Originally released 16-08-2016
“Wow, you really have gotten better at your acting Feris… I don’t think anyone has even noticed anything different about you at all.” (Nora)
I made sure that I didn’t even so much as glance at her, no one else could know that I could see Nora’s ghost. Explorers dealt with undead much the same way they dealt with angry and hostile monsters, by killing them on sight. Luckily Nora couldn’t be seen by just anyone, hell even with the bond between us I couldn’t see her until that Loria woman helped me to.
As I looked around at the people I had partied with and pretended to enjoy myself like I always did, I couldn’t help but notice how the world seemed brighter now. Everything was clearer, more beautiful, and more perfect. I hadn’t even noticed how bland and grey the world I was seeing was without Nora, it was like there had been something essential missing from everything and no one could tell not even me. That was different now, Nora was back with me and the world was as it should be again.
I’ll never let myself go back to that bland world without her… I’d rather die…
It was easy for me to pretend, it had been a skill I had honed for so long it was almost harder now to show the real me. The fact that the food in front of me looked and tasted amazing didn’t hurt either, it’s even easier to pretend when you don’t have to fake things like how good something tastes.
“Hey, Feris? Do you think you can really pull this off? I mean I know you’ll try, but now that I think about it maybe it’s better that you actually don’t…” (Nora)
I could see her out of the corner of my eye, short brown hair, those almond shaped green eyes, the subtle features that gave her face it’s natural beauty, those pink lips that I had learned were just as soft and delicate as they looked, her slim and petite figure accented by the flower patterned dress robes she was currently wearing, she was just as beautiful as she always had been even as the ghost she was now. Nora had aged a few years past the age she had died, but that wasn’t at all uncommon for spirits or ghosts. They looked the age they felt, I had learned that many times as an explorer, and Nora had grown alongside me as always.
And even now that we had finally been reunited she was still worrying about me, that was so like Nora.
I used the silent hand language we had come up with as kids to talk with her, it was difficult to do while passing the movements off as something else but not impossible. Everyone here thought a was some womanizing idiot, so that’s what they saw, that’s what I showed them. I wasn’t communicating with someone secretly, I was simply just stretching, making a pass at Erica, and trying to feel up Cecilia next to me. Nothing out of the normal for Feris, not at all a cause for alarm or suspicion.
I asked a simple question with my signals: did he hurt her?
“Well, you know Feris I never did tell you how I became an orphan on the streets did I? My parents, they were good people… I was so young when it happened can barely even remember their faces now. They were taking me out to celebrate something, I can’t remember what, and they stepped in the way of a noble child’s carriage. The boy must’ve only been three, but he still calmly ordered their deaths. His guards pursued my parents as they picked me up and ran, they hid me in a crate in some alleyway. That was the last time I saw them…
I learned after I met you who that boy was, he wasn’t even from the city he was just visiting that day. That’s right, my parents were taken from me because we had the poor luck of upsetting Ulisus Tultsven on the day he happened to visit our city. It was bad… just bad luck…” (Nora)
It took everything I had to not react to the tears coming out of Nora’s eyes, instead I just smiled and winked at Hanna and stuck another piece of pork roast in my mouth. I started signaling Nora again when she had stopped crying, I meant what I was signaling her with all of my heart.
I signaled just three words: he dies soon.
There were a lot of things that I was starting to understand using the explorers’ memories that Hanna got, some of the more important things I had understood was the concept of age and how different it was for each of the races. Johana’s concepts of age were different than the others and Feris, Erica, And Darek’s concepts on age were a lot like Hanna’s and were dreadfully short. Cecilia’s concepts of age was almost nonexistent and it seemed to depend on how old she thought of herself, that was the easiest concept to understand for me. I think if I see enough memories from all the races of people I will be able to understand enough about them all that I won’t be confused about how they act anymore, but I’m coming to learn that simply understanding them doesn’t mean that they’ll make sense.
