Chapter 165: Working Together

 

I haven’t broken a sweat outside of the bedroom in many years, but even as a dungeon core traversing a volcano will do that I guess. I have entered this thing far deeper than any human could possibly enter and still have yet to find any traces of Draco’s dungeon.

It is possible the entrance has been moved, but he would still have to follow the rules about making it accessible to humans, so I really am starting to believe that Draco is gone. If he is still around he is doing a damn good job in hiding it.

I am not going to be able to find anything else out from here so I teleport to the nearest village. These villages scattered up and down the mountain range have always been dealing with numerous dungeons, so much so they make their living off of them, and the disappearance of all of Draco’s secondary dungeons looks to have hit the town hard.

After asking around I find out there are only a few hold outs left. They are used to dungeons coming and going off this mountain range, so some still believe more dungeons will take the place of those that have recently disappeared, but many of the other villagers have moved on to some of the other villages.

Even without Draco’s dungeons there are still numerous dungeons within the Adra mountain range, but it seems all of them along this particular mountain have all disappeared. I ask about any rumors about other dungeons that may have suddenly seemed to grow a great deal recently, but the villagers haven’t heard anything.

Well I doubt I am going to learn anything more from these villagers, so I will return home for now and inform Madam Erin about my findings regarding Draco later. Once I arrive in my dungeon I am quickly greeted by my delectable succubus.

She quickly flies to me wrapping her arms me draping herself from me like a cloak, she nuzzles my neck while her hands explore my body and she says. “Aww, did master find us another girl? She has seemed to cause you to work up quite a sweat.”

“Nothing like that, I went to find out once and for all if Draco’s dungeon was still intact or not, so I was inside a volcano.”

Desiree:  “Such a waste of perspiration…Perhaps now that you have returned home I can see to it that not another drop is wasted.” –She says while placing images in my mind.-

“That looks and sounds promising, but there is still something missing. Where is Angela?”

Angela: “I’m here master!” –She quickly says entering the room in a hurry.- “I didn’t know you had returned, please forgive me!”

“I am going to bed early today, but first I am in need of a bath, so go draw us one, and then you have two options. You can either join us, or you are then dismissed till tomorrow.”

Angela: “But Master!”

“You have your orders.”

Angela: “Yes Master…” –She says hanging her head and leaving the room.-

Desiree: “I think you are going about handling Angela in the wrong way.”

“Are you saying I don’t know how to handle my women?”

Desiree: “Your women yes, but Angela is still undecided if she wants to be one of those or not. Tell me, how would Master treat Angela if she was not already part of your dungeon, but a young free woman that you desired?”

“I have already tried those means with no results, and there are too many women in the world, and if they can’t be bought, won, or wooed, I have no time to mess with them.”

Desiree: “Many like Angela?”

“Only for that reason alone is she still gracing my hallways. I have no time for those who do no desire me.”

Desiree: “I have a nose for these things, so trust me when I say there is much about you that Angela desires, so I still think she is not the problem. There are plenty of your thoughts that you keep from me, but I have seen enough to know you used to enjoy the chase. Was that not the very thing that drew you to your wife back when you were human?”

“You are dangerously close to overstepping your place.”

Desiree: “Just think about it.”

 

○○○○○○

 

I wake up with Inari looming over me with her hands on her hips and an angry look on her face.

Inari: “Good you are alive, but what are you doing here?”

“Chika was worried about you, so we came to make sure you were ok… What about everyone else?”

Zoey: “We are ok boss! We didn’t lose anyone… This time… Although don’t think I am not going to tell Belinda that you wacked my leg off!”

Poppy: “I lost my arm twice, and once it had to be regrown from scratch, so I don’t want to hear it!”

Lynx: “It was a close call Master, but your daughter showed up just in the nick of time.”

Azami: “I am sure I could have finished the scorpion off on my own, but without Inari’s assistance I don’t think it would have been without casualty.”

