Chapter 162: Corrupt Dungeon

 

After arriving to train in Shima we received news that Inari has been out of contact with her monsters for the last few days, and after doing a bit of investigation with [Archjusticar Menu] we have been unable to contact her.

I decide it will be best to make sure she is safe so after gathering a group together we head back to Shima. On our return we are quickly greeted by Chika in her full combat gear along with the beastkin that Inari summoned for me.

“What is this…?”

Chika: “Mistress Inari took everyone else with her, so if she is in danger we are going to need all the help we can get.”

“If she took everyone else, then someone needs to stay behind to keep an eye on things.”

Chika: “I spoke to Akane. She is staying with Master Kenta, but she is still part of Mistress’s dungeon, and she agreed to keep an eye on things during our absence. Besides you are a dungeon core yourself, and you know what it is like to travel in Shima as a dungeon core. It will take days from Mistress’s secondary dungeon to reach the entrance to the corrupt dungeon, and the Oni will not let up on us the entire time, so we need the extra manpower.”

“Maybe you are right, but you said Inari has been out of contact for days already, so need to hope that if it is the traitorous dungeon cores that are behind this, that the item they use expires soon so we can use [Gate] to reach them.”

Chika: “What if it doesn’t?”

“It has to… They may use more than one though so as a precaution will still attempt to get to her on foot, but from my understanding the last corrupt dungeon Inari dealt with was a maze of tunnels that took them weeks to traverse, and she has been at this one for a few months already, so if she is in danger I think our only hope is to reach her by use of the [Gate] spell.”

Chika: “We can’t waste any more time then, are you ready?”

I nod and then Chika transfers us to Inari’s secondary dungeon. This is the one I haven’t been to before, I have sent a few groups to train in this area, but haven’t actually been to this village before. The village itself is quite large, but many of the buildings look abandoned and there are only a handful of villagers around.

When they see Chika and the other fox beastkin they quickly approach. They speak in the Shima language so I can’t tell what they are saying, but they seem quite worried. Chika seems to be trying to calm them down.

Chika pats one of them on the shoulder and they seem to hang their heads as she steps away from them. “Sorry about that. Even though I continue to tell them everything is fine, with us showing up like this they know something is up. Now there is a lower concentration of the Oni Generals in this area, but instead of being scattered among the normal Oni they seem to travel in groups, so as a precaution if you see an Oni General don’t expect there to be less than 3 or 4 more nearby.”

Chika then quickly covers a few more differences this area had compared to Inari’s primary dungeon, and we then set off into the forest with only a few hours of sunlight remaining. We are quickly attacked by Oni, but it is nothing we didn’t already expect.

Chika was right though, the Oni Generals in this area tend to travel in larger groups. Even though we have to deal with them far less often then when we are at Inari’s primary dungeon, being grouped together like they are, seems to make them quite a bit more dangerous.

I have taken a lot of my monsters to Shima to train, but all of my groups that gather xp have never been around the house for more than a few hours, so this is actually the first time I have ever seen Poppy or Lynx fight, and I have to say, for them not being boss monsters their abilities are quite impressive.

The attacks from the Oni only serve to slow us down as we keep pressing forward through the forest till the sun disappears completely from the sky. After that, I have skills that allow me to see relatively well in the dark, but some of the others can’t.

We could light our way with torches or magic, but I think it would be far safer to call it here and start back fresh in the morning. Now that we have made it this far though we mark the location so it will be easy for me to return to, and after checking my location with [Archjusticar Menu] we use [Gate] to return to Inari’s primary dungeon.

“You all get some sleep, I am sure Zoey would like to check on Roxy and Wolfric, so I will take her back with me to Tobes, and we will return before daybreak to set out.”

Belinda is surprised when I arrive home, and she quickly asks me if everything is alright. I tell her what we are doing and we then head to bed. Things continue like this for the next few days with Zoey and I returning long after the sun sets, and we are gone again before it rises.

If Inari’s inability to contact us is due to one of the items the traitors use, we are now certain they have had to at least use more than one of them by now. The Oni Generals have also begun to increase in numbers, but they always hit all at once.

This has caused a few breaks in which we don’t have to fight any Oni at all, which in itself is rather unusual for a dungeon core traveling in Shima.

Traveling through the forest the entire time hasn’t left much in the ways of landmarks, so Chika begins to get rather nervous hoping she is leading us in the right direction, so when we happen across a ruined village she quickly becomes relieved.

Chika: “I am sure this is the right place… There should be small graveyard nearby with a large mausoleum. Inside of it we will find a collapsed wall that leads to a large network of caverns. Mistress Inari had big plans for this corrupt dungeon, so each day they would send back detailed instructions on the paths they took, and where they were, so using the information they gave us each evening I drew out a map. With it I should be able to lead us through the quickest route right up to the point we lost contact with them, but I am afraid that still may take days or even weeks depending on the monsters inside.”