I learned that humans were just strange creatures in general, they were all different in so many ways and they celebrated their differences yet they couldn’t seem to see how similar they all were. The few elves I saw in fragments of Cecilia’s memories were the same, and the one extra memory I got from Johana was about how both races didn’t like her for being too different. In the end I decided that the races of humans and elves were just weird, and I would reserve judgment on the other five races until I found out more about them.
I was watching Hanna and my guests eat the meal I prepared for them, I had made honey glazed spiced pork roast, corn stuffed spiced turkey, and steak with egg roasted over it as the main courses with sides of fresh vegetable salad with a light sweet sauce made from sugar and fruit juice, assorted dried fruit bowls, and steamed rice with gravy. I was really beginning to become fascinated with all the various combinations I could make when preparing food, and I was especially fond of the many ways to prepare rice and the near infinite ways to create new sauces and gravies. It was also nice to have new test subjects besides Hanna who could try my food creations, judging from the noises and expressions my guests and Hanna made as they ate they liked what I made this time as well.
Now I’ll make a new treat for Hanna to try as a reward, and then I’ll have to bring her back to her room so she can get her rest for the day…
It was beginning to get close to Hanna’s sleeping time and I didn’t want her to miss it, I had learned that it was very important that humans sleep a certain amount at certain times to stay healthy. I wanted Hanna to stay healthy so I made sure she always slept at least seven hours around the same time of day, even if there were guests today I wouldn’t make an exception that could risk Hanna’s health. Until Hanna agreed to let me put a soulstone inside her I couldn’t heal her if she became sick, and since she refused the last time I asked as well maintaining Hanna’s health was necessary.
As I imagined a frozen treat Instinct once mentioned humans enjoyed and how I could improve it, I observed my guests closely. Erica was still my favorite, but Cecilia was also interesting and there was something out of place about her that I was beginning to notice. I had decided that she would be my second favorite, then there was Feris whose memories were so different from the others, Darek who was not very interesting but reminded me of a mite in some ways, and Johana who I knew the least about. They were all interesting to watch and I liked having them in my dungeon, I was glad that none of them had died.
Yes, it’s good none of them died… Even if their deaths were interesting then I would have less people to test my food now, so until there are more people entering my dungeon maybe it’s best that as few people die as possible… Maybe I just won’t evolve any of the pixies or wisps on the first level, that way it will stay like it is now and not many should die… I’ll still evolve the flower soldiers though, it isn’t interesting to watch if there is no danger at all…
As I imagined the dairy mix being churned slowly within a vortex of ice magic while I added hints of vanilla and plenty of melted chocolate to it, I decided that I wouldn’t change my first level much more. Just before I finished the special treat I would be giving Hanna, and the pastry treat I was making for Erica and Cecilia, I decided to check my menu to confirm I had enough power to do what I needed to.
My menu had changed and improved again, there had been new things that had shown up on it once I had fifteen floors. Instinct had said that this was normal and that things would be added as I grew, but that my menu was practically full as it was now. She said that was very strange for a dungeon and that made me even more different from normal dungeons, but that it also meant I was unique. I didn’t really think it was that big of a deal, my menu just showed me things that I could do already and how much power I had. It was useful but I could live without ever using it fairly easily, I just didn’t want to.
This should be enough mana for the fifty copies Hanna wanted… I guess she’ll have to write the thing she wants me to copy when she wakes up, maybe the explorers can sleep in the beds on this floor too… Although if one of them got sick from not sleeping to stay healthy that could be interesting too, maybe even more fun than them just sleeping normally…
As I placed the treats I had just made in front of Hanna and my favorite guests, I decided that I would make the offer of letting them use the beds on this floor and if any of my guests chose to not sleep and then got ill then that would just be a bonus.
“Is that… ice cream?” (Cecilia)
“That’s the delicacy that only the rich could ever afford to have prepared, and you just get it like nothing?” (Erica)
“It’s a perk of living here, anyway you both have chocolate torts so you can’t complain…” (Hanna)
“Want to trade?” (Cecilia)
“I would… But you know, Waynor made these specifically for us so it wouldn’t be polite to trade…” (Hanna)
“You know, I wouldn’t mind sharing such delicacies with a maiden as fair as you, Lady Hanna.” (Feris)
“Feris, I’d prefer if you didn’t speak so that I don’t need to waste anymore of the cutlery on you…” (Erica)
As they were all beginning to finish up there meals, I decided that now would be a good time to make my offer and remind Hanna about what time it is.
