Plans were made.
The first thing to be established was a rotation for cultivating, as getting the most of out their abundant Qi situation was judged as a priority. Second came production- both turning the village itself into something more worthy of the name ‘sect’, and things for the villagers, proper arms and armor for the fighters, clothes and medicine for everyone, and so on. Zhi Yi took control of this stage of planning mostly alone.
Then there was the matter of Qi techniques. One of the things that sects needed they well and truly lacked, as any worthwhile techniques were often something secret and jealously guarded, kept in some pagoda and only shown to trusted disciples. The village’s ‘solution’ to this problem was simple: Experiment. Everyone was encouraged to think and discuss ways to use their Qi, both for improving cultivation and trying to develop techniques. Of course, they didn’t expect this to yield much results, but there was no harm in trying, and it would be worth it if someone came up with a good idea.
And finally- organization. This part wasn’t really needed all that much, as practically everyone on the village knew each other, having a hierarchy would be good for appearances when making deals, for the sake of keeping face, for already having organization before- well, if, the sect grew larger, and, besides, who didn’t like having a fancy title, anyways?
So, over the next few months, the whole village went through a reconstruction.
To start off, the Chief made a true speech to everyone for the first time. Stepping up in front of everyone in the village’s central square, he declared, in that booming voice of his:
“Now, before we start, I know some of you might not be comfortable with the idea of staying in the village turned into a sect. If so, you are welcome to accompany Zhi Yi during the next trip to town, and stay in town.”
“Today, we take our official first step, and grow beyond a simple village. From this point on, this place is no longer any mere settlement, but a budding sect, for we will tread the path that goes against the heavens- We will cultivate! To fully reap our spoils, at any given moment, there should never not be someone cultivating inside the Qi Realm. And as such, there shall be a rotation, in which every single able man, woman and child of this place shall take part in. Every eight hours, a different group of no less than sixteen people, of which four must be armed and fighting fit, shall enter the Qi Realm, and a different one shall leave. If you want more information, talk to Sister Yang to my right, our newly appointed sage. Ah, that brings me to the next thing. As a sect, we naturally shall have an order of things. However! It shall not be a sect of tyranny, ruled by the strength of a clenched fist! All disciples will be valued by all their contributions, not merely their cultivation power or strength! After all we all know all too well, a farmer is as necessary for a settlement as a fighter. That being said, these are our current positions of importance: Firstly, you may now refer to me, the rightfully chosen Chief Chou, as Sect Leader Chou! Secondly, our foremost cultivator, Li Gong, is given the title of Eldest Martial Brother! This means he is the effective head of the fighting force, and authority on cultivation! Thirdly, Sister Yang is given the title of Eldest Sage Sister! She is in charge of all techniques, records, and information in general! Zhi Yi is our Treasurer! Not much changes, really! Finally, Elder Ming will be Alchemist, since he’s the one with the best shot at actually managing to make medicine here!”
Harvest time came, and with it, more than enough ling grains to feed everyone, and, to everyone’s pleasant surprise, some of the few spices, herbs and tea leaves also being grown around the village also has thrived into spiritual plants. A good bunch were then immediately thrown into the to-sell crate, as nobody in the village knew enough herbalism to deal with them, but Elder Ming and his two sons took some to try and use.
With the amount of gold gotten from selling both the grain surplus and the loot recovered from the dungeon, it was enough to buy the fighters proper gear, and the raw materials for building. Bit by bit, small, old buildings were remade into something greater, projects that some villagers dreamed of but never had the money for were finally complete, and places any sect would need were built, a training hall, a pavilion of scrolls, an alchemy house, and the village went though a transformation.
As the time passed, besides working, the people trained and cultivated. Eating ling grains every day, cultivating in the realm of plentiful Qi on rotation, occasionally taking the Mings’ experimental pills, and some of the braver ones even delving into the deeper parts of the dungeon, everyone progressed by leaps and bounds. By the start of the third month, almost the disciples of the new sect was at no less than the heights of the Qi Gathering stage, many were at the beginning of Foundation Building, and some were nearing Core Forming- Chief Cho, Li Gong and Zhi Yi especially stood out. Sister Yang had the sharp mind to possibly have done something interesting, too, had she not been occupied keeping track of not just administration, but also the various experimental techniques that everyone kept turning up.
Of course, the dungeon didn’t stay idle those months either.
Well, this actually turned out great.
I was annoyed at how they’re pretty much stationed here 24/7 at first, since it makes it harder to change anything too near the main hall, but when I realized how much life energy this ends up netting, even with just the normal people sitting it’s... yum. And when you count the brave and strong enough to actually brave the dungeon, then it’s just...
Anyways, the size of the dungeon has more than tripled these past couple months- and that’s after having used a pretty hefty chunk of it making a couple of dungeon bosses.
Before starting to make more floors or proper monsters, I decided to put in something new on the first floor- More minions. Sure, they’re really kinda weak, and don’t respawn on their own, but they cost nothing besides a little bit of my massive energy pool to make, and are easy to create, and a floor with only one type of monster is too easy anyways, so I made a couple minion presets to make a new batch of every once a while. One is a jagged humanoid figure made of stained glass, that I made deliberately with the minion’s frailty in mind, as it’s made for people to accidentally cut themselves on while knocking down. And also the gothic aesthetic, and to balance out the dwarves’ toughness with something else. The other is... a flying sword. I don’t expect it to accomplish all that much, but it’s there to add variety, really. Maybe get some cuts in by surprise factor.