Inari then extends her arm to help me to my feet while I say. “We came to rescue you, but it looks like you were the one that did the rescuing, so sorry about that…”  But once my feet are firmly on the ground she throws her arms around me and squeezes me tightly. It doesn’t really bother me, but it must be uncomfortable for her with her face glued to my armor.

Inari: “No Daddy, I’m sorry… I screwed up, and I am glad you are here!”

“I’m sure you did your best.” –I say while she finally releases me and takes a step back.-

Inari: “But my best wasn’t good enough, I lost Yuji, Kaori, and Yuzuki!”

“It sounds like you fared better than we did. I lost Masato, Hiro, Tetsuya, Yuka, Michiko, and Yui…”

Inari: “Chika told me…And that is also my fault, because they only came here because they wanted to save us.”

Chika: “Nobody blames you Mistress…”

Inari: “I do!”

Takeshi: “We are your dungeon monsters. Our purpose is to give our lives for you.”

Inari: “But you’re not just my dungeon monsters, you’re my family!”

Takeshi: “You and Father both treat us with far better than a dungeon core should, so that is only more of a reason for anyone of us to be willing to sacrifice our lives for your sake.”

Akihiro: “He is right Mistress, Yuzuki might not have been the most vocal when it came to how much she appreciated you, but I promise you, she would be happy to know she died protecting you.”

Inari: “And what about Yuji? He didn’t want to be here, and after Chika told us what happened to him and my inability to protect the one he loved after his death. Do you really think he would feel the same way?”

Chika: “We saw to it that Yuji is able to rest now, and although I am sure he would be sad to learn about have happened to Kaori, they would both be happy knowing you are ok.”

Inari: “Well I am done with this place! Now that Daddy is here we can get out of here so none of the rest of you have to make that kind of sacrifice for my sake!”

“Well we did come here to make sure to get out of here safely, but do you have a plan on how to do that?”

Inari: “Of course Daddy, we can just use your… “ –After seeing the look on my face her ears droop and she then says.- “Your teleport spell doesn’t work does it…?”

“It is just like that item those dungeon cores used against me. It’s not only [Communication] but teleportation that doesn’t work as well. In fact the only difference the ability this dungeon has that differs from the item they used is that the dungeon doesn’t seem to have a limited duration.”

Inari: “Then I will just place my imitation crystal right here, and we can then transfer out of here once the dungeon is established!” –She then reaches into a pouch on Takeshi’s waist and pulls out a small pebble, but after placing it on the ground she picks it up and places it back down several times till not only her ears but her tail droops as well.- “Daddy, it isn’t working…”

“This is still a dungeon, even if it is a corrupt one, so you should have known there was a chance that you wouldn’t be able to place your imitation crystal here.”

Inari: “I knew there was a chance, but with the way these dungeons worked, I really did think it would let me…”

“Well I can’t say I am doing a very good job in rescuing you, but now that we are together again. Then just maybe we will stand a better chance moving forward. If we can get rid of this corrupt dungeon, we are sure to be able to get out of here then.”

Inari: “But we don’t have any idea on how much dungeon is left!”

Chika: “I think we are close to the end. I have been keeping a pretty accurate map, and after what you told me while Master Two-Twelve was still out. I am pretty sure this dungeon has doing its best to keep our groups apart, but even if it seems to break the rules of a normal dungeon. I think it still has some sort of rules it has to follow.”

Inari: “It did seem to purposely make the dead ends seem like the correct path to slow us down, but how can you know we are nearing the end?”

Chika: “The fact it hasn’t completely blocked us off tells me that it either has to leave us a clear path to the crystal or an exit if not both. I think it has been leading us around in circles trying to keep us apart as long as possible, but now that we have met up again. I can only assume that is because there isn’t enough dungeon left for it to redirect us without running into one another.”

Inari: “Daddy, is that what you think as well?”

“That was pretty close to the assumption we were going with before we met up, so after talking with you, if that is what Chika thinks I believe her. She has pulled more than her fair share of the weight around, so you should be proud of her.”