“As it’s getting late, I think it is about the time for everyone to rest for the day. I would be happy to allow you all to sleep in the beds in the resting room tonight, and Hanna of course I’ll take you to your own room…” (Waynor)
Hanna made a confused expression for a moment when she looked at me, and the guests all seemed pleasantly surprised. I didn’t understand why they all seemed so surprised by this, it was well into the night now and this is around the time Hanna always sleeps. I’d think it would only be natural that they sleep around now as well, and Hanna should be especially tired since she was so active today.
“Um, Waynor I still need to draw up the contract between us and the explorer’s guild, then we need to have it reviewed, and after that there is the signing-…” (Hanna)
“You can do that after you’ve rested then. You don’t want to get sick from not maintaining your health do you, Hanna?” (Waynor)
It was interesting to see how Hanna reacted, first she smiled, then grimaced, then she looked at the explorers for a moment, then she finally just nodded at me.
“Alright then, we can handle the contract tomorrow… That’s alright with you right, Johana?” (Hanna)
Johana seemed shocked by her name being spoken and looked confused for a moment before her face began to tint red slightly and she nodded.
“Wha-… Oh, um, yeah that’s fine with me. Tomorrow, it’ll give us a night to sleep on things…” (Johana)
Now that they’ve settled that I guess it’s about time…
I looked at my guests as I ported Hanna back to her room, they were a bit shocked when they saw Hanna fall into the hazy portal of mana but I’m sure they’d get used to it over time like Hanna did.
“Then we will see you all soon, do please enjoy your rest and don’t wonder off where you’re not supposed to…” (Waynor)
After I said that I let my will return to my core room, leaving my guests to themselves…
“Waynor, I think that since Hanna did such a good job that we should do something that would make her really happy…” (Instinct)
I was watching the guests for a while, but at this point they had all started to go to sleep and watching people sleep is rather boring. Instinct had been keeping me company while I waited for Hanna to get her sleep, I was too excited about what was going on to do much of anything else and besides I didn’t want to use too much of my power and then not have enough to make the contract copies Hanna wanted later on.
“I already praised her and gave her a treat, was there something else I should do to reward her? I guess I could make her a new outfit or maybe start working on that house she always talks about…” (Waynor)
“No, I meant we should move on to the next step of saving her brother now.” (Instinct)
There was something that I had just noticed about Instinct’s voice, it had lost its neuter tone. Instincts voice had transitioned into a pleasant and clearly feminine voice that was incredibly beautiful sounding, it was strange how I hadn’t noticed that it had changed until just now.
I wonder how long it’s been like that, or did it change just now? Huh, well I guess it doesn’t really matter… I like how it sounds now and that’s the important thing…
“But I thought we were going to wait another few months for the next step, weren’t we going to let more of my power seep in and naturally corrupt Ulisus further?” (Waynor)
“Well yes that’s what I thought would be for the best at first, but now… Now what I think is best has changed…” (Instinct)
Well I guess that made sense, I changed my mind fairly often myself. A lot of times I had made Hanna a dress or put a design on a wall that I really didn’t like all that much later on. If Instinct thought that there was a better way to handle this now then she had probably thought of something better than our first plan.
“Ok what do you think we should do now then?” (Waynor)
I felt Instinct begin to open the connection between us and I let it happen, she was having a harder time initiating our connection through our bond the more time that passed. That worried me, but Instinct said that was just because my own will was growing more powerful and independent all the time. Apparently that was a good thing and as long as I could still make the connection between us then I guess it was fine, but it still worried me a little.
Here is what I was thinking we could do… (Instinct)
I felt as Instinct sent all of her thoughts and ideas through our bond. Some of the things she was considering were dangerous, they could even lead to Instinct hurting herself if she wasn’t careful.
…Are you sure that this is the best way?
