and one such example was making you the Archjusticar. We made you to be different then all the rest, but she has used things like the [Archjusticar Menu] to push you back into the group.”

“Then why give me abilities that far exceed what normal dungeon cores can do?”

Ceres: “So far they have just been variations of the Elders unique abilities, like a limited version of Dyson’s [Observation], your [Map] is like the one Madam Erin created with her runic abilities, the information about other cores is off shot of Faron’s [Knowledge] ability, and the boons and penalties are a combination of Fredrick, Lucille, Draco, and I am sure a bit of Leland’s abilities rolled into one.”

“What about the binding of the crystals, or the newest ability I unlocked which allows the creation of a new dungeon core?”

Ceres: “The ability to do what?! Is this her way of kicking back at us for stopping the production of more dungeon cores? Does the ability create the new style cores like your daughter will become, or a traditional style dungeon core?”

“Well it says the ability creates a dungeon crystal, and that with the approval of a sentient being I can bind them to that crystal, so I assume it is like the normal dungeons.”

Ceres: “She is trying to bypass what we did by allowing Dungeon Cores to reproduce. Wait… Then the dungeon cores that have been killed?”  –She seems to look extremely worried. – “I have to go!” –Ceres then just disappears.-

What did she figure out…? She could have at least told me what she was thinking before she left, I thought the part where she didn’t tell me things was behind us. In any case I am quite exhausted, and have many more of these communication parchments to deliver tomorrow, so I decide get ready for bed.

It is already dark, but still relatively early, and Belinda didn’t wake up till at least noon, so I’m not surprised she isn’t home yet, so I just leave her a message telling her I am preparing for bed. She enters the room shortly after I send the message, and if I look exhausted, I don’t even know if there are words that describe how worn out Belinda looks.

“You should be taking it easy…”

Belinda: “I am! Is Ceres sure about how much she said the baby was going to weigh, because it definitely feels like a lot more than that…”

“Maybe you should take a few days off from helping Scylla, and just make sure you get plenty of rest.”

Belinda: “I only helped out half a day today! We only have 4 more days of preparations for the winter solstice festival, and there is still so much to do.”

“When we made Scylla the mayor we did it because we knew she was up to it, I am sure you are a great help to her, but I bet she has it handled. With everything going on right now the last thing we need right now is something to happen because you pushed yourself to hard.”

Belinda: “I guess I have been getting in the way more than actually helping…”

“I am sure you have been a big help, and they don’t think you have been in the way at all, but it’s time to let them handle the rest, and you get your rest.”

Belinda: “I guess the girls are helping her as well, so they have it handled…”

“Actually I am going to have to make quite a few [Gate] trips tomorrow, so I am going to need all the girls that can cast it. Has Azami made it back yet?”

Belinda: “This is the first time she actually wanted to go visit her sister since joining us. Back when we gave her sister a communication parchment the first time her sister sent a message Azami gave the communication parchment to me, and she hasn’t spoken a word to her sister since, but since this is something she wanted to do I really wanted her to be able to enjoy it.”

“I guess it would be a bit harder, but maybe Roxy and I can handle it, or I could finally teach [Gate] to Zoey to help out as well.”

Belinda: “What about me?”

“I didn’t finally talk you out of taking a break from working with Scylla, then turn around and expect you do work for me, besides there is a chance this could be dangerous and I am not about to risk sending you right now.”

Belinda: “I am your boss monster! Danger comes along with that!”

“And once the baby is born and you are back on your feet, I expect you to be by my side as always, but until then the baby isn’t, so your job is to protect her.”

Belinda: “I feel so useless.”

“I remember feeling that way for a long time before I got my ring, but I promise you will be back on your feet in no time.”

She then stretches to give me a kiss then falls on the bed. She uses [Menu] to change her clothes then she crawls under the blankets. When I crawl into bed Belinda then quickly crawls over the top of me.

“You can’t possibly have the energy tonight…?”

Belinda: “I told you last night, it’s going to be a long dry spell afterwards, so I am going to make the most of it while I can!”

Under different circumstances I might feel insulted when she falls asleep halfway through, but instead I can’t help but just laugh. The look on her face while she peacefully sleeps is all the gratification I need, so I gently kiss her and go to sleep myself.

The next morning I get up and make breakfast. It is something we haven’t done for a while, but I know as soon as I message Zoey about it, I won’t have to track them down after that. I am sure I didn’t make that much noise, but it isn’t long until Belinda comes and checks on me.

“You didn’t have to get out of bed.”