Inari: “Then if we are getting close to the end, I’m sorry for dragging into my mess, but can you help me see it through?”

“Well I promised Belinda I would return, and even promised to bring you back so you would meet your little sister, so it looks like I don’t have much of a choice.” –I say while ruffling her hair with my hand.-

Inari then gives me another quick hug and says. “Thanks, Daddy.” She then steps back straightening up her outfit and continues by saying. “I know you just woke up after being knocked out, but Saki and I have both cast quite a few healing spells on you, so are you good to keep going now?”

“I think so, but that thing must have hit me pretty hard, because before I blacked out I saw you come in to help us, but I swear I saw you with wings…”

Inari laughs and says. “Daddy, you’re not going crazy. My special skill I acquired when I finally reached level 50 lets me grow a pair of wings among other things.”

“You are already level 50…?”

Inari: “Chika told us you have been having it easy. We had to fight monsters the entire time we were in here you know!” –She says while scrunching up her face and putting her hands back on her hips.-

“Well if you have grown that strong, then I don’t know how much help we will be, but we will do our best.”

Inari: “With Daddy’s special dungeon, and all the hero skills you have acquired I am sure there isn’t much difference in our abilities.”

“Well, you already had to save me once, so I hope I don’t disappoint you.”

Inari: “You were dealing with two of those scorpion abominations at once, so it’s understandable.”

“You haven’t had to fight more than one at a time?”

Inari’s facial expression changes to a conflicted one as she says. “Well yea we did, but that was when we lost Yuzuki and Kaori.”

“I’m sorry…”

Inari: “No, it’s alright… Chika told me you were using the same kind of tactics we used, so maybe the reason it didn’t work for you was because the dungeon learned a thing or two from our fight.”

“If that is true then what ever is in charge of this corrupt dungeon is paying as close attention to our battles as the bunnies do in mine. That in itself is quite troubling.”

Inari: “That just means we have to keep changing things up, so it doesn’t have a chance to adapt.”

We then make sure everyone is good to go. Zoey complains about her leg feeling funny then cracks a joke about pulling her leg, it’s enough that it causes Saki to giggle, which seems to be all the validation Zoey needed which make her awfully proud of herself as she smirks and puffs out her chest.

We then set out. We fight an Oni General group, and a few normal dungeon monsters, but it isn’t until we encounter another one of the monstrosities, that really see the kind of power Inari’s group possess… Not only is it one of the scorpion-like monstrosities, but one of the centipede ones as well.

I am a little worried, but Inari’s group doesn’t seem to be as she calls out. “[Blessings of the Fox God]!” After that not only does a pair of silvery feathered wings grow from her back, but she also sprouts another tail as well, and even her ears elongate and grow double their normal size.

While she launches herself from the ground towards the scorpion, the rest of her group head off the centipede. By the time the shock wears off of Inari’s group and their sudden attack we barely manage to be any help at all before both monstrosities are dead on the floor.

After the battle ends Inari quickly flies to me, and says “I’m sorry, Daddy…” As long canine teeth in her mouth begin to shrink along with her ears and wings, and by the time she has returned completely too normal she says. “I guess we startled you a bit. We can’t discuss tactics too much if the dungeon really is watching, but I guess I need to practice working together with you a bit more before I make another mistake.”

“The centipede I understand, but you practically killed that scorpion completely by yourself…”

Inari: “My skill gives a pretty big boost to my abilities, but its duration is quite short, so I have to act quickly. The cost of using it is half of my magic, but it also increases my magic regain. Between that and using my sword I can almost negate its cost almost completely if I do enough damage. Although my spells do a lot more damage while I use it, they cost a lot more magic as well, so if I am not careful I can completely drain my magic in a blink of an eye, and that’s why I have been sticking to my sword while using it.”

I think she thought that I was upset about her going off on her own, but to be honest I was more shocked about her being able to kill one of those scorpions almost single handedly. If something did happen though it could have really turned out badly, so I decide to reprimand her for her going off on her own as well.

