I slowly open my eyes and its dark… Is this what it is like to be dead? Even those referred to as the old gods aren’t entirely sure what happens after death. We know there are several stages of death and once the spirt leaves the body death becomes permanent and irreversible.
Even we are not immune to that, but once the spirit leaves the body, even we don’t know what happens after that. Not that I can tell anyone, but I guess it comes to this dark place. In my last selfish struggle at the inevitable, I hope I didn’t cause any repercussions to Two-Twelve and his family.
You see, as I stood there and watched the miracle that was Two-Twelve’s daughter being born, it came to the point where the next future event became clear, and the result was my own demise… I know an event is impossible to change, but I quickly seen many paths and all where I chose to stay near Two-Twelve resulted in the massacre of his family.
I knew right then I had to get away, far away. I knew I couldn’t escape my own fate, but if I could save him and his family that might be enough. I just hope after it happened that my return didn’t bring about a bad ending for him.
This darkness is kind of lonely, but feels quite nice. The constant pain I have felt since I quarreled with that ancient dragon all those years ago, and then the pain I received when I saved Two-Twelve from the great hunter, and even the pain of my death has all been washed away, and I now feel like I am laying in a warm soft bed.
A bright light suddenly assaults my eyes and I quickly shut them even with my eyes closes from the break in the light I can tell there is movement going on. Is this the Ancient one? Have I finally found our creator? I then hear a voice…
○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○
“Ceres… How do you feel?”
Ceres raises her hand to shield her face from the light pouring in through the doorway, and she then sits up. I advert my gaze when the blanket covering her falls exposing her bare chest. She quickly realizes her predicament pulling the blanket back over her and looking around confused.
Ceres: “What’s going on? How is this possible?”
“Do you not remember what happened?”
Ceres: “It is quite a blur, but I died! I had to of, it was the next event!”
“Well I don’t know anything about that, but you are still very much alive, but I am not sure what that will mean to you going forward.”
Ceres: “What do you mean?”
“As you were laying there on the couch bleeding to death, I begged you to tell me what to do, but then you said something that gave me an idea. I am not sure that was your sister’s intention when she gave me that ability, but I was able to save your life by making you a dungeon core…”
Ceres: “Then I’m alive…?”
“Well if this is the afterlife I am sorry you got stuck with me for it…”
Ceres: “An event is impossible to stop, and my death was the event!”
“Well what exactly was it you saw?”
Ceres: “I saw myself bleed out, the location in which I died changed, but the result was always the same I was just as dead.”
“You looked pretty dead to me before it was all said and done, I even thought my ability didn’t work because just after you seemed to accept the offer you lost consciousness, but I thought it was perhaps because your crystal wasn’t placed that you couldn’t benefit from it. I then did the only thing I could think of. I just hope you don’t mind being neighbors because the only thing I could think of at the time was transferring to the edge of my dungeon here and place your crystal in the ground just outside of it.”
Ceres: “Then I’m really a dungeon core…?”
“I guess so… After placing the crystal outside of my dungeon it quickly took root in the dirt and began to glow a brilliant shade of pink, I hid it the best I could and then quickly returned to check on you. I hope you realize just how much of a pain trying to clean you up was with that golden blood of your burning anything it came in contact with and not even being able to use the [Clean] spell to be rid of it.”
Ceres: “Where is my crystal now?”
“The same place I put it. After we were sure you were out of the woods, I sent Roxy and Zoey to keep a close eye on it to make sure nobody accidently stumbled across it. I will take you to it if you like, but I might suggest getting dressed first.”
Ceres: “What happened to my clothes?”
“Well that blood of yours burned everything it touched those clothes included, they were a wreck and we couldn’t even use [Elven Crafting] to repair them, so right now they are smoldering in the back yard along with all the other rags and items we used to clean up with.”
Ceres: “This is just so much to take in.”
“You’re telling me… I put some clothes there on the table there, they might be a bit big, but once you get to your dungeon you should be able to fix that. I will be just outside when you are ready.” –I say then step out of the room.-
Belinda: “How is she?”