Belinda walks up behind me and places he chin on my shoulder, wrapping her arms around me, and running on of her hands up into my shirt. “I’m sorry about last night, but I can make it up to you.” She says then starts to nibble on my ear.

“I already messaged the girls and told them about breakfast, so I will have to take a rain check.”

Belinda: “I’m going to hold you to that!” –She says while tickling my stomach with her fingers causing my muscles to contract. She then giggles and we hear a knock on the front door.-

“I guess they are here.”

Belinda: “It’s nothing they haven’t taken a sneak peek at through [Menu].”

“That must have been some rest you got last night…But even still I am sure it isn’t something your brother wants to see.” –I say as I can hear Doug’s voice as him and Aria speak with Vetala in the other room.-

Belinda: “Then I owe you twice.” –She whispers in my ear, slowly lets go of me, moves over to one of the chairs, and sits just in time to greet Doug and Aria as they enter the dining room.-

Doug: “Good morning, it’s been a while. I was surprised to get your message this morning.”

“Yes, it’s been quite busy lately, and I don’t know how long it will be before we can do this again. Besides I needed to borrow Roxy today, and I knew the quickest way was to tell Zoey I was making breakfast, but I figured it would be nice to invite everyone else as well.”

“Well you definitely weren’t wrong.” –Roxy says as she enters the dining room with Zoey in tow.- “It took a bit of effort just to make sure Zoey even got dressed before bailing out the door at the mention of food.”

Zoey: “As long as the food wasn’t a lie, I’m not even mad that he did it on purpose!”

“And how are you holding up Roxy?”

Roxy: “I might have gotten pregnant just a few weeks after Belinda, but my baby doesn’t seem to be in near the rush as yours is.”

“Well I am sorry about having to ask something that might be potentially dangerous, with the baby and all.”

Zoey: “Don’t sweat it boss. He is tough and he can handle it.”

Roxy: “It could be a girl.”

Zoey: “Na, he is just like me!”

Roxy: “You’re a girl!”

Zoey: “That doesn’t stop you from calling me Daddy!”

Doug: “Aria does the same thing… What is with that?” –He says causing Aria to blush.-

“Alright, young ears entering!” –Scylla says as Kline, Scylla and Listel enter the dining room.-

“Morning, I figured if I am stealing all your help the least I could do was offer you breakfast.”

Scylla: “I am sure Kline appreciates it, we haven’t had time to sit down to an actual meal in weeks.”

Kline: “It beats trail rations, so I have no complaints.”

Even Bell and Sofia join us for breakfast while Vetala just watches us eat with longing. Katie doesn’t join us because she says she already promised to have breakfast with the dwarves, but I think she just prefers their ale soaked bread for breakfast rather then what we are having.

With the snow even all 6 bunnies manage to pop in and out at least for a small amount of time apiece. We also invited Moss, but even with Lala and Lele begging him he still refused to join us. By the time breakfast is over Belinda looks refreshed in a way that just rest couldn’t have accomplished, so I don’t believe a second of it was a waste.

After teaching Zoey the [Gate] spell we end up using a fair chunk of her magic just to make sure she can use it right, we then set on the task of delivering the remaining communication parchments. I am the only one that can use [Archjusticar Menu] so the others can’t see where we are going and I just have to do a good job describing it to them.

That means it actually takes quite a bit longer between each jump, but it spreads the magic consumption amongst us. It takes the entire day but we manage to deliver them all. Now I can’t imagine what would have happened, had more dungeon cores responded to me.

I can finally send a unified message to all of them that wish to assist me, or at least hear me out, but I don’t know if that actually is going to mean anything. Most dungeon cores I have gotten the attention of are young, and the older ones don’t seem near as interested as the younger ones.

For now I just go into greater detail about the situation we have found ourselves in, and present a desire to do something about it. I am not above asking for any suggestions or listening to their comments as well.

Belinda holds up to her word that evening and I think she tired me out more than the actual working did. I spend the next day keeping an open conversation through the communication parchment with the other dungeon cores, while I work on a few things in the dungeon.

The magic crystal I learned to copy due to Dyson turned out to be very expensive, but very worth it as well. Using it I manage to make my first runic gateway, but the location is fixed and cannot be altered, and it only works one way.

Setting up one this way on either side however would work for traveling to or from fixed locations, but the amount of magic you have to focus into the magic stone to activate the portal is more than the average human has.

It also will not help the Mage’s Guild reach Maeve’s dungeon, because although setting one on her dungeon could lead them back to Tobes every time, you can’t set one leading to her dungeon with it being always on the move.

I haven’t heard from Ceres since she took off in a hurry, and the only elder I have heard from was Madam Erin, who simply asked if my plan is working out as I had hoped. I don’t know if she was being sarcastic or sincere so I just told her it’s a work in progress.