“I know you were worried about putting your monsters at risk, but you don’t need to be putting yourself at risk either. If something would have happened while you rushed off ahead on your own we wouldn’t have had time to help you.”

Inari: “I’m sorry…”

“On those last few fights we split off so we could try to gather xp for our dungeons, but I think going forward we should use those easy battles to practice our teamwork. At least until we can get the hang of each other’s fighting styles.”

Inari: “I understand.”

It takes us a few days of practice until we are fighting in sync with one another, and by then we think we are starting to get very close to the center of this place, because Chika’s map starts to show us making more progress and not taking as many detours.

Although none of the monsters have seemed to get any more difficult, including the Oni Generals or the normal dungeon monsters, the monstrosities have started to increase in numbers. In addition to at least two of the scorpions per battle we have started to encounter some of the weaker varieties alongside them.

Blocking the scorpions off is just about impossible, but we can manage to hold of the easier monstrosities until we deal with the scorpions at least, so we have managed to progress so far without even suffering any serious wounds.

The xp we are gathering is quite nice, and even though I am nearing level 50 myself, I know without a doubt that none of this xp is going to go back to the dungeon unfortunately. Once I get back maybe I should try creating another ring like the one I made for Ceres.

I think with the way her ring works, you gain double the amount of xp but you decide how much xp goes towards your dungeon. Splitting it 50/50 would make it work just like my ring, except you wouldn’t be limited to fighting with only monsters from your own dungeon.

In hindsight I wish I would have thought of that before we came here, but I guess I was too worried about Inari to think about something like that. If I can recreate a ring at least similar to Ceres’s ring then I guess there would be nothing stopping us from doing something like this again in the future, but perhaps just maybe under more favorable circumstances.

We continue along the caverns until we come to a dead end that consists of a stone wall, and by that I don’t mean another cavern wall, but a building-like stone wall. There are no paths diverging from our current one so this has to be the right way.

Since the wall isn’t like the cavern wall we decide to try see if it is destructible. For the most part the wall is like any other dungeon wall, but there is a small section of it that collapses leaving an opening much like there was from the mausoleum to the cavern.

Inari: “Do you think this is the center, or just another exit?”

“Does it matter at this point?”

Inari: “I guess you are right, but we should be extremely careful just in case.”

“Naturally.”

Once we make sure it is clear we enter through the opening and find a mausoleum much like the one we entered the cavern from. We quickly find however this one holds quite a few differences, the major one is it is filled with monsters.

They are not monstrosities, just normal undead monsters, but their difficulty is by far harder than anything we have encountered so far, and that includes the monstrosities. They are not very far in-between either, it seems like we only take a single step after one battle ends before entering another.

Another major difference this mausoleum has is its size. The one at the surface was large enough to hold a couple hundred bodies, but this one…This seems like the actual dungeon. There are no shortages of directions to go either.

Not only does it seem like every step we take leads to another battle, but every battle opens us up to two or three more paths to choose from. Chika’s map making really begins to come in handy now, and we quickly learn that even though very few paths lead to a dead end many end up leading to the same place, and we have retraced our steps quite a few times.

Every time we enter an area we have already passed though however there is a new batch of monsters waiting on us and even though there is proof we have been in that area before, there is no indication of the monsters we left behind. That means the dungeon is starting to clean up after itself as well.

We have also started to find chests and other items at some points. They are not endlessly spawning like Inari found in the other corrupt dungeon, but some of the items are worth hanging onto. The further we go along in this mausoleum the more it looks like a normal dungeon.

The one thing that reminds us that it is a corrupt dungeon is the Oni Generals attacks. No longer do they seem to hit us from a single direction but instead try to surround us from every direction, but at this point they are barely a nuisance.

All of the combat we have to experience soon leads to me receiving a message.

Dungeon Core #212 [Archjusticar —— Gowen] has reached level 50 and acquired the [Archjusticar’s Retribution] special skill.