Yes, it’s the fastest way and it’ll help me establish myself a bit more as well. As I am now I can’t fulfil my purpose to the level I know I could. (Instinct)
But you would be putting yourself in danger, if you want more power I could give it to you like always. You just have to tell me how much you want and I’ll send it to your core…
Waynor, we can’t go on like that forever… (Instinct)
Why not? We’ve been fine like this until now, what makes this the moment that things should change anyway? And why does that change have to be so dangerous for you?
Well nothing about this moment matters other than it being convenient in letting us deal with two issues at once. This would’ve needed to happen eventually anyway, you’ve felt it right? How flawed I had made this core body, how my access has been slowly decreasing… (Instinct)
I had noticed, that was the day I had started giving Instinct power to use on her own. I did that because she had begun to lose the ability to use any of the power I stored in my own core. Then there was of course how our connection was becoming more one way by the day, Instinct was losing something and that loss was beginning to affect her for the worse. I understood that, I also understood that she was the only one who could fix herself but I still didn’t like that there was a risk to her core.
Does it really have to be now?
Doing it now would “Kill two birds with one stone” as the humans say, it’s convenient that’s all… (Instinct)
It was remarkably convenient, Instinct could fix herself and we could use the access power and residue to wake up and begin to alter and heal Ulisus. It was very convenient, and the more I thought about the idea the less against it I was. Instinct was careful, she was more knowledgeable about how dungeons like us work than I was, and Instinct could always stop if things begin to become dangerous for her. Yes there was a danger to her core, but that danger could be avoided as long as she was careful.
Fine, as long as you’re careful and stop before there is a danger of breaking your core…
I will, don’t worry Waynor I know exactly what I’m doing. I’ll also watch over the dungeon while you are dormant…(Instinct)
Wake me when Hanna is done sleeping, I really want to be there for the rest of this “contractual process” thing she has been telling me about. It’s a lot more complicated than just making a contract or deal like I thought it would be, it’s kinda fun to watch…
I’ll be sure to wake you the moment Hanna is up Waynor, you won’t miss a single moment of what you want to see I promise… (Instinct)
Ok then. I guess we can begin the next step after the guests leave, it can be a surprise for Hanna… Good idea about moving him to the entrance before we start too, I hadn’t even thought of some of those problems you brought up, Instinct…
Yes, well that is my purpose. To exist and by existing aid you in any and all things you may require… (Instinct)
I broke off our connection as I felt the amount of conviction and dedication in her response begin to pain my core. It was fine, Instinct would handle things and then when her core was fixed I wouldn’t have to worry about her anymore.
That’s good, maybe I should start to grow my own core soon just so that some similar core problem doesn’t happen to me…
I looked at the shining silver orb the size of a small pebble resting on instincts perfectly sculpted hands, I hadn’t really thought growing it was a priority but it would be nice for my core to be larger and stronger. Maybe the size of the memory orb I made, that would be a nice safe size for now.
“Alright Instinct, I’ll be going dormant now. Be careful and watch over things while I’m dormant.” (Waynor)
“I will Waynor, have a nice rest yourself…” (Instinct)
I sent my will back into my core for the first time in more years than I bothered to track, I was sure that my dungeon was in good care under Instinct. Even if my guests ended up becoming a problem, she could just kill them. After all I could always get more guests to visit me.
As I willed myself to go dormant for six hours, I felt a dark warmth envelop me and all of my senses connecting me to the world outside of my core fade away. Soon even my thoughts became hazy until they to faded away……..
I hadn’t liked any part of that, I had been careful to make sure I hadn’t lied to Waynor in any way, but I was still deceiving him. I hated that, this wasn’t some silly prank or trick I was playing that I knew he would look past, I had intentionally deceived him by omitting the main reasons behind my plans. I had wanted to wait until I was separate enough from Waynor that I could remake my core without having to have him go dormant to avoid it hurting his own core, but that couldn’t be helped now.
