Chapter 21: Where They All Huddle
This has been some of the most pleasant sleep I’ve ever had in my entire life. Although, my body told me to wake up as it no longer felt anymore need for sleep, the feeling of wanting to stay put just for the sake of it was strong.
Maybe I was just tired of it all. The lustrating, essence training, load training, magic studies, combat studies, ways to make money, worrying about my friends.
It’s taxing and stressful doing all that and now knowing I could die at the whim of world. It was discouraging, to say the least.
That is why I wanted to stay here, wherever I am, warm and comfortable. On a cozy bed in a place filled with the scent of incense and, at times, the pleasant smells of aromatic herbs being ground.
However, at the moment, someone was violently shaking me trying to rudely take me from such a blissful state.
“Hey. Hey! I know you can hear me, I know you’re not injured anymore. Wake up, I need to clean the room.”
I clicked my tongue and turned away from the voice.
“No, no, no. Unless you want to pay me another 500,000 scales get the off the bed. If you want you can sit on the chair over there.” The blanket was yanked off of me.
My eyes shot open. Scared of being charged, I threw my sore body off the bed. I looked around for a chair and spotted a hand-carved wooden one in what appeared to be the inside of a small stone cottage.
“That’s what I thought, figured you’d be broke seeing your friend had to pay for your treatment.”
Awake I was able to take notice of the owner of the voice. She was by the side of the bed folding the blanket she had just taken from me. She was in her late twenties with a thick head of dark blue hair. While the color was eye-catching it was nothing compared to the shimmering green-blue fish scales that covered her entire neck and arms.
“Wait, your voice…” before I could finish my sentence the blue-haired woman raised her hand and stopped me.
“Aren’t you the voice that appeared in my dream? To answer you. Yes, that was me, it wasn’t a dream though. I am a spirit medic.”
[They’re doctors that specialize in repairing and healing the internal bodies, Lucid.]
I needed a specialist? How much damage did I do to need one…
Suddenly, another question popped up. “What about the two kids? Who were they? Your assistants?”
“Two kids…?” The spirit medic furrowed her tear-shaped eyebrows.
“Ohh those two kids. I was just helping them move on, civic duty being a spiritualist and all. I saw they were following you when I went to go pick up the pieces of your manabody from the astral plane. Honestly, those two kids where stubborn, they wouldn’t go until they thanked you and gave you a gift so I gave them a flower I had found while in there.”
I nodded my head. So they were spirits of the undead. They were probably happy to be freed from the torment of being such a state. Still, it gave me a bitter feeling now remembering their cute little shy faces knowing they’re no longer in this world. But at least they’re no longer in pain.
“What about Eugene where is he now?” I already knew that he was safe which is why I wasn’t exasperated to know where he was.
“Your friend? He’s out probably looking around the cave plazas like everyone who just arrives here does. Or the brothels who knows you’ve been sleeping for 4 days now.”
“It’s the best way I can describe this place. Once you go outside yourself you’ll understand.” As I turned to get up the woman spoke once more.
“Wait, wait, don’t go yet. ”
I tilted my head as I turned back around. “Hmm?”
“First your manabody. It is still in a state of being repaired. I did as much as I can, now it just needs time. So, no loads greater than 30% on the high end, but safest would be 20% for about 30 to 40 lustrating periods. This does not mean to not use magic, many confuse it with mana shock, you have to use it actually to stimulate it to heal properly.”
I carefully listened to the doctor’s instructions. Thinking about it, if Eugene didn’t bring me out of the cursed land the cost of using that magic would have been death from just the curse itself if I had survived not getting treated.
I will be staying under 20% to be safe and doing a complete 40 sessions before I do anything above 20%. Make sure to remind me Eurval.
[You got it.]
“Second, can you tell me where you come from? I know you’re from Laurent, but I mean before that.”
I could feel my heart stop, hearing that question. Although in a panic I kept my face quizzical as if the question was odd to not reveal anything.
“I’ve always been from Laurent,” I replied casually.
“Oh, okay. I was a little curious. I just thought you from the northern continents. Your hair color, it reminds me of the people there. Not only that your manabody was already being repaired by the time I brought back the missing chunks. There was even some left over.”