“Hold on a second.” –I say after I receive the message. After reading it I check out what exactly this skill does.-

Archjusticar’s Retribution (Rank 1): A special skill granted to the Archjusticar that grants the ability to bind, unbind, or change ownership of any monster held by another dungeon at the cost of 50% max mp. Sentient monsters can be unbound, but cannot be bound or have their ownership changed without approval of the sentient monster.

* This skill is only available as long as the holder of the skill remains the Archjusticar. Usage of this skill may directly affect the [Archjusticar] skill.  Using this skill to improve the integrity of [Menu] may result in bonus justicar points or an increase in the [Archjusticar] skill’s rank. Using this skill to decrease the integrity of [Menu] may result in a reduction of the [Archjusticar] skill’s rank.

 

I don’t know if I could use that skill on some of the monsters of this corrupt dungeon, but I could see how it could be extremely helpful, but if you are dealing with a sentient monster or the dungeon core themselves I don’t see it being much use.

I should be able to use it to bind monsters to my dungeon with an mp cost instead of an xp one, so that may be helpful as well. I am by no means disappointed in the skill, but I do kind of wish it was a bit more combat oriented like Inari’s was.

Inari: “Is something wrong?”

“No, I just reached level 50.”

Inari: “That is wonderful! What kind of skill did you get?” –She says excitedly, but hesitates for a second before saying. – “I’m sorry, that was rude for me to ask.”

“You told me about your skill, and I don’t really mind.”

I then read off the description of the skill to her. She seems to come to the same conclusion regarding the corrupt dungeon as I have as she says. “You want to try it out against one of these undead monsters? If we can start using the dungeons own monsters against it, we might just be able to wrap things up here pretty quickly.”

“I would like to try it, but I use less magic killing one of them then I would from taking it over, and I don’t know if I could expend that much mp very often.”

Inari: “I guess you are right, mine costs the same, but with my sword and the increased regain rate I barely notice, but even if you rested between the fights after three or four uses of it, your magic regain would be wiped out…”

“Even at those kinds of numbers though, as long as they don’t die, in three days we could double our numbers. That would make these battles a lot easier.”

Inari: “If it works.”

“If…”

During our next battle I test out my new skill by calling out “[Archjusticar’s Retribution]!” and the lich-like undead I was targeting quickly stops his attack. The drain of 50% of my magic in one fell swoop hits me harder than I expected and I feel a bit weak in the knees.

After a brief moment of hesitation the lich-like undead begins attacking again, but this time he is targeting the remaining undead we were fighting. We manage to take out the rest of the undead but my new monster is falling to pieces.

The only healing spell I have for undead is the one I learned to help Vetala, but it is so low tier it does practically nothing to this lich-like monster.

“Anything else and we could have healed it… If we can’t heal them between battles I don’t know if they are going to help us out in the end.”

Inari: “Well we won’t be able to use them to take the brunt of the damage, but we could use them as a sacrificial shield, or just stack up damage to the enemies. Besides it’s a pretty high level undead, are you sure it doesn’t have a way to heal itself?”

“Not that I can tell, since it isn’t sentient there isn’t much to its status page.”

Inari: “Alright, we will wait for you to build up your magic a bit before continuing on, and maybe by then its natural recovery will heal it up a bit. You might try one of those wraith-like things we have been fighting next. It seems to at least have some kind of vampiric ability. If nothing else it could drain one of us between battles and then we heal ourselves.”

My magic hasn’t completely recovered before we move on so when I use the skill again it even makes me fill sick to my stomach. The lich-like monster doesn’t make it through that battle but wraith monster I took possession of has taken very little damage.

We decide to hold off on using the skill again for the next few battles, even after the wraith falls in battle as well. By the time I use it a third time I become so drained that after the battle Inari quickly says. “Well this looks like a good place to get some rest. Why don’t you let us handle the first watch and get some sleep.”

I want to argue with her, but to be honest I am too tired too. Instead I only let out a grunt and find a place to lay down while probably looking like an undead myself.

 

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