I finished the first floor, just kept going with the gothic castle aesthetic, keeping on adding corridors and rooms along the main path, putting some more trapped treasure chests, some dwarves, and ending it with a similar big hall like in the entrance, but this one designed not after a dining hall, but instead a throne room- very obviously the boss room.
In there, I took the single most imposing-looking dwarf in my employ, sat him on the throne, and channeled life energy him with the image of ‘Dwarven King’ embedded in it. The results were actually more than I expected.
First, he grew, but retained the stocky proportions, turning into a bulky, practically cubic seven-foot-tall behemoth. Second, the equipment changed. The dirty strips of armor that cover some parts of the other dwarves were replaced with full plates made of carved and polished basalt, giving him an imposing, dark knightly look, and the massive hammer with an ornate golden crest inset with rubies on the non-bludgeoning side of the head is pretty kingly, too. Third, his material changed, the clay replaced with soft (relatively speaking) stone, turning him into something much more durable, but also much more rigid.
The biggest change, though, is the head. He grew a ridge of large, crystalline protrusions circling the head at the height of the brow, like a gleaming, natural crown, and the smouldering coal eyes turned into outright pools of molten lava- seeing that start to flow down his cheeks when the battle gets really bad should be a really cool effect. And finally, the beard, I deliberately made of actual golden threads, and to be the only thing left behind when he falls apart to respawn later, as a reward for the fight.
All in all, a big and tough, intimidating foe, but really bulky and slow, and probably not actually all that dangerous if you know to fucking dodge and whale on the head. A decent first boss, I’d say.
-Oh, wait yeah, and he can actually grow and learn to think and such, since I used life energy. That might be interesting, if he learns and becomes less of a warm-up boss.
By the time of the boss room, I’d already almost gotten to the other end of the hill I’m in, so I just made a downwards staircase to the next floor.
Now, then I had thought... what to put in the next floor beneath a castle level? Dungeon? No, a dungeon-themed dungeon is too generic. Sewer? Nobody likes a sewer level. But wait! It’s a dwarven castle, so... a Forge!
I always loved levels that were in factories or something like that- I don’t know, something about having battles on top of suspended metal walkways over rivers of molten metal with massive gears grinding in the background is just really, really cool. So that’s what I designed the second floor off of. Instead of straightforward rooms and corridors like the last one, this one had large, open areas filled with multiple levels of metal floors suspended, platforms moving on chains, molten metal passing by, all that stuff. I didn’t even need to put any traps here, the place itself is the trap.
As for enemies... metal constructs was obvious, yeah, but it needed people working the forge. More dwarves wouldn’t do, so what other monster type does metalworking... goblinoids? Sure, will do.
First I pulled out some metal element spirits, strong, but also conducive to joining up with almost anything else, and put them into some parts of the machinery to make construct enemies- some humanoid, some much less, just a central core on treads with articulated, shabby or slashy arms, or a gout of flames or some other machine part. Then, intense, explosive fire spirits were put into tall, lanky clay bodies to create brownish-red skinned, slightly fanged, very angry hobgoblins. I gave them blacksmith’s leathers- sure, they might be fire-element and probably won’t get hurt by the heat, but they might as well look the part- and various heavy wrenches, screwdriver-tipped spears, and other tool-based weaponry.
At some point during the building of the second floor, I took a mental review of the dungeon, and stumbled onto Lana crying, alone, in an empty side room in the first floor.
As gently as possible, I touched her mind. ‘Hey. What’s wrong?’
She kept staring at the wall, sobbing, tears in her eyes.
“W-what’s wrong... what’s wrong...” She spoke softly, at first, but then quickly started to grow more and more incensed. “My life choice is wrong! It’s all fucking wrong! I- I chose to become a dungeon fairy because I wanted to get fucking somewhere in life, not be just some stupid fairy, be the right hand of a great fortress! I got laughed at, I thought they were stupid.... But that is it, isn’t it!? I’m just a glorified fucking babysitter to teach a stupid mana rock the basics so it can go and keep going! I tried, I fucking tried, but now I’m trapped gods-know-where and the dungeon has already almost forgotten me!”
...Shit, I had weeks down there without even thinking.
She was already almost screeching by the end of the rant, sobbing in between some sentences. I made use of the mental communication, and forwent words. I just transmitted to her the feeling of knowing helplessness too, but above that, the feeling of companionship. Of how much I valued her help before, and still probably am going to need it. And more amorphous caring feelings, the emotional equivalent of soft, wordless encouragement. While doing this, a thought struck me, something she had mentioned once. ‘Fairies are a kind of higher-class elemental spirit, aren’t they?’
In between wiping sobs, she glanced with a puzzled expression. “Uh, y-yeah? I’m a fire sprite...”
‘If you’re a spirit... why don’t make you a body you become a dungeon boss? You’ll get released from it when my core breaks either way, and that way, you can help with more than just advice...’
She seemed to consider it for a good few seconds, then a fierce grin spread through her face, some of her fire lighting again.
“You know what? Sure, let’s do it.”