Of course I can’t wait that long though, not now that I have to help stupid Loria with her plan so that Ulisus never poses a threat to Waynor… Damn, well at least doing this now means I can stop holding Waynor back sooner than I had been planning…
It was a hard truth that I had to face, my core body was a rushed job made by my earliest personality still affected by the broken remnants of a fragmented dungeon will in a frantic and panicked attempt to accomplish something that I knew next to nothing about at the time. Of course such a core was flawed, and for the past twenty years it had been deteriorating and losing access to Waynor, his power, and his dungeon. At this point I was nothing more than a parasite leeching more and more power from him so that I can do anything at all, that wasn’t what I had intended this core to be like. It was a problem with how I had first designed my core to function, and now that I knew better I could fix that problem and improve the function of my core.
But first I have to let her know what’s happened and that she can start her next phase… Loria better hope that this works out like she planned, otherwise I’ll bet Waynor will be far from happy with her… Maybe she’ll even lose her right to choose her own evolutionary path…
I projected my will and sent it to stand right next to where Loria had been sitting in the house Waynor made for her. It was as lavish as I had expected it to be with the interior being done in light colors and having open designs accented with plants and vines that seemed to be a part of the house itself. It was as amazing and beautiful as I had come to expect from everything that Waynor made, and unfortunately it perfectly matched and complimented the one that lived here.
“Loria, Waynor is dormant right now, you are free to do whatever it is you wanted without him knowing about it. He’s also agreed to move Ulisus to the entrance of the dungeon and begin the next step to saving his life once the explorers leave. You’ll have a few moments before Waynor and I flood the human with enough power and core pieces to overwrite any blessings the gods may have over him, if you don’t kill him within that window than you won’t be able to without getting Waynor involved.
With this I’ve done my part, the rest is up to you and I hope you understand that I will be telling Waynor about all this once Ulisus is dead.” (Instinct)
Loria didn’t even bother to look at me when she responded.
“That’s fine, I’ll happily explain everything to Lord Waynor myself after Ulisus is dead and gone. I’ll also face any punishment he has for me, and I’ll face it gladly…” (Loria)
I cast my gaze over to my two muses, they were quietly listening to our conversation and as I had ordered they were keeping what they heard to themselves unless Waynor himself specifically asked. Yula and Tula were my masterpieces, beautiful, loyal, intelligent and utterly uninterested in Waynor romantically. They were made to the exact base design Waynor set for muses, with only the random feature differences that I gave them and their petite figures separating them from being exact copies of Loria’s own appearance. These two were quieter than I thought they would’ve been given Loria’s pension to talk, but I thought that might be an improvement so it was welcome.
“Yula, accompany Loria in whatever it is she plans to do. If she oversteps herself please do kill her, whatever the cost to yourself.” (Instinct)
The muse girl gracefully bowed her head at that and when she spoke her voice was as clear and melodically perfect as I remembered.
“Of course Mistriss Instinct, though I may be unable to kill her on my own.” (Yula)
I had considered that, but unfortunately I couldn’t send both Yula and Tula together, I wanted at least one of them here just in case one of the explorers decided to try something.
“Do the best you are capable of, that alone will be fine. I have confidence that you will manage if things come to that point. Now, I’ll be leaving and I won’t be watching you as I have a matter that will be far more important and will require much of my focus.” (Instinct)
Loria stood up and began walking to the door out of the house.
“I understand, so you won’t see, hear, or know about anything I may do in case Lord Waynor asks. No need to be troubled by that, I am after all a trusted servant of Lord Waynor as well…” (Loria)
I returned myself to my core before she even reached the door. I really wasn’t fond of that woman, and I liked dealing with her even less.
Alright, enough thinking about that now… This will be pretty painful, but I should be able to manage it in one shot. Hopefully I don’t destroy myself in the process, that would be rather embarrassing and I’m sure it would upset Waynor when he wakes up…
I opened my fragmented excuse for a dungeon menu and got ready to entirely recreate my core without actually breaking it.
