“This is getting us nowhere.” –Says Laura as we continue our process of trying to gather information from the dungeon core Barry.-
Laura: “Asking him the same questions over and over for the past four hours is not accomplishing anything. I have far better things to do rather than wasting my time here in your pointless pursuit.”
Barry: “I-I’m sorry… I don’t know what you want me to say. I am not, nor have I ever worked with those who are killing the other dungeon cores…”
Lucille: “As much as I loathe agreeing with Laura, I don’t have all day to spend wasting my time on some weakling like Barry. If you are so sure about him being one of the traitors, just deal with him already, so we can get on with our own business.”
“The information that was brought to me was quite compelling, but by no means definitive. Without new cores being born we need to be sure!”
Dyson: “Although I am not in much of a rush as Laura or Lucille, I do believe, traitor or not, if Barry was going to say anything with this line of questioning, he would have done so by now.”
“You have a better idea?”
Dyson: “Well now that you mention it, quite a few actually, but all of which can’t be performed here at the neutral zone.”
Lucille: “I don’t see any purpose the traitors would want a weak core like Barry, so I believe this is a waste of time, but if you insist on torturing him, I will leave that bit of messy little business to you. I have much more pressing matters to attend to. If you do happen to turn up any information about the traitors from Barry however, do let me know.”
Laura: “Important matters like stopping Aaron taking his rightful place as the ruler of all of Merretta?”
Lucille: “You might be surprised to hear, but the world doesn’t revolve around you and that little human pet of yours.”
Laura: “For acting like you don’t care, you sure have been putting a lot of effort in preventing Aaron from taking the throne!”
The two women continue to argue as get up from their chairs and leave the room.
Madam Erin: “Looks like it is down to the two of us.”
Dyson: “Works for me, so Barry, are you going to tell us what we need to know, or is it time to take you back to my dungeon for a little alternative questioning?”
Barry: “P-Please… You don’t have to do this.”
“We have presented you with every opportunity to tell us what you know, so I see no other option.”
Barry: “I can’t tell you what I don’t know! I wish I could help you, but I can’t!”
Dyson: “Quit sniveling, you’re a dungeon core for the gods’ sake! If you are telling the truth, we will cut you lose, and you will heal up no problem, but if you’re not…”
Barry: “I-I don’t know anything…”
“Well we will soon know for sure.”
If you would have told me even two years ago that I would be standing here in a dungeon speaking to a demi-human, while preparing to hire said demi-human to serve as a spotter and to gather regents from the monsters, that I am actually going to take part in killing, I would say you had gone insane, but here I am.
Next to me is my midget of a husband Exavier, he leaves much to be desired as a husband, but he is quite sincere and an overall decent individual, so as far as arranged marriages go, I could have done much worse.
Which is another thing I would never have thought you would hear me say, that I am happy being married to an elf. Well, he is only a quarter elf, but as far as appearances go, I have seen full-blooded elves, that you could convince me had less elven blood then Exavier.
To the other side of me is Sandra, who is a beastkin woman that I consider a close friend… Hell if you told me about any part of my current life and I would have said you were crazy. Now that I think about it, I don’t even know what kind of beastkin Sandra is. I have never been on friendly terms with a beastkin before so I don’t know if it is rude or not to ask their sub-species.
She is has a long tail and rounded ears kind of like Doug’s beastkin, but I am pretty sure it isn’t the same species. In any case she is a pretty damn good mage, and serves as the healer of our group.
The rest of our team changes quite frequently depending on what commissions we are taking in the Adventurers Guild. There is never a shortage of adventurers that jump at the opportunity of traveling with a prince and a princess, so we never have a trouble filling those slots.
Currently we rounded out our group with a pair of adventurers that come highly recommended at the Adventurer’s Guild. I would have never chosen them personally as they seem pretty sketchy, but the receptionist at the guild vouched for them.
Exavier doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere with the lizard demi-human, so I decide to try to help along the negotiations.