She grabbed a small flask from the desk nearby. “This the third thing. Here, don’t lose this. It is yours.”
I breathed a sigh of relief realizing I misunderstood the intention behind the question as I took a small glass container.
Inside was a glowing orange-red gem. It must have taken notice of me as it trembled and stuck to the flask side facing me. Seeing it move about it appeared to be more of a liquid crystal.
What is this for? I asked Eurval.
[I do not have the answer ask the medic Lucid.]
I turned to the spirit medic and repeated: “What is this thing?”
“A piece of your manabody.” My eyes twitched a little I didn’t know that was possible.
“It did feel familiar…” I even felt a strong affection for it strangely.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect to have any leftover pieces, but they’re usually used in advanced forms of familiar summoning, clone creation, doll building, grimoire making, weapons forging. Really anything you want to have a strong direct bond with. Though, usually a chunk that large takes years to make over many expensive sessions. Which is another reason why I thought you came from the north.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I thought you were a practitioner of their many spirit techniques. Not only that the internal bodies of the inhabitants are amazingly resilient as well. I had just accepted an apprenticeship to study there, but I got sucked into this mess as I waited for my for my layover in Laurent.”
“The north…” I took note of the spirit medic’s words.
“If there is any good about getting sucked in, it is that I had all my belongings in my spatial ring. My lab, materials, estate, everything. Too bad most of the Laurent folks are rather sensitive about being touched by non-humans. You should thank your friend, he has a good eye for spirit medics. Don’t mean to brag, but I’m sure I’m the best here.”
I was curious about the northern continents now. I had always wondered about this body’s origins maybe there might be some clues there. Eurval knew very little other than the care facilities I was transferred around in my younger years.
I was about to ask…still it’s low in priority for now. Finding my friends came first.
I held the container at eye level. I felt sad watching the gem desperately try to get out so I took it out of the flask. I uncorked it and tipped it over my hand. The moment it poured out the warm gem snuggled against my palm then turned into a bracelet before sinking down into my skin.
What the hell! I tried to poke at it, but it wouldn’t budge from inside me. I wasn’t uncomfortable in fact it was rather pleasant.
I looked to look at the spirit medic wondering what had happened.
“You can keep it like that it is a part of you so there is no harm. Besides you can’t store that in spatial items anyways.”
“I see…” I looked at it, in the shadow of my sleeve I could see a faint orange glow around my right wrist.
I should go meet up with Eugene and thank him at least. Payment talk can come after…
“I’m going to look for my friend now, thank you…” I looked at her for a name.
“Oh, sorry, I’m Pesca Aver, but I usually go by Cassie.”
“Thank you, Cassie. I’m Lucid Gracile.” I gave a light bow and head for the door.
“No problem. Oh Lucid if anyone needs my services make sure to tell them to come to me, I’ll even give you a 3% commission on the final price.”
I stopped in my tracks. 3% on a half a million dollar service… “Make it 5 and I’ll do it.” Honestly, I would do it for 1%.
Cassie sent me a smirk “that’s fine too.”
She was quick to agree making me wish I was more aggressive. One referral and I could recoup the loss I took from my pills and then some. Still, it would be hard getting someone from this side of the world to take help from a hyridean.
She nodded her head and waved as I head outside through the wooden door
I walked around looking at the hodgepodge styling of this place. Like a shanty town, but instead of being crude they were all portable fully working buildings. I could also see some simple tents like mine within my view. Like me, I’m sure not everyone had a portable estate.
“So this is what she meant.”
It seemed the entire popup town was contained inside a massive cave even light coming from the glow of molten magma dripping off the sides gave a sense of natural daylight.
Someone or some people had set up giant earthen walls guiding the magma away once it reached the ground really adding to the sense of a living hub for survivors of the dungeon. There was no smell really, other than the smell of dry dirt being kicked up from all the people around me walking.
I continued to walk while I sent a quick message to Eugene telling him I’m looking for him.
“One, two, three..” Just a walk down the ‘street’ I saw multiple passageways already. I stepped closer to a pair next to each other as it had a signboard in front.