The mausoleum isn’t hard to find, because even though it looks like there hasn’t been anyone alive in this village for decades, there is a clear path cut though the village leading directly to the mausoleum. After entering the mausoleum, we encounter our largest group yet of Oni Generals that seem to definitely come from deeper within.

After we deal with the Oni, Chika seems rather nervous as she says.  “This isn’t right… Is it? If the Oni Generals are coming from the corrupt dungeon, then they have to pass by Mistress Inari to get here. Why would they pass Mistress Inari by?”

“They might have taken a different path.”

Chika: “But they always head straight for the nearest dungeon core…”

“It doesn’t do us any good to try to speculate, we just need to push forward and find them as quickly as possible. Those items the traitors use are very expensive, and they didn’t seem to want to risk using more than one when they gave it to Hecate to come after me, but they have already used at least 2 of them to go after Inari, and that can’t be good…”

We then continue to follow the trail though the mausoleum and find the collapsed wall. Beyond the mausoleum a cavern stretches wide. The tunnel itself is large enough even my boss-like monsters would have no trouble fighting inside it, with the exception of maybe the flying ones.

Even with the grandiose size of the cavern the ground is covered in bones, many that have been so trampled upon, there is no way to determine what they even belong to. Along the walls however the bones have fared a bit better, and most if not all of the bones appear to be of at least from some kind of humanoid.

There are far too many bones to have come from the mausoleum, in fact it’s hard to believe the village even ever housed this many people. The other question is what brought them down here? Oni only seem to kill for the sake of killing leaving bodies behind where they fall,  so if not them then what?

The further we continue on though the amount of bones only seem to increase in number, no longer are they just adorning the ground either, from webs that appear to be some kind of spider they now glued to the walls and even dangle from the ceiling, but no matter how far we progress the only creatures we run into are the Oni generals that seem to appear at the head of every hour.

Among the bones scattered about we find decaying corpses, but they all appear less like humanoids and more beastly like monsters. There are even carapaces of giant spiders, and after looking over a few they might have been monsters that Inari’s group dealt with on their way through, but If that is the case why haven’t we run into anything but the Oni yet?

After the end of our first day in the cavern we have made it through the all of the bones littering the cavern and we return to Inari’s primary dungeon. Day and night no longer matter within the cavern, so we start taking less time for rest to have more time to push though the caverns.

This gives us a few additional hours each day moving forward, but even after a week we don’t seem to have made any progress at all. What is even stranger yet is that even though we have continued to find remains, the only live monsters we have encountered are the Oni Generals.

Belinda and Roxy now come to visit with us at Inari’s dungeon during our breaks, but we don’t get to spend much time with them because we only stop long enough to catch a few hours of sleep. I can’t exactly message Rory, but I have been keeping in touch with Belinda through messages, so there are a few days in which I forgo sleep just so I can spend a little time with Rory.

I have also tried to make sure Ceres is ok, but she just says “Do what you need to do, I have the rest covered.”

Belinda and the rest of the girls can’t really check up on how things are going with my group of dungeon cores, but from what I have heard from Dawn, Twilight, and Maeve, Ceres is at least not causing any problems. Although they said a few of the dungeon cores are questioning my sudden departure.

I am also starting to have doubts about Inari’s silence is caused by the traitorous dungeon cores, as they would have had to use no less than 4 of those items by now, and if they couldn’t have eliminated Inari by now, surely they would have sent much stronger dungeon cores. That leaves to question what exactly is the cause of her disappearance then?

I don’t know who is stronger me or her, but even if she is stronger than I am by now, I still don’t see her being able to stop one of the old gods, so the only thing left is the corrupt dungeon itself. It seems strange though one of these corrupt dungeons would have an ability similar to the items the traitorous dungeon cores use.

Not to mention the fact if she wasn’t in trouble, once she learned she couldn’t communicate, I would think she would return to an area where she could. She wouldn’t go this long without letting her monsters know what is going on if it was within her power. We have no other choice but keep pressing deeper into the caverns in hope that we find Inari in time.

Without running into any monsters except the Oni Generals our progress is much quicker then Inari and her group, and by the end of the second week we are already nearing the location in which Chika last heard from them.

After looking over several corpses of decaying monsters I say. “These ones are only a few weeks old, and by the looks of the damage I would almost without a doubt say, Inari’s group were the ones to kill them.”

Chika: “Why hasn’t the dungeon cleaned them up, or re-summoned more monsters?”