“It’s quite simple. We know the dungeon doesn’t attack your kind, so you just have to scout the rooms before we enter to make sure we can handle the monsters inside, and once the monsters are killed we need you to harvest any valuable components from them and carry them for us.”
Lizardman: “Grix understanded, little prince, but princess princess princess needs understanded, only Choxl and Zox allowed to helps in adventurys. Grix nots have permissions to helps adventurys.”
I think it is quite obvious why the demi-humans call Exavier little prince, but they used to only call me princess until one of the gnomes learned I was not only a princess because of being married to Exavier, but a princess of Gowen, as well as Duscae. Ever since then the dumber demi-humans have been calling me princess princess princess.
“But the other two of your kind have already gone with another groups, you are the only one that is left.”
Grix: “Grix sorrys…”
“Well let’s try it this way, you said you don’t have permission to escort adventurers, what do you need to do to get permission?”
Grix: “Smarts gnome must ask their babaga before anys of newlings go withs adventurys.”
“Wait… Isn’t the babaga the dungeon itself? The gnomes have to ask the dungeon for permission for one of the demi-humans to help the adventurers kill monsters?”
Grix: “Wes not helping in killings of monsters.”
“I know that but it’s still ironic that you need to ask the dungeon’s permission, even if it is just to loot the corpses of the dead monsters. Anyway, can you ask one of the gnomes to ask for you to have permission to go with us?”
Grix: “Smarts gnome says babaga no speaks today.”
“I really don’t want to have to cut into the corpses of the monsters myself, isn’t there some way for you to come with us, today?”
The lizardman cocks his head to one side as he seems to be thinking really hard. He then grabs the end of his snout and rattles his own head several times like he is trying to shake an idea loose or something…He soon however slump his shoulders and says. “Grix sorrys, Grix not knowing.”
“What if I speak to one of the gnomes for you, do you think that would work?”
Grix: “Grix not knowing.”
“Well I am going to find out…”
I try to find one of the gnomes, but I have to pass several by because it has been well established when the gnomes wear the masks with the frowns they get really pissy when you talk to them, so I have to find one with the smiling face.
“Hey you! I need to talk to you for a minute!” –I say calling out to one of the gnomes with a smiling mask.-
The gnome quickly stops and turns. “Princess princess princess, what want Grigri for?”
“All of the lizardmen are helping other adventurers except Grix, but he said he doesn’t have permission to go with any adventurers, I was wondering if there was anything I could do to be able to take him into the dungeon with me today.”
Grigri: “Babaga dungeon no talk talk today…”
“Grix told me you have to ask permission first, but if the dungeon is too busy to talk wouldn’t it be too busy to worry if Grix goes with us or not?”
Exavier: “I don’t think that is a good idea… If they really are asking the dungeon for permission, wouldn’t it be really bad to make it mad?”
Sandra: “He is right, Tanya. Sofia would skin us alive if she heard we tried something like that.”
“But we need that lizardman…”
Adventurer 1: “Then who cares what some stupid gnome says. That lizardman was stupid anyway, we can just tell him we got permission and he would probably go with us.”
Exavier: “You apparently haven’t been in Tobes very long…”
Adventurer 2: “I told you it was a stupid idea to ask the monsters for help anyway!”
Sandra: “They are demi-humans, not monsters!
Adventurer 1: “Are we going to go into the dungeon or not?”
“Fine, but if we are not taking one of the lizardmen, you two are doing the heavy lifting, and we’ll take one of the sylphs instead. Even if they don’t help with anything, it is said the items you receive in the dungeon are better quality when you have one of the sylphs with you.”
Adventurer 2: “Fine, but we have wasted enough time here, just hurry up and grab it and let’s go.”