“Shocked as you can imagine, I don’t know what it means that she is a dungeon core now. Is she still a goddess, or is she just a dungeon core now? Maybe once she gets her head wrapped around what just happened we can figure it out, but I want to find out a bit more before I respond to all the messages I have received from the Elders.”
Belinda: “How are they taking it?”
“About how you expect, I have told them about Ceres so I can only imagine their shock when the message came across about me appointing her as a dungeon core. My biggest concern is that using almost all of my justicar points on making Ceres a dungeon core, I will be unable to bind another dungeons crystal if we get in a tight spot.”
Ceres: “I’m sorry about that…” –She says exiting the room. The clothing we gave her, aren’t as big on her as I thought it would be, but she will still need to resize it once she reaches her dungeon.-
“I don’t blame you for it at all, it was my idea, and you didn’t ask for it. I am curious though, now that you are a dungeon core can you still use the abilities you had before?”
Ceres: “They are still there, but something doesn’t work. If I try to use them I get such a headache. It may be due to the fact I don’t have the required magic to use them anymore.”
“I can’t say your situation is the same as Dyson or Hecate, but when they rejoined the ranks of the dungeon cores they retained their levels and their abilities.”
Ceres: “That’s just it… I have never had any of those things. The concept of your skills or levels is controlled by the same sister of mine that controls [Menu]. Before her there was no human progression, and magic was only a thing usable by the ancient dragons, my siblings and I, and few else. A human’s level and magic progression is a byproduct of the creation of the dungeon core’s and [Menu].”
“Then everything is tied to her…?”
Ceres: “That’s what makes her alterations so troubling, A few of my siblings and I spent over a century preparing for your creation making sure we didn’t damage my sister, but these ones changing her now…”
“What about the one that attacked you?”
Ceres: “Even with my ability to see the further and knowing my death was coming, I still couldn’t discover who the one that attacked me was. I know it wasn’t the great hunter because he just wouldn’t have had the strength to do what happened to me, but that doesn’t mean someone he is colluding with didn’t do it.”
“Once they find out you are still alive, and if you are just a level 1 dungeon core now, you are going to be in a lot of danger.”
Ceres: “My one saving grace is my siblings are quite conceited, and if they do discover I am alive, my hope is they will think my situation to be comical and will leave me alone for their own amusement…”
“Even if they do leave you alone, the ones attacking the dungeon cores might not. A message was displayed saying I appointed you as a dungeon core when you became one, so there is a good chance they will come for you as well.”
Ceres: “I will just have to make sure my big brother Two-Twelve is there to protect me.” –She says with a bit of a smirk.-
“The truth is, due to the panicked state I was in when I placed your crystal, we can’t avoid the fact your dungeon is now directly beside mine, so in some fashion I am going to be stuck with you for a long while to come. If you do still have your abilities, but just don’t have the magic to use them, then it may be beneficial to dedicate a bit of time in seeing that your dungeon thrives. That being said, I expect you to put the effort in yourself. I don’t know what it was like for you before, but for all intents and purposes you are a dungeon core now, and will have to make due like the rest of us.”
Ceres: “Yes big brother…”
“This isn’t going to become a thing is it…?”
Ceres: “I can’t say this adjustment is going to be easy, but what choice do I have?”
“In the meantime we should get you to your crystal now, so you can start working on your dungeon to protect yourself. Most dungeon cores start with 50,000xp, but your situation is unique in more ways than one, so I am not sure. Roxy and Zoey where with your crystal all night, so you should at least have the xp you gathered from them, from what I can remember when I was starting out adventurers like them where worth a month or better of xp.”
Ceres nods I lead her through town towards her crystal. Ceres stumbles a few times while walking through town, just how much of a difference could there have been between before and now that she even seems to have to learn to walk again to an extent…
“Are you alright.”
Ceres: “It’s these blasted boots you gave me, they are tripping me up…”
“I’m sorry about that, but you should be able to take care of that once we get to your dungeon…”
We continue on the path out of town. I was slowly working my secondary dungeon to the edge of the forest along the road, so maybe I could have started adding the farmland just behind the forest, into my dungeon, but now it seems the soldier’s garrison is going to be the edge of my dungeon from now on, because Ceres’s dungeon will be past that.