The skymetal that my new gear is made from is only slightly more expensive then mythril to summon at base cost, but it has a requirement to be summoned as master quality or higher, so that raises its cost considerably. For now I just take the sword and armor I have and work on improving them by using runes.

Belinda has spoken to Azami to make sure she is alright, but she said she would learn mythril crafting days ago and then she hasn’t been home since. I am worried that being in the village with all those elves that are no longer bound to a dungeon, that the great hunter might do something. Azami however just says she is fine and will return when she is done.

Even though Belinda still talks about making the school for higher learning, she decides to open her inn back up, to accommodate the extra people that are arriving in town for the solstice festival. Then again the school may never be built as it seems every time it is mentioned the scale in which she has plans to build it increase exponentially.

As the winter solstice festival approaches Belinda makes me promise that unless it is a dire emergency, she asks me to spend those three days with her. As it happens we don’t reach any considerable progress while speaking with the communication parchments, and there haven’t been any more attacks by the traitorous dungeon cores, so on the morning of the beginning of the solstice festival I make the perpetrations and set out to spend the next few days with Belinda.

Azami still has yet to arrive home, but we finally got enough out of her to find out that instead of making a simple dagger to learn the skill she decided to make a heavy armor, and that is the reason it is taking so long, but it still doesn’t quite explain why she had to return to her village to do so.

The first day of the festival has almost no events as everything makes their way around checking things out. There are a few events that happen to keep things going, but nothing really interesting, and even though we didn’t get to see the entire thing Belinda is wore out, and we have to give it up.

The second day is much better because a vast majority of the events that day are stage plays, and performers which allow Belinda to find a comfortable spot and just enjoy the shows. It starts to snow pretty heavily that afternoon however, so the events that can be, are moved inside.

The morning of the last day of the festival, as Belinda and I depart the house we have a visitor round the gate and wave at us. I haven’t seen Ceres since she left in such a hurry, but she doesn’t seem worried at all as she approaches us.

“Morning… I guess whatever your hunch was it proved false?”

Ceres: “Today is a day of celebration, no need to worry about business talk today, and I hope you don’t mind me intruding in your date today, I had some free time, so I wanted to see just what you all cooked up for this festival of yours.”

Belinda: “We will be meeting up with the others, so you are welcome to join us, but you always seem like you are in such a rush, you do know this will be a long drawn out event right?”

Ceres: “Oh believe me I know exactly how long it will take, and I wouldn’t miss it.” –She says while squeezing between Belinda and me as we make our way to the events.-

As we meet up with the others, some of them are quite surprised to see Ceres, and she still makes Roxy and Zoey a little nervous when she is close to them, but Ceres really does seem to be acting like a normal person today…

She talks, eats, drinks, and watches the events with everyone. Roxy and Zoey’s nervousness seems to fade some but they are still rather cautious of her, but Ceres really does seem to pay them a bit more attention than everyone else.

Between one of the events she sits down with Belinda and me while saying. “So, have you two picked out a name for the baby yet? I’m not one to brag, but I think I saved your lives no less than 5 times already.”

“I don’t know where you get that number from, or even if it is remotely true, but we are not naming the baby after you…”

Ceres: “It’s a shame! I mean what’s better than having a goddess as a godparent!”

“I thought you didn’t hold to the belief that the old gods are gods and goddesses? Wasn’t that the very reason you claimed to worship someone instead of admitting you were the one doing all those things yourself?”

Ceres: “Well goddess for a godparent, sounds a lot better than, “a person left responsible for the lives of humans by the original makers who are often referred to as old gods” for a godparent! Of course I only jest, as I already know what your daughter’s name will be, I was just curious if you do yet!”

Belinda: “We have talked about it a little bit, but nothing seriously.”

“Well I thought I was being serious when I suggested naming her after your grandmother, and if that wasn’t who you were named after it would have been a decent idea… I have done quite a bit more digging however and have come up with another idea.”

Ceres: “Oh do tell!”

Belinda: “I am not naming her Gertrude after my great-grandmother either!”

“I thought more along the line of Rory.”

Belinda: “Rory? Where did you get Rory?”

Kline who is talking with Scylla nearby overhears me and says. “Wait, isn’t that the name Amy found for Samuel’s grand-daughter when she was researching our family?”

“That’s exactly right. Samuel’s grand-daughter, and your great-grandmother, and she would have been the first Torres to become a Gowen princess if it wasn’t for the fact she was born a beastkin.”