The old me would probably have told them off on the spot, but then again the old me probably would have agreed with them. It has already gotten late enough in the morning that we wouldn’t be able to rustle up another pair of adventurers, so I guess these two will just have to do for today, but see if I ever listen to the recommendations of that receptionist ever again…
It’s been another hour since I met up with Inari, and I heard from Madam Erin. We have continued to follow the trail of dead bodies, but with the strength of the monsters that have respawned. Some of the lower leveled members of our group are hanging towards the back while we push through.
With the number of people that are fighting these battles I am sure the xp everyone is acquiring is slim to none, and not a single point of it will go back towards the dungeon, but as I said before, that is far from what we are trying to do here.
At the six hour mark, from the time we first started, we have pushed down to the 12th floor. With our progress slowing so much, I can only hope Ithros and Emery manage to uncover something, as I don’t think we are going to reach the bottom before we are forced to retreat.
Just after seven hours we have reached the 13th floor, we still haven’t found anything. Ithros and Emery have been ignoring most of the messages I have sent them. By the messages they have replied too, they seem to be close to reaching the end of the dungeon, but they haven’t uncovered anything unusual either. It is also at that point I receive word from Madam Erin, and it isn’t what we wanted to hear.
Madam Erin: (We have done everything we could…And quite more than we should have, but either Barry has an indomitable will, which is completely opposite of the rest of his personality, or the information you received was bad.)
(He gave you nothing at all…?)
Madam Erin: (Dyson raked him over the coals, and I am not just speaking figuratively, but Barry still maintains his innocence.)
(You tortured him?!)
Madam Erin: (We put ourselves out on a limb for you with this little crusade of yours.)
(I told you the information was compelling, but in no way proof that he was one of the traitors! You shouldn’t have tortured him based just off of that information!)
Madam Erin: (He is a dungeon core, the scars will heal within hours, and now we can be sure.)
(Maybe the physical ones… So what are you going to do now?)
Madam Erin: (The information you brought to me was, like you said, very compelling. I don’t think that information wrong, as much as it was pointed at the wrong individual.)
(You are thinking Megan brought us this information to throw us off, and that she is one of the traitors rather than Barry?)
Madam Erin: (I am saying we should have a chat with her.)
(What about Barry?)
Madam Erin: (Dyson is patching him up now before sending him home. I wouldn’t be surprised if he demands some sort of compensation, and this is your show, so that makes it your responsibility. Now, if I was you I would round up your people and get out of there before things get even worse.)
(I would have liked to reach the end to make sure there was nothing in his dungeon to prove otherwise, but if what you said was true I guess it doesn’t matter. Thank you for sticking your neck out for me on this. I just wish the result would have been better.)
Madam Erin: (It isn’t over until we have had a chance to speak with Megan, but if the information still doesn’t pan out, I can’t say it is looking good for your little group.)
I then start sending out message to the other groups to fall back to the staging area, and that it is over, but Emery sends me a message back.
Emery: (It isn’t over yet, far from it! We made it to the end and there is no crystal here!)
(Reaching the end doesn’t necessarily mean the crystal will be there, he must have just been smart enough to hide it.)
Emery: (You think I don’t know better than that?! I have a skill that should lead me straight to the crystal, and yet I am telling you the crystal is not where it should be.)
I am not sure what exactly is going on, but the one thing I do know for sure is I need to send Madam Erin a message before they send Barry back, at least until we figure out what is going on.
(Madam Erin it is urgent that you don’t send Barry back yet!)
Madam Erin: (Why? What is going on?”)
(Emery reached the location in which Barry’s crystal should be located, but the crystal is not there. It is not just the deepest location of the dungeon that Emery is looking at, but it is where the skill that he possesses says the crystal should be. It could all be some kind of mistake, but until we know for sure you need to make sure not to send Barry back yet.)
While waiting for Madam Erin to reply I open a message to all dungeon cores that came with us, and tell them to take extra precaution as they leave the dungeon as quickly as possible. Before seeing any kind of response from Madam Erin or the dungeons cores I receive a different kind of message.