We pass the garrison and a small distance up the road we see a pair of beastkin I know all too well. They’re sitting on the edge of the road looking rather pitiful and bored. Roxy looks to be a bit uncomfortable holding her back while sitting on a large rock, and Zoey is squatting next to the road picking up and tossing a few of the lose cobblestones she finds on the road.
“I’m sorry to ask this of you Roxy, you can go home and put your feet up now.”
Zoey: “What about me boss! I have been bored out of my gourd!”
“When you are 8 months pregnant, sitting on a boulder out in the middle of the forest for an entire day in the cold, then I will feel sorry for you. Until then why don’t you take your wife home and give her a nice warm bath and a foot rub or something.”
Roxy: “That sounds nice…”
Zoey: “That’s not the only thing getting rubbed!”
Roxy: “As long as you start with the feet I don’t care…”
Zoey then jumps up excitedly. “Then what are you waiting on babe, let’s go!”
Roxy laughs as she gets up from the boulder with a grunt, and they then make their way back up the road towards town, but not before I thank them both for their help. Zoey just says “No problem, Boss!” with a large toothy grin.
Ceres: “I always liked those two…I guess that will be a big advantage of my dungeon being here right next to yours I can visit them or you and Rory any time I like.”
“I don’t mind you coming to visit, but you are a dungeon core now, so we are going to have to lay down some ground rules.”
Ceres: “Anything you say big brother… So, where is this crystal of mine?”
I sigh and make my way a few feet into the forest’s edge, I move a branch and a bit of snow off a small melon sized pink diamond that pulses pink light like a heartbeat.
Ceres: “Well, it’s a bit small isn’t it…?”
“Of course it is, you are just starting out.”
Ceres: “Well, at least it suits me, so now what do I do?”
“You start working on your dungeon. First off open [Menu] and find out how much xp you have.”
Ceres manipulates the air in front of her and then says. “It looks like I have just over 60,000xp”
“Then it sounds like you got the 50,000xp like everyone else, that means Roxy and Zoey are up to giving 10,000xp a day…? It would be nice if I was able to collect off of them as well. Anyway, a good place to start is your dungeon core room, and after that, use the rest to make your dungeon, but remember to keep enough for your crystal’s consumption, I didn’t spend all those justicar points on you to have you starve to death after just becoming a dungeon core.”
Ceres: “Aren’t you going to help me…?”
“This is your dungeon… You have stuck your nose far enough into my business that you should at least have a good idea on making a dungeon of your own. I just ask you keep the locals in mind. I have spent a great deal of effort to make sure the humans don’t see my dungeon as a threat that needs to be destroyed, but your dungeon could be associated with mine if things go bad.”
Ceres: “Yes, big brother…”
I let out a deep sigh and say. “Alright, I will leave it to you, I have got to find a way to explain all this to the other Elders, not to mention I think I was just starting to get somewhere with my portal situation.”
I then start heading back to town, but before I even reach the garrison I hear the sound of crashing trees as a huge building appears at the edge of the forest causing several horns of alarm in the garrison and panic.
I quickly run back calling out. “What do you think you are doing?!” But Ceres is standing on the road with her arms crossed with a look of satisfaction on her face.
The building is large, not as big as the Mage’s Guild, but at least twice the size of City Hall, and its appearance is lavish… With large windows along its 4 story structure with pillars holding a large covered entryway with a massive semi-circular stone staircase leading to the entrance to the building on the second floor.
“This hardly looks like any dungeon I have ever seen, it is too open, how do you plan to defend it? You just scared the daylights out of the garrison and I am sure you only have minutes before they come to find out what is going on.”
Ceres: “I may be a dungeon core, but you forget one thing. I am still Ceres of the Mage’s Guild. Do you think anyone will question me conjuring up such a building? Besides I don’t have to protect my crystal if they don’t know that it is even a dungeon.”
“There is still the problem of other dungeon cores.”
Ceres: “I may have an idea for that as well, but you said it. We are both dungeon cores, so a girl has to have a few secrets of her own.”
It isn’t a few more seconds before a small group of scared soldiers are coming up the road.