“With the ways these corrupt dungeons work, I couldn’t tell you. Inari said the last one they dealt with had rooms with endlessly spawning items, but we haven’t run into anything like that here. If I had to guess I would just say this dungeon doesn’t have any kind of rifts at all.”

Chika: “I am thinking it was just after battling these monsters that Mistress sent me her last message. That bend up ahead there looks like the path they said they were going to take, but after that we are on our own.”

“Then at this point we should probably head back and rest for a while. We have no idea what is up ahead, and we need to let everyone know that we are about to reach the last point of contact with Inari. Moving past this point might put us out of contact as well, so we need to make sure they don’t worry.”

Chika: “The Mistress could be just up ahead…”

“I seriously doubt they only made it 100 feet in the last few weeks. Every corpse we find has become fresher and fresher, so we are catching up, but we just need to make sure we are all prepared.”

Chika seems to want to argue, but she nods her head and we return to Inari’s primary dungeon. When we arrive it is still daylight out, but I tell everyone we are going to wait till tomorrow morning before setting out again so I tell them to make sure to get a lot of rest and make sure they have everything they might possibly need for weeks if necessary.

I have been spending only a small amount of time with Belinda and Rory before resting at Inari’s dungeon the last few weeks, so I [Gate] home, taking Zoey as well so she can see her own family. Belinda is happy to spend a little more time with me and after spending some time with Rory I collapse in bed.

I can’t say I got any more sleep at home, but I feel a lot more refreshed the next morning. With Belinda still sleeping in bed I trace my fingers along her figure and give her a kiss.

Belinda: “Two-Twelve, please promise you will be careful, and come back to us.” –She says after my kiss wakes her up.-

“I promise, and I will even bring back that trouble maker of a daughter that has us so worried.”

I gently caress Belinda’s cheek before giving her a deep kiss and getting out of bed. I go to Rory’s room giving her a hug and kiss as well. This of course causes her to wake up, so I have to take her to Belinda, and the worry on Belinda’s face makes it hard for me to leave.

I transfer to Roxy and Zoey’s house and after knocking Zoey quickly answers the door. It doesn’t look like  I woke her up, but her hair is in a sorry state. That however is quickly fixed by a spell that is cast from behind her right before Roxy gives her a hug.

Roxy: “I know Zoey can be a handful at times, but Wolfric and I kind of like having her around, so if it isn’t too much trouble can you bring her back to me in one piece?”

“I will just keep reminding her of the dinner Belinda will want to have after bringing Inari home safely, and I am sure nothing would stop Zoey from that.”

Zoey: “Dinner?” –She says with her ears perking up. Roxy laughs and gives Zoey a kiss on the cheek before I cast [Gate] and we return to Shima.-

Everyone is ready by the time we arrive, so without delay I cast another [Gate] and return us to the dungeon, but we don’t get very far before we are stopped dead in our tracks.

Chika: “This isn’t right… Mistress Inari should have went this way!”

“It’s a dead end… Maybe they didn’t know until after sending the message, and they took a different path afterwards.”

Chika: “Any time they changed paths Mistress Inari sent a message to make sure I got the map correct.”

I try sending Belinda a message telling her I am just testing to see if [Communication] is still working, and she quickly replies with “I love you.”

[Communication] is still working, so we are not within the field already.”

Azami: “Look, at the floor, the way the dust has settled, you can tell this was a high traffic area, so this wall is new. I would say Inari did pass through here, and they got trapped on the other side.”

Chika starts banging on the wall, and calling out to Inari.

“I doubt that would do any good. Even if they were right on the other side, I doubt they would be able to hear us through a dungeon wall.”

Chika: “How are we going to get to Mistress Inari then?!”

“We will have to hope there is another path.”

Chika: “What if there is not another way through?”

“With a normal dungeon you can lock someone up, but you can’t make it impossible for them to get out. Then again a normal dungeon you can’t build a wall behind someone either. The Oni Generals still have to be coming from somewhere, so as long as we wait for their next attack we just have to trace their steps.”

Chika: “I hope you are right.”

We then return to the location in which we started at today, and await the attack from the Oni. After their attack we then head down the path in which they had arrived from. We quickly discover this path was undisturbed by Inari’s group as we quickly run into some dangerous looking monsters.

If these are the kinds of monsters Inari’s group have been facing I have a far greater respect for her. Even between Zoey, Azami and her “friends”, Poppy, Lynx, Chika, all 6 of the other fox beastkin, and myself, we have difficulty dealing with these monsters.

The monsters themselves are twisted creatures and not a single one looks to come from a single monster. Griffons and monsters like that are a mix between different types of creatures, but their mixture seems natural then these abominations.