Dungeon Core #421 [Goren] had perished at the hands of the Lizardman Monarch [Zalios]
Goren was one of ours… The more troubling fact is that it said his death was caused by a named lizardman, but all of the lizardmen I can summon are of the water element, and with Barry being a fire dungeon core he should be unable to summon a lizardman.
Not only that, but I should have received a message back from someone by now, especially after Goren died…That only leaves one possibility. I try using [Blink] but it fails.
“Everyone be on guard! Goren should have been a level much higher than we are and still encountered a type of Lizardman further evolved then I can even summon, not to mention the fact I am pretty sure we have just been placed under the effects of one of those items the traitors use.”
Inari: “So does that mean that Barry is a traitor after all?”
Dawn: “But I thought you told the Elders about what was going on, why would they let him go after what you told them?”
“I told them to hold him, but it could be that the message just didn’t get to them in time. Either that or his friends have come to his aid. Either way I lost contact with the others in the middle of a conversation, so regardless if they sent him back or not they should know we are under the effects of one of the traitor’s items”
Maeve: “Well what do we do now?”
“Well the message about retreating that I sent out to the others went through before we got cut off, and it seems apparent that Barry is part of the traitors now. I don’t know how he is hiding his crystal, but if we can’t get to it or him, there is no use for us being here any longer. Our best bet is to retreat for now and since we know Barry is one of the traitors we can put that information to good use later.”
We then all gather up making sure everyone is accounted for, I can’t be certain what Ithros or Emery are going to do, but between the two of them I will be little to no help, so it is best to work our way back gathering others on our way out.
As we start to turn back the monsters behind us have all respawned yet again, and although their difficulty isn’t any harder than they were before, now that we know Barry is one of the traitors, the monsters seem to put us on edge.
On our way back up we slow down a bit checking some of the hallways and pathways leading off of the main path for other groups, but so far it looks like we gained quite a lead over the other groups, as we still haven’t encountered anyone else.
We made it down 13 floors in just over 7 hours, but our cautious approach going back up is taking quite a bit more time. By the time we reach the 10th floor another message appears.
Dungeon Core #366 [Quentin] has perished at the hands of the Lizardman Monarch [Zalios]
Goren was by no means a weak dungeon core, but Quentin was at least 10 levels above him, and over 50 years older. Our group is quite large, so as long as we stick together we should be alright, but I can’t say that I am not a little worried about what exactly we are going to run into on our way back to the surface.
What is worse is if we keep losing people here, like this, the other dungeon cores will no longer listen to me, and that will be end of this group of mine…
“Alright everyone, we need to pick up the pace a bit. Some of the side rooms are showing activity of others, and we can’t afford to split up. Everyone was instructed to retreat, so we have to hope if we do leave anyone behind we can come back for them after making sure the majority of the weaker dungeon cores have retreated.”
Inari: “I am worried about this Zalios, as well. With the kind of strength it would have taken to take out Quentin it seems to be a stretch even if he was one of Barry’s boss monsters, but being from Barry’s opposing element that doesn’t seem likely either.”
“Quentin didn’t bring many monsters with him. If he suffered any casualties at all, it would have put him in quite a tough spot. Right now, between you, Dawn, Twilight, Maeve, me, and all our monsters we have plenty of people to switch in if someone becomes injured, so I am not worried about us, as much as I am about some of the other dungeon cores out there. Not to mention my other groups of monsters.”
It takes us moving past a few more floors before we encounter our first other dungeon core, but he looks to have suffered quite a bit of damage, but nothing life threating, his level is about equal to mine, but he is completely alone, so we were quite lucky to have found him.
“Leonard, it’s good to see you are still alright.”
Leonard: “I lost all my monsters, but one of your groups of monsters saved my life…”
“Where are they now?”
