My new trap was a cozy little cottage in the middle of the lake. It was furnished, stocked, and had hot and cold running water courtesy of temperature control. The cube was there too, along with Astair’s uniform, and I’d put a regenerative field inside to make it extra-appealing.
I could also collapse a couple tons of rock on it at a moment’s notice and send the whole thing to the now much deeper bottom of the lake.
After pumping the experience I’d gotten from the flame knight into architecture, I’d gotten the ability to sculpt ‘natural’ materials so I could have rock walls that didn’t hurt if someone punched them. Which I couldn’t use for the cottage, of course, since I couldn’t run things like plumbing or trapdoors in the natural materials, but that was just a price I’d have to pay.
A rainstorm or two washed away most of the ash but the surrounding area was still blighted and nothing strayed inside the burned area. It was just as well I had farms because if I were still relying on trap corridors I’d be out of luck.
Then Shayma Ell staggered out of the nearest stand of trees, bent under the weight of a backpack and looking like hell. Scrapes, cuts, bruises, stained bandages, dirty and half-burned fur, boots that were torn and split, and dirty wrapped cloth rather than her previous leathers. But she struggled gamely over to the disguised entrance, not that the disguise seemed to do much, which I hastily opened for her and shut afterward.
“Do you still have it?” She asked me, sounding exhausted, though she knew I couldn’t possibly answer. At least not clearly. I did illuminate the path down to the lake cottage, and watched as she took a few breaths before starting forward again.
There was nothing I could do to make the path shorter, but at least it was well-lit and smooth enough. She did however, stop, blinking, when she beheld the grassy lake deep underground, illuminated by false sunlight from the far ceiling, and the cottage in the middle with the wooden boardwalk. “Okay. I’m more tired than I thought.”
She walked across and into the cottage, moving cautiously. Which was appropriate, since it was a trap, but one I triggered. And I was hardly going to use it on her.
“I can’t believe it.” She stared around at the furnishings, poking at a dresser before dropping down to sit on the bed. “Oh, abyss take me. I’m trusting this place anyway.” She swung the backpack off and stretched out on the bed. Within seconds her breathing steadied and she was out. That was actually all kinds of adorable, despite how bad she looked. And it gave me time to try out the overlay where I could, in theory, actually get information on the people inside my walls.
So according to the overlay, she was level nine now, but was at about half her hitpoints, almost no stamina, and had half a dozen low-grade conditions like “blisters” and “fracture.” Under any other circumstances I would have said she needed a hospital, but the recovery field was already starting to affect her, hitpoints rising as I watched. Not quickly, maybe one per minute, but since she had eighty total, it wouldn’t be long before those were filled. She had five times that in stamina, and that refilled at the same rate, so it’d take a good sleep for her to recover completely.
Most concerning, though, was that her depletion was nearly maximum at twenty-eight out of thirty. Again, not something I knew how to fix.
She also had a few skills, the most interesting one was [Seeker], which seemed to also define her class. The description was simply, capable of finding that which is most lost and most needed. Given her general appearance and that “a key to my chains” could easily fall under most needed I was willing to bet the skill was incredibly powerful if given time to work and that she’d escaped from some form of captivity to get here. Plus that likely answered why the door disguise was entirely useless. The rest of her skills were geared toward stealth and movement, especially long-distance travel, but not, apparently, combat.
Just in case she had someone else on her tail, I rerouted all the passages so anyone incoming would find themselves down below the lake where, hopefully, another emergency drain would serve to take care of them. But, as the hours wore on, no pursuit came.
Eventually she did stir, somewhere around three-quarters stamina, dragging herself out of the bed. “Oof. I feel...actually pretty good.” She gingerly poked where various bruises had been, but no longer. “If I weren’t still filthy I’d think I was dreaming. You can understand me, I know. So what’s your deal?”
Shayma bent to open the backpack, digging through it and pulling out a second one of those cubes, though one with a different design than the first. “Normally these places are pretty murderous, or worse, and I figured if I tossed one of these inside it’d stay there for a while until someone else could get it. But you let me go. Now this? I’d heard tell some of the pet cores the mage-kings have did things like this, but you’re not one of those. And where the abyss are all the monsters?”
That was more information about this world in a few sentences than I’d gotten in weeks of observation. The thing that I was, was known, both in wild and domesticated form. Mage-kings. And yes, that I was supposed to have monsters. Not really my speed, though.