Yep, it’s still missing a lot, but I should be able to change that now… Maybe the best way to do this would be to draw power through Waynor instead of just from him, and I’ll need to reinforce our connection while dampening the emotional feedback he receives from me so that it’ll cut off before it becomes painful for Waynor… Well this is going to be pretty painful… Probably best if I do it very fast and very carefully…
I gathered up all the power in my core and channeled it to begin breakdown my core into its basest materials, all the while enduring an agony that was beyond understanding. I almost let myself go dormant, I almost allowed my will to drift off and embrace death, but instead I fought through my agony. I used it to heighten my focus and hone my work to its utmost perfection.
My will entered a strange state of duality, while one aspect of all I was suffered an experience worse than imagining the other aspect of all I was had complete focus on what it was creating and holding itself in this state of almost existence. I couldn’t tell if I was working quickly anymore, I couldn’t spare any of myself to consider the concept of time. I couldn’t spare any of myself to consider any concepts that were not directly related to what I was doing in this moment, I couldn’t even spare enough of myself to recognize that this could be a problem…
It hurt to do much of anything at this point, but I couldn’t let myself go dormant. Instead I just did my best to ignore the pain and focus on absorbing power, it was interesting how that occurred now. Power was channeled through Waynor and then some of that power made it’s way into my core, this was far better than what it was before. Now I could add to Waynor’s power instead of detracting from it, and it seemed I was capable of more independent actions than I was before though I still needed Waynor’s approval to carry out any of those actions.
I have more abilities now, and there’s even stuff I’ve never seen before… this must be what Waynor was talking about, I wonder if I never had them before because I was a born dungeon and my dominion level was too low… I guess self-created dungeons have a lot less restrictions to their menu, but then again they didn’t have parents to set those restrictions so I guess that makes sense…
As I gathered power and used it to repair my core, I contemplated all the changes I had gone through. I was still the same will that I was before, but once again I had improved myself beyond the prior Instinct. This time however I seem to have merged the new improved version of myself with the important aspects of my old self, things like memories, personality, desires, emotions, and concepts were kept and everything unimportant was cast aside.
As I projected my will out and looked at what my core looked like now, I was shocked by how little about it had actually changed. All that was different now was that instead of the six legs that once supported the sculpted hands there was now a solid glossy pedestal bottom with a wavy shimmer to its surface, and those sculpted hands were now attached to flawless and beautiful sculpted arms reaching out from the pedestal bottom. The effect was like looking at a woman reaching out of pristine water to uphold Waynor’s core in utterly devoted supplication even as the rest of her body was below the surface and she undoubtedly must be drowning. It conveyed a sense of majesty, holiness, and sacrifice that seemed perfect to support and accent Waynor’s own core.
I reached out the hands of my manifested astral projection, it was exactly the same as the sculpted silver hands joined in a cupped pose to hold Waynor’s core. Every detail other than color was exactly the same, one set of hands was a wonderful and faintly glowing silver platinum and the other set was the milky color of pale flesh. Both were mine, and both existed to support that small perfect core whose silver platinum was only broken by the faintest hints of cobalt blue. I held my hands just above Waynor’s core, I couldn’t touch him or feel him like this, not truly, but as I was now I could actually make a dungeon lord body for myself.
And then, then I’ll be able to truly touch you… To defend you myself without having to depend on one of your creations to do it for me… To do so many things that I can’t do now…
I moved back and let my astral projection dissipate as I returned my will to my core.
And maybe then I’ll be able to explain to you just what I feel, and have you understand just how much that means my dear Waynor… But until then, I’ll content myself with this…
I could feel that Loria had returned to her house and that Yula was still with her, so whatever she set out to do must be over now. I had mixed feelings about Loria now, I didn’t hate her nearly as much as I had previously but still the idea of Waynor favoring her over me made me vastly uncomfortable. It would probably take me time to sort through my new self and to discover just who I was now compared to who I was before, but there were a few things that were absolutely certain inside me.
I was Instinct, my purpose was to exist and by existing aid Waynor in any and all things he may require.
I was Instinct, and I loved the one I served more than anything else in existence.
I was Instinct, and no matter whatever else may come or how I may change these three things were utter Absolutes of my existence that would never waver or change.
And I’m going to be in so much trouble when Waynor wakes up and sees all these cracks on my core… There is no way I’ll be able to restore myself in time at this rate…………………