Leonard: “They didn’t stick around after saving me… I tried to tell them the orders were to retreat, and so did some of the others in their group, but the raccoon beastkin woman wouldn’t have any of it. They left through that door there.” –He says while pointing to one of the doors that leads away from the main path.-
“Leave it to Bandy… She is a pretty valuable asset to my dungeon, but she is reckless and I need to insure the other dungeon cores are safe. For her sake I hope they are able to find their own way out of here.”
Leonard then joins us as we continue making our way towards the surface. As we make our way up we encounter plenty of monsters, several other groups, most of which are the xp gathering groups that belong to my dungeon, but we have found Kenta, Akane, and Kenta’s group of monsters as well.
By the time we have reached the third floor we are beginning to run into more and more of our allies. We also receive a troubling revelation from Poppy’s group when we find them.
Poppy: “Master, we have heard that the entrance to the dungeon has been sealed. We haven’t seen it for ourselves yet, but we have encountered several groups that are attempting to find another exit.”
“First the missing crystal, and now this… I don’t like the way this is starting to look.”
Leonard: “How is it possible for him to seal the entrance of the dungeon off completely? That doesn’t even mention the fact all of us should be considered intruders, so he even managed to edit his dungeon behind intruders.”
Poppy: “Master, you are bad luck… Every time I go somewhere with you we get trapped in a dungeon.”
“Hopefully this one takes a lot less time to escape from.”
Leonard: “You have experienced something like this before?”
“Not exactly, that was a unique situation, and in no way should Barry be able to do the same thing.”
Leonard: “Well then how do we get out of here?”
“Well first thing is first, we need to find the beginning of the dungeon. If it is sealed off we can go from there, but for now I think it is our best bet as a place to rally everyone together to plan our next move.”
By the time we reach the location in which we entered the dungeon we have rounded up quite a few more people, and have found that what Poppy heard was true. The part of the dungeon that goes from the stone walls to the natural cave like texture is completely blocked off.
We try everything we can think of from blasting the wall with spells, to trying to find a hidden switch or something that may move the wall, but no matter what we try the wall holds, and we appear to be completely trapped.
“I hate to say this, but we may have to spit up a bit to try to find another way out of here. I am not too worried about the monsters on these first few floors, but I am worried about that lizardman showing up.”
Inari: “We will just have to make sure there are some higher level people among each group.”
“We could have really used Bandy’s group right about now. They are the highest level group from my xp gatherers. Alright, Poppy, you and Lynx are in pretty good shape, so I think your group should be alright to have a look around on your own.”
Inari: “Chika and Kazuki, I want you two to go with them just in case. In fact I think all of my monsters should split up and go with some of Daddy’s groups just to be on the safe side.”
Leonard: “What about us?”
“I want quite a few people to stay here and try to set up a defensive line. This dungeon isn’t very big, but if we are stuck here for a few days I want a location we can hold out at. Azami you have all of your spriggans so I want you and Zoey to keep an eye on things here.”
Inari: “Saki I want you and Satoshi to help them.”
“Maeve, Dawn, and Twilight, you three should probably remain here as well.”
Dawn: “But Papa, I want to help!”
“You are. We need to hold this area so that if the entrance opens back up so we can escape, not to mention the fact that the last orders everyone received was to head here, so some of the groups that haven’t shown up yet should be trying to get here.”
Belinda: “Don’t think I am going to stay behind this time, Logan is still out there somewhere. I know I missed out on gaining levels while I was pregnant, but I can’t stand to see you go off again while being left behind again.”
“What about Rory? If something were to happen to me, at least you would still be there for Rory.”
Belinda: “I am pretty sure if you don’t make it through this, then none of us will, so I want to be by your side for better or worse…”
Inari: “Don’t worry Daddy, Takeshi and I will stay with you and make sure to keep Mommy safe.”
“What about your new beastkin? They have held their own pretty well, but just how strong are they?”