Crudely drawn on it contained a code for MAGI’s to display information.
Updated: 1d 21h 22m ago
Materials found: Water Essence, River Drops, Gel Kelp
Hyres Confirmed: Reaper Octopus, Shock Sharks, Poison Squids, Holy Jelly]
Good thing the hyre database Laurent cadets had was free to store. Just looking at the list already only the Holy Jellyfish was something I could take on alone. The reaper octopus was on the level of the spectral lion.
Why do these portals come in two Eurval? Two entrances?
[No, one is the return passageway for that floor. It allows you to come back. It is probably why they were able to bring back this information.]
Hearing that I did slightly remember reading something like that, but there were so many passageway pairs in this floor, I had thought they were rare.
[They should be, but I believe this is also the first time a dungeon has opened the way it did.]
I shook my head. Like a flash hurricane making landfall, I would consider this dungeon appearance a national disaster just from what I’ve seen. It could easily be worse than what it is already.
My spirits dwindled thinking about it, so I changed my focus onto the living around me. It was a buzzing place. Kids running around and playing, bars and restaurants serving patrons, I could see a red light district too, further towards under the darker parts of the cave where there was less magma on the walls.
All of this in a couple of weeks…
A testament to the convenience of magic.
I followed the flow of people many in groups or pairs as they casually chatted. They seemed to be heading towards the center. I kept pace down a large leveled dirt road, in the distance I could see a huge outdoor market. There where all types of shops in view. It seemed to mix together elegant stores with glass display cases to simple peddlers with carpets thrown on the floor with various trinkets on top.
[I’m getting various signals Lucid, it seems there is a local mesh network formed would you like to view it?]
Yes! This is good!
I need information before I make my next move and it seems this place has been pretty stable.
With a quick scan, I sensed the mana in the cave.
This place isn’t reforming anytime soon at least a year for sure, but a good guess is it’s a floor that can last decades.
Once Eurval connected instantly various working links began popping up. Message boards and websites were already formed long ago. I clicked on the first one.
[Molten Core Message Boards]
[User1212: any1 know which passageway has golden boars? will pay 4 the info dm me.]
[User3219: Looking to join a party. I’m a water-based mage (no grimoire) have developed multiple crowd control magic. I can cast most under 10 seconds! (That’s fast) My mana pool is 24k Looking to hunt or gather water essences.]
[User2430: Do NOT go to the Endless brothel I caught a nasty disease cost me six thousand to get it removed! BEWARE OF THE CHEAP PRICE!]
What an active place.
I scrolled through more posts as I walked towards the plaza. I avoided the website for people looking for family and friends. I knew it would only bring me sadness knowing many of them were never going to be reunited. Especially since I personally ended many of them.
[They were already dead Lucid.]
I get that, but it doesn’t take away the fact that I ended their lives even if they had become undead. They still have their memories in that form even through the pain they’re calm. It is just the torment of seeing a living being is too much to bear for them, so they attack in hopes they kill the living or be finally freed from the pain of being undead.
I sighed and skipped over to click on the various community-sourced guides on the passageways. Of course, paid alternatives where already offered.
Updated: 7d 12h 2m ago
Notes: Two parties of 7 20k’s went in none have returned.
Updated 0d 0h 13m ago
Materials: Dark Tungsten, Feather Steel, Mithril
Hyres: Needle Wolves, Tungsten Tigers, Metal Crows,
Notes: This place is packed with amateurs.
I scrolled through many of the listings about the passageways. It seemed many of the southern ones had scarce information.
I should avoid those in the south end… it is only more suspicious that the seedier parts of the popup town where located near them.
While browsing, I made sure to filter for passageways labeled with a ‘P’ signifying they came in pairs. I don’t want to be stuck with only the option to move forward again. Especially for the next 40 or so days while I’m weakened.
Finally, I arrived at the plaza as I passed by a large white building fitted with a giant glowing blue staff with intertwining snakes at its top. I heard an argument. I walked closer to see the commotion.
“I have every right to be a part of this, I am an equal heir just as you all are!” That was a familiar voice.