Ceres: “Don’t worry fellows! I will make sure to have the Mage’s Guild issue an apology later! Sorry to worry you!”
The soldiers look confused and a bit worried, but with I sigh and nod they seem to accept it. They aren’t quick to leave however as they are staring at the building with interest.
Ceres: “You soldiers want to take a look inside?”
The soldiers seem nervous after all this building just appeared out of thin air…
Ceres: “I thought you said you had important things to take care of?”
“Are you sure you are going to be alright here?”
Ceres: “Sure I’m sure… This might actually be quite fun.” –She says as she starts making her way up the stairs to the building.-
I start heading back towards town but I stop at the soldiers who still seem to be debating on entering the building or not. “You know how these mage types are, if you can please keep an eye on her and report anything strange back to Doug.”
Soldier: “But sir…”
“Don’t worry. I don’t think it will eat you or anything.” –I say not easing their minds any, as I start making my way back up the road.-
On my way back to the house I think of a way to explain all this to the Elders, but in the end I simple send them each a message that reads.
(The being knows at the old god Ceres received wounds that would have proved fatal were it not for me using my abilities as the Archjusticar to prevent her death by making her a dungeon core. The ability was something I had recently acquired, and is not useable again for the foreseeable future. If you wish to know any further information that is up to her to give you. Furthermore I did no choose what number she received and I don’t know what it will mean if Draco proves to still be alive, but I believe [Menu] granted her Dungeon Core #5 due to it being the lowest available number and nothing more.)
After sending the message out to the others I get responses from them all asking for more information, but I just close the screens and return home.
Belinda: “How did it go?”
“I didn’t think anything about it when I told her to take it easy and not worry the humans, but then she turned around and made an above ground dungeon right next to the garrison… Not only that but the building that she made pop up out of thin air was twice the size of the city hall, with materials like that of a baron or duke’s residence.”
Belinda: “She didn’t…?”
“It’s massive… She had to spend almost every bit of her xp on it already. I don’t know how she plans to defend her crystal, or even what she plans on doing with that building, because it had enough windows that it is far from being a secure building.”
Belinda: “She has been around a long time, maybe she knows what she is doing…”
“But not as a dungeon core and by the looks of the building I would even hazard to say she didn’t even make a dungeon core room, to at least give her a safe place to retreat to. ”
Belinda: “Is she going to be alright…?”
“From the humans, I think she will be fine, but other dungeon cores or her siblings… Well, I don’t know. We can only hope before someone tries to attack her she has gotten the hang of things. We need her to regain access to those abilities she has lost by becoming a dungeon core, so I plan on making her one of those rings. With it she should at least be able to gain levels at a fairly decent rate, and she might be able to get some of her power back.”
Belinda: “You seem disappointed.”
“Well Ceres as a dungeon core could be a great benefit to us right now, but for what it cost me to make her one, and now that she is just a level 1 new dungeon core, the price was kind of steep…”
Belinda: “You regret saving her life?”
“No, I can’t say that I do, but it would have been nice to have a really strong dungeon core on our side.”
Belinda: “So what now?”
“Back to it I guess. I will try to make Ceres her ring, and then Akil gave me a tip on the portals yesterday before that happened with Ceres, so I need to look into that as well.”
Belinda: “You didn’t get any sleep last night, because of making sure Ceres was ok, so don’t push yourself to hard.”
“I promise.” –I say giving Belinda a kiss and then kissing Rory on the forehead. I then transfer back to the dungeon core room.-
First thing I need to get out of the way is the ring for Ceres. I don’t need to spend any more xp then I have to, but Ceres will be much better use to us at a higher level. Making a ring with a small pink diamond like that of her dungeon crystal is easy enough, but let’s just say, so much for making it cheap as possible.
Enchantments are so random though, I have always said making one of these rings successfully is a 1 in 3 up to 1 in 4 chances. I know how much it cost and I know how much xp the enchantment is, so maybe if I used [Artificer] it will improve my chances.
I already spent more than I care to admit on just making the ring, but I put the ring in the first section the amount of xp required for the enchantment in the second section, but in the optional section I put in a small [Light] runic magic stone in hopes to give the pink diamond the same glowing appearance of her crystal.