Inari: “After we destroyed the corrupt dungeon, things quieted down for a week or so, but before we were able to reach the capital to protect it, there was a surge of new Oni coming from the remaining corrupt dungeons. The Oni Generals are not even the worst of it any more. By the time we reached the capital they had already breached the wall, but we were still able to save most of it. After that though, when I summoned the new monsters I wanted to make sure they would be strong enough so I summoned them all at level 50.”
“Why didn’t you say anything…? We have been coming to train there for the last few months, and we could have done something to help.”
Inari: “It hasn’t really changed around the village, so I didn’t want to worry you about it, and I knew you would have wanted to help, but this is my problem. It’s something I have to take care of on my own.”
“Well we can talk about this more after we get out of here, but for now, let’s see about splitting up the groups.”
Group 1 consists of Poppy’s group, of which Poppy and Lynx’s levels are in the 50s, but the remaining members are only in the mid 40s, along with Chika, and Kazuki who are both in their 50s as well.
Group 2 is made up of one of my groups in which their levels are all in the upper 30s, along with Akihiro, Rin, and Yuuta all in their 50s
Group 3 is another of mine ranging in levels from low 40s to high 30s, with Hana and Megumi from Inari’s dungeon joining them who are at their 50s as well.
Group 4 is my own with Belinda, Inari, Takeshi, Ryuu, Bell, and myself with our levels ranging from Inari at the highest at level 57 down to Bell who is just under Belinda at level 41 .
That just leaves the ones staying behind. Not including Maeve, Dawn, Twilight, Kenta, and Leonard there are three other dungeon cores that we brought along that are going to set up here, along with Zoey, Roxy, Saki, and Satoshi.
With Quentin and Goren already perishing, that leaves 3 more dungeon cores and their monsters still out in the dungeon somewhere, and that isn’t even including Ithros, Emery, Queen, Logan, Queen’s beastkin, Katie’s entire group, Bandy entire group, and two other groups of my monsters that are still missing as well.
“We have our work cut out for us, make sure you return here at least once very hours so we know you are still alright, and don’t proceed to a different floor without checking back here as well. Don’t forget we are not only looking for a way out of here, but the others that are still missing as well. Be careful everyone, and good luck…”
After making sure everyone is set, we set off in different directions. We spend the next hour or so going over the first floor with a fine toothed comb but so far we have come up with nothing that will help us get out of here.
We have been pushing everyone pretty hard today and we have been at it for hours, so back where everyone has gathered some of the members are starting to catch a few hours of sleep. We have had one more dungeon core arrive at were we set up, but so far that is it.
“I know it’s getting late, but people are starting to get restless, so I want to take at least one pass at the second floor before we stop to rest as well.”
Inari: “After being trapped in that corrupt dungeon for months on end, I don’t want to go through that again, so I am right there with you, in trying to find a way out of here as quickly as possible.”
“Is everyone else holding up alright?”
Belinda: “So far the monsters here have been nothing to worry about, but they haven’t quit respawning with each time we pass through the room, so even if they are not a problem to deal with, all this repetition is wearing me out.”
“If you want you can go ahead and rest. Some of the other groups have already gone up to the second floor, so we should be alright if you want to rest.”
Belinda: “No, I said I didn’t want to leave your side, and I meant it. If I don’t start pushing myself I am only going to get further and further behind, and my brother is still out there somewhere…”
“Just don’t push yourself to hard.”
Belinda: “I promise.”
We then continue on to the second floor, but after another 2 hours of searching every room, wall, nook, crack, and crevasse, we are no closer to finding the exit or finding any more of the missing groups. Once we decide to return to the basecamp we are left with one last somber message to end out the day.
Dungeon Core #216 [Deion] has perished at the hands of the Lizardman Monarch [Zalios]
We might be cut off from leaving the dungeon, but this time at least Madam Erin and Dyson should know about it right from the start, so even if we can’t find a way out of here, maybe there is something they can do on their end.
Exhausted, and with no other options we finally decide to get a bit of rest as well.