“You’ve come every day now can’t you understand! Your very existence brings shame on your mother’s name. It is an insult to call yourself equal to my children. Besides I’m not your father I have no duty to care for you here, besides none of the rightful children want you to be apart of this anyways. You’re a bother.”
I walked closer and saw a middle-aged man with red hair turn his back on Eugene standing outside a hospital looking building. There, next to the logo it read ‘Rook Medical Center.’
“Typical backward thinking from a person whose family still uses such dated techniques! Face it your just jealous of what I’ve achieved on my own for mother and your children have done nothing other than fail!”
I have never seen Eugene this angry or angry at all.
The red-haired man stopped in his tracks his face in a visible rage. It was instant, but a saw a glimpse of the extreme speed he moved to deliver a powerful punch. Landing square on Eugene’s face. I heard the deep thud after it made contact.
Eugene fell to the floor and turned his gaze back to the man without saying anything as two large guards readied their weapons. It was obvious they were on the red-headed man’s side.
“That’s a lot of talk from an imitation. We can’t kill you with our own hands, but do us all a favor and die within this dungeon.” There was a chill to the man’s words even I felt the iciness and they weren’t even directed at me.
With that Eugene’s relative, what I assumed is his stepfather, fixed his suit and walked back into the building as the automatic doors closed behind him.
Two large guards wearing the building’s logo on their armor moved back to each side of the entrance, all smiles as they looked at the fallen Eugene outside.
Looks like Eugene is in the middle of a power struggle. It is not like I haven’t seen this before. I’ve even witnessed estranged family members try and kidnap Kevin in broad daylight. Greed and envy seem to fester especially when money and power are involved.
“Eugene are you alright?” I walked up to Eugene, he stood there glaring at the entryway.
They were empty words, but it’s the thought that counts right? It’s not like I can do anything to help…
Oh no. There is actually.
“Hmm, Lucid? Oh, you found me, I was about to reply.” The glare disappeared returning his usually calm and slightly odd demeanor.
“Yeah, I woke up earlier and talked to the spirit medic for a bit. She told me you were out looking around.”
“Can I see?” Eugene touched my forehead with his glowing hands before waiting for my reply.
“I knew it, the moment I saw the book from Albert Norry on her desk. She did a good job. You are feeling better correct?” He pulled his hand away.
It seemed I saw Eugene as a friend now. I didn’t mind the invasion of personal space.
“I feel normal, but I had some bits leftover though.”
“Your internal bodies healed that much? As expected from the person I chose to join my family’s company.”
I noticed the two guards looking at us.
“Do you want to take a walk through the plaza? Can you show me around ?” The two guards were glaring at us. He, and now I, are definitely not welcome.
“Okay.” Eugene shrugged his shoulders. He was unfazed by their glares, he must be used to them. Actually, he was never really good at reading the air.
As we walked Eugene pointed out various areas of the open market in a very pinpoint and precise manner. Who to get armor from, who to buy raw materials from, who to sell raw materials to, and even where to buy various essence trainer arts.
Detailed information like this isn’t available online things are constantly changing, it’s just something built from being there and recognizing the specific merchants. I could probably turn around and sell it if I wanted, but I won’t.
We reached the end after making a track down the main path of small shops and street vendors. I was still on the fence getting cold feet, but I finally made up my mind.
I owed Eugene, he has helped me a lot. Even if our initial meetings where weird and awkward isn’t that how friend are made? Facing situations and spending time together. I can’t help but see Eugene in a friendly light.
It’s a Kevin situation all over again.
Maybe, I’m too scared about creating bonds with the people telling myself that I’m only a transient in this world. I regret not trying harder to get to know Ronald, Jordan, Elizabeth, and Berts. I can’t deny it anymore, especially after what I faced on the last floor.
The people here are real, the friendships I make here are real. Just like Eurval said I’m too paranoid. If looked at it in a cold logical manner it only makes sense for it to be in my best interest to not be so distrusting. Obviously, I’m not a purely cold logical being, I’m a person too.
Especially now that I’ve regained my stronger sense of emotions.
I turned to Eugene cutting off his sentence about a good potion seller.
Reason#007 as to why you should support me on patreon:
I like my cold water on the rocks, stirred.