Kline: “I couldn’t ask you to do that…”

Belinda: “No! I think it’s perfect. She couldn’t be family because of the times, but her namesake will be. I can’t make up for the way I treated Amy growing up, but Rory Torres Gowen will be the recognition that your family deserves.”

Ceres just sits there with a content sly smile on her face without saying a word.

Belinda: “I am kind of curious how you came up with that idea though…”

“That’s rude, I will have you know I have been putting great thought into it, and even spoke to your father and brother about it. They both approve by the way.”

Belinda: “You even got father’s approval already?!”

“If that’s the name you like, then yes. After messing up with your grandmother’s name I didn’t want a repeat of that, so I made sure to do it correctly. Of course if you shot it down I would have been in a lot of trouble…”

Belinda laughs and rubs her stomach and speaks to it. “How do you like that Rory Torres Gowen?”

Ceres: “They just started the dancing event. Go on Two-Twelve it’s time to celebrate!”

Belinda grabs my hand pulling me to my feet to go dance with her. I might not be the best of dancers, but the baby isn’t making things much easier, but Belinda is smiling and laughing, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

“I’m really surprised about Ceres today… I know after what happened with the great hunter she has been checking up on us just to check up on us, but I still thought this was a bit out of character, even for her.”

Belinda: “Like I keep telling you, you have a way to draw people to you.” –She says with a smile, but then her face quickly contorts. She then quickly grabs her stomach and her face shows that of pain.-

“Belinda, are you ok?”

Belinda’s face quickly changes again, but this time it lights up and she has a bright smile.” Oh my goodness! Two-Twelve! It’s time!”

“Are you sure?!”

Belinda then doubles over and grunt. “Oh pretty sure…”

I quickly look over to the group sitting off to the side and Ceres is sitting there with a wide smile on her face staring at me.

I then quickly transfer Belinda back home, while sending a message to the others to quickly find the midwife.

I have Belinda lay down and I start running through the checklist we had prepared for when the baby came. Before I can even get half of it done the front door of the house quickly opens and among several of the girls, the midwife, and Ceres is among them.

I quickly direct the midwife upstairs to one of the girls old rooms that we had set up for this moment and she tells me to relax and have a seat. It’s never a bad idea to have someone who can use healing magic available so Scylla goes with the midwife and for some reason Ceres follows as well.

I find myself pacing the floor when Kline places his hand on my shoulder. “Don’t you worry, Scylla is with her, so I don’t think anything could happen that they are not prepared for.”

“I know that… But it doesn’t seem to help much.”

Zoey: “You got nothing to worry about boss! Belinda was there to fix up Scylla when Listel ripped through her like a gnome with a short sword, and they both came through alright.”

“I will remember that when it’s you and Roxy’s turn…”

Roxy: “Ceres is also with them, having the watchful eyes of a god in the room should be reassuring…”

“That is also what worries me… We have come a long way with Ceres, but she has been acting peculiar today, even for her.”

Kline: “I am sure you are just looking too much into it.”

“I hope you are right…” –I say while continuing my pacing.-

It takes a few hours without any word before the midwife calls for Roxy to join them and I begin to worry even more, but it isn’t long after that I receive a message.

2nd Generation Dungeon Core #1 has been born to Dungeon Core #212 [Archjusticar —— Gowen], and Dungeon Core #212’s boss monster Belinda Gowen.

I then hear the cries from the baby upstairs and the quick hurried footfalls as Roxy arrives at the top of the stairs a bit pale in the face, but with a large smile on her face as she announces the birth. Roxy tells us everything went smoothly, but her complexion doesn’t seem to be improving as she talks about it.

After a few more minutes I start to receive a few messages from the Elders, but not of that is important right now as they are calling for me to join Belinda and the baby.

It’s an odd feeling as I pass the threshold from the hallway into the room and see Belinda laying there. Even as a boss monster of my dungeon she is still sweating quite a bit, but I can’t think of a moment I have seen her look any more beautiful as she looks down at the small bundle in her arms.

I quickly make my way across the room and give Belinda a kiss. She smiles at me looking exhausted. She then introduces me to our daughter and even being just born she has a full dark red hair and shinning blue eyes.

After a few minutes Belinda lets me hold little Rory and as I cradle her I notice that the only others in the room are Scylla and the midwife who are fussing with things concerning the birth of the baby.

“What happened to Ceres?”

Scylla: “I don’t think she had the stomach for it, after Belinda started to give birth, Ceres just disappeared. Roxy didn’t seem to take it too well either, but she stuck it out.”

The winter solstice festival is long forgotten as we spend the rest of the day in the house, introducing our daughter to the rest of the members of our family.

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