There is a spider like creature with human like limbs mixed in with the arachnid like limbs. The large backside of the spider looks normal enough if not just extremely large, but its torso is grotesque with the human and arachnid appendages sticking out of a human like torso at odd angles.

It also has no neck, but a human like head that is tilted all the way back and shoved into the upper section of the torso. The head has multiple eyes at seemingly random locations, and its mouth is rather disturbing as well.

The upper jaw has a row of human like teeth, but also a massive pair of fangs that cause the bottom jaw to be pushed down and back attached directly the creature’s torso. On either side of the jaw are small appendages with tiny human like hands at the end… And that is just the spider.

There is a centipede like creature seemingly put together with spare parts like the spider, with a mixture of human and insect like appendages attached to a row of human torsos not all of which are of the same sex.

We haven’t had to take a break after fighting any of the groups of Oni, but after these monstrosities, we are forced to take a breather.

Chika: “I don’t understand… What exactly are these things?”

“I don’t know, but if I had to guess I would say some type of undead. I have seen complete humans put together from separate pieces, but mixing them with arachnids or insects is just disturbing…”

Chika: “I know they are mismatched sets of parts, but they don’t seem like undead, and why are they only showing up now? Everything else we have seen was already dead when we came across it, but none of them looked like these things.”

I open [Menu] and send a message to Belinda, but I don’t seem to be getting a reply.

“It looks like communication has also stopped.”

Lynx: “While we were fighting the monsters, the path back to the surface has disappeared as well…”

I then try to cast [Gate] but it fails. “We knew this would probably happen, but we are now cut off.”

Chika: “Then we have no choice but to press forward and find Mistress Inari.”

Our progress has slowed down considerably now that we have to deal with these monstrosities on top of the Oni Generals. We even have a close call when one of the battles drags on too long and the Oni Generals attack while we are fighting with the other monsters.

Luckily the monstrosities and the Oni Generals don’t seem to work together well, and have no qualms in attacking each other when one gets in their way. That distracts the monstrosities a bit, giving us chances to lay in some solid attacks, and it also leads to the death of several of the Oni Generals, so the end result is not much different in the end.

Not all the monstrosities are the same, if fact I would even go as far to say that none of them are exactly the same, with some of them consisting of Oni parts mixed in.

With two full groups we are receiving less xp in combat, but everyone except Chika all belong to my dungeon. She is the only thing preventing us from getting xp for the dungeon itself, but the battles are hard enough as it is, and I don’t feel we would be capable of continuing without her.

We substitute her with one of the other beastkin working as two separate groups, alternating them back and forth, but I don’t know if that will be enough to provide xp to the dungeon. Some of the battles however are just far too difficult, so we have to all fight as one and I doubt any xp will be gathered for the dungeon in those battles.

We don’t seem to make much progress, but we soon grow tired and decide to stop for the night for the first time inside of the dungeon. We know the Oni will continue to attack us, so we can’t just set a watch instead we have leave far more people awake at a time.

Having to split into shifts even slows down our progress as even if we cut down on the amount of rest we get, separating it into two or even three shifts makes it take that much longer.  The next morning our first encounter with the monstrosities almost cost Chika her life, but luckily I was able to get to her in time, pushing the creature back with the shield I got from Luther.

After learning how hard it would be to use the shield, every time we came to Shima to train I was trying to get the hang of it, and Its effective range is only a few feet, but the training paid off because I could at least use it well enough to save Chika.

We continue on for the next few days, but without any contact from the outside, we can’t even tell if it is day or night. [Menu] still tells us the time, but it is getting harder and harder to tell when you look at it, if it is showing that time of day or that time of night.

It also keeps track of the date, or I am sure we would have lost track of that by now. Still even though it says we have only been cut off from the outside for a week, it seems like it has been much, much longer.

Even though our group is quite large we are still acquiring a fair deal of xp. Most of it might not return to the dungeon, but it has been enough that everyone has at least gained a level, and some have even managed to gain 2 levels.

That hasn’t really seemed to help however, because the monstrosities seem to be getting stronger as well. The battles have become so dangerous that we even loose two of the fox beastkin. The fox beastkin have been together ever since Inari summoned them, so they take the loss quite hard. Couple that with the fact we are down two people, and that has made the battles that much more difficult, which makes our progress only get that much slower.

We still have yet to find any clue into Inari or her group’s location, but we also haven’t seen any signs that the block in our ability to communicate is caused by anything other than the corrupt dungeon either.

That only leaves more questions than answers, if the dungeon itself is able to block communication, how exactly, and what are the odds it has the same ability as those stones the traitors use? Maybe once we find Inari we can then get some answers. Until this all we can do is continue to push forward.

 

 

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