I then hit the accept button while focusing very hard on what it is I want the ring to do, and the results are…
Ceres’s Band of Brotherly Love: A ring forged for Ceres by her big brother to make her transition as a demi-god to a dungeon core a much smoother process. Without thought of personal cost Two-Twelve dedicated himself to insuring nothing less than perfection for his baby sister. When worn by Ceres the ring grants her double the acquired xp from any source, but divides the amount between her dungeon and her person at Ceres’s own discretion. Other effects of the ring will become apparent as Ceres grows as a dungeon core. If worn by any other dungeon core the ring grants no bonuses but allows the dungeon core to divide gathered xp between its dungeon and person. Any other creature wearing the ring gains no benefits.
This has to be some kind of a joke… I am sure if Ceres’s sister that control’s [Menu] is capable, she is probably laughing right now. The ring works far better than I intended, but with its description I am tempted to break it down and never allow Ceres to see it.
Of course I can’t actually afford to do that, so I let out a deep sigh and shove the pulsing pink diamond ring into one of my pockets. I get a curious look from the bunnies currently watching the dungeon but I say. “If you have any appreciation for me helping your sister like I am, the least you can do is help me out with my own problem…” I then begin to work in finding a way to bring my group of dungeon cores together.
I don’t know if she didn’t hear me or I just can’t get that lucky, because even though I work on it the rest of the day I don’t make any progress. Even though for a moment I thought I might have found a loop-hole in the [Blink] spell.
It doesn’t say it is a short ranged teleportation spell in its description only that it has to be within sight, so I try to use it to reach places by observing them through [Menu] but it doesn’t work. Even though Akil suggested it, unless he can clarify I don’t see a way I can make [Blink] work.
As I start to wrap up I still have a screen displaying the living room open and I see Belinda speaking to Ceres while Ceres holds Rory with a look of pure delight on her face. I then tell the bunnies I am heading home for the night and then transfer back to the house.
“Aren’t you making yourself right at home in another dungeon core’s dungeon? Didn’t I say we needed to talk about some boundaries?”
Ceres: “You did, and I listened, but you never set those boundaries so here I am. Besides I haven’t gotten the chance to meet this beautiful little bundle of joy. I might not be her god mother, but I could be her goddess of an auntie right?”
“Well you are just a dungeon core now, so that little joke doesn’t work anymore.”
Belinda: “I wouldn’t be so sure…”
“What do you mean?”
While rocking Rory and making faces at her Ceres reaches into the breast pocket of her shirt and pulls out a small booklet handing it to me. It looks like an adventurer’s ID, so I open it and look at it.
Adventurer #325,042 [Ceres] Base: Tobes
Race: Demi-god Gender: Female
Rank: C Level: 1
Class: Demi-god Favored Element: N/A
Commissions Complete: 0
Dungeon Crystals Destroyed: 4
“What is this, I don’t even…?”
Ceres: “I thought that was obvious…”
Belinda: “We got it for her a little bit ago. You always get one for the dungeon cores you have trained so I thought she might need one sometime as well.”
“She is the unofficial leader of the Mage’s Guild which is the parent institution to the Adventurer’s Guild, so does she really need one? And what is this about rank C already with 4 dungeons destroyed?”
Ceres: “Well I may have been responsible for a few dungeon core deaths over the years, and it seems to still count them even now. I also felt there was no reason for me to start off as a D rank when I already had 4 dungeons under my belt, am I right?”
I fold the booklet back up and hand it back to her. “By your own admission that was before you become a dungeon core though, so do you even have the [Heroic] skill or any skills for that matter?”
Ceres: “I only have a few skills, but I have nothing to compare it to, so I don’t know if that is good or not.”
“Well if you are a dungeon core now I should be able to look it up as well with [Archjusticar Menu]” –I say while finding Dungeon Core #5 [Ceres].-
She has the shortest status screen I have ever seen, but it still hurts to look at…
Name: Ceres Dungeon: Administration Building Crystal: Small Pink Diamond
Level: 1 XP till next level: 1 xp Dungeon Xp: 7 xp
HP: 1200 MP: 1200
Resistances: Immunity to poisons and special effects
Equipment: [Well-crafted Hand-me-down Outfit]
Demi-god (Rank -5): The Demi-god skill prevents acquisition of most standard skills, but at each positive rank the Demi-god skill it grants substantial bonuses to Abilities. Demi-god skill does not increase by level but with deeds worthy of the title.
Heroic (Rank 4): Each rank grants a +50 bonus to abilities.
“That has to be the strangest status screen I have ever seen, instead of listing each ability, it just says abilities, does that mean all of them?”
Ceres: “What do you mean by abilities?”
“Your strength, your stamina, your magic power, even your ability to use sword, or axes, or defend yourself.”
Ceres: “I was able to use any kind of weapon before, so as far as I know I still can…”
“If it is all of them, then your base ability scores at level 1 are way above the norm they are even above some of my secondary abilities. I don’t know how much you will gain per level, but most abilities come from skills yet your skill prevents you from learning most skills, so maybe that is why the base is so high.”
Ceres: “I wouldn’t know…”
“The question now is, would there be any point in leveling you quickly? You don’t have to worry about ranking up skills, so that may be a plus, but if your abilities don’t increase by much at each level then I don’t know how to increase your strength.”
Ceres: “Maybe it is my sister’s way of paying me back for cheating death by becoming a dungeon core.”
“I don’t know if that is the case, because I am sure it took your sister’s help in making this.” –I say taking out the ring from my pocket, and handing it to Ceres.-
Ceres: “Oh, you are giving me a ring, and in front of your wife no less, you are a much more daring man then I thought.”
Belinda: “If you look too much into Two-Twelve giving you a ring then I can tell you from experience, don’t get your hopes up…Although that ring looks far nicer then the musty old ring of magic that you gave me…”
Ceres: “It’s beautiful. It looks just like my crystal… Look it is even pulsing.”
“Apparently your sister has a sense of humor, because the description is troubling, but the effects are quite nice. My ring essentially doubles the xp I gather, but it splits it evenly between me and my dungeon. Your ring does the same thing but apparently it lets you choose how much xp goes where.”
Ceres: “Thanks.” –She says sliding the ring onto her right index finger, as she makes another funny face at Rory.-
“By your status I also see you are about out of xp already, I told you to save enough, that huge building looks to have already cost you 9 xp for consumption by seeing how close you are to gaining a level, so if that is daily you’ll be in trouble come midnight.”
Ceres kisses Rory’s cheek before handing her back to Belinda, she then lets out a sigh and stands up. “You’re right, I have a plan for that, but I better get prepared. You are all invited of course, but if you don’t want to stick around for midnight I understand.”
“Are you throwing some kind of party…?”
Ceres: “Of course, it isn’t every day the construction starts on Tobe’s grand university!”
“University, what are you talking about?”
Ceres: “I know you and Belinda felt strongly about bringing in an institution of higher learning into Tobes, and I want to educate the masses, so I felt it was the perfect choice for my dungeon. I invited a bunch of the mages and townspeople to celebrate the first in what will be many new educational buildings for the benefit of Tobes.”
“Are you hearing this…?”
Belinda: “She told me a few hours ago, I think it is a wonderful idea.”
“I thought we wanted to gather all the information we could before starting such a project.”
Ceres: “I have seen it all, so what information could you possibly want that isn’t already floating around up in my noggin?”
“I don’t know… Belinda and I were planning on building that together and now it just…”
Ceres: “Don’t worry big brother, it’s still a family project! If you want I will even let you help pick out the faculty. I will be ready in about an hour if you want to show up, and I would love it if you could bring Roxy and Zoey along as well!” –She says then bounds out the door in a hurry.-
I sigh and sit down on the couch…”Are you sure you are ok with this?”
Belinda: “She is just trying to help, and admit it. The school hasn’t been something high on our priorities at the moment.”
“That’s true, but I don’t know… I just feel cheated…”
Belinda gets up from her chair to move over next to me, she then places Rory in my arms wrapping her arms around me, and giving me a kiss on the cheek. “It will be alright, I promise.”