It was nice to have someone talk to me. The matrix my mind was held in didn’t quite function like a human brain, so I wasn’t entirely bored, or lonely, though I really should have been, but there was definitely a sort of dullness that Shayma’s presence cleared away. She kept the cube with her as she explored the cottage, finding the bathroom, kitchen, and storeroom where I had the other artifact. As well as the flame knight’s effects.
“...well, I guess you’re still kind of murderous.” Shayma blinked at the badge. “I wonder who it was.” Then she snapped her fingers. “No, I know, it has to have been Astair. That cube ritual. I didn’t think you could copy skills like that.”
Uh oh. I hope I didn’t kill one of her friends.
“Good riddance.” She took the badge over to one of the windows and threw it as hard as she could, watching it arc out over the lake and sink into the water. Not a friend then. And in fact, maybe something a lot worse.
“So I was going to see if I could pick the first one up but under the circumstances, this is a better safehouse than the one we’ve got. The thing is, so far as I know the mage-kings just feed their pet cores slaves, and we aren’t going to do that. Couldn’t.” She walked to the storage room and placed the cube on the shelf next to the first one. “But if you let me bring the others...you can have me.”
Then she gave a little laugh. “Not like you couldn’t do whatever you want. But bargains have power, don’t they? Speaking of which, I still have to pay you for holding on to this artifact too. Just let me clean up first?”
Of course I couldn’t reply. But I did watch as she started water for the tub, astonished that it was hot, and stripped before plunging in.
If I could speak to her, I could tell her that I’d be happy to invite other people around, provided they weren’t planning to wreak havoc on my internals. Or that even if she was going to trade herself to me, I had no idea what I would do with her. I mean, aside from the obvious, and the idea of keeping her permanently locked in a breeding station didn’t appeal to me. Temporarily, on the other hand…
One of the benefits of the [Blue Core] title was a [Blue Core Breeding Station], which I’d spent some spare experience on upgrading. I hadn’t actually built it, because I didn’t want a repeat of the distracting lust from the first station, but given the criterion for getting it I figured it’d be more to my tastes. And maybe would have fewer side effects. So I Reclaimed the bed and built the station in its place.
Like the first station it was composed entirely of the black stuff that was the actual dungeon “body,” but instead of a bowl chair it was a fairly narrow seat with a generous back, with all of the interior surfaces textured. And not just textured, since I could actually move the texture as much as I wanted. It had four manipulators with textured pads on the ends, and I could sprout an actual breeder from any of the surfaces. Oh, this would be fun.
The lust had returned, but it wasn’t as intense this time, though it was deeper, closer to actual hunger than a simple drive. And it wasn’t so sharp I couldn’t think past it, although it was more difficult since I could watch Shayma Ell naked and scrubbing herself with her hands, admittedly in a more workmanlike way than an erotic one.
She padded out of the bathroom, dripping. I couldn’t reproduce towels yet, and her discarded rags were too dirty to be used. “So do - “ She got those two words out before she spotted the breeding station and stopped mid-stride, staring at it. And not in horror, either, because I could see her ears flush and her nipples harden. “Oh,” she said, tail twitching. “Well.”
Then she stepped over and settled into the seat. As before, manipulators twitched to bind her in place, clamping over her ankles and binding her wrists to her side, and as before I could feel every inch of her smooth, warm skin against me. But unlike before the station gave me access to her sensations - dimly, through that same pane of glass.
As she settled into place she could feel my flesh against hers, just as warm, but not quite as soft. Smooth, but not slimy. All the textured frills massaged her back, and just as firmly caressed her sex, where her pussy was pressed against the seat. I changed the motion of the frills, spreading her lips to allow more frills to caress her sensitive skin, like hundreds of tiny tongues licking along her.
She bit her lip and I continued to add sensation. Two of the four manipulators I clamped onto her breasts, the frills licking and sucking against her nipples, the sensation running back and forth over her increasingly sensitive skin, and the other two I used on her ears. That decision turned out to be the right one as the sudden feel of her ears being caressed made her stiffen in her seat, driving her pussy harder against the stimulation there, the slow rise of pleasure turning into a sharp spike.
Then I tugged her tail with one of the restraint manipulators and that drove her over the edge, she shuddered, wetting the seat as I made her cum. Even if I hadn’t started myself yet, I was having way too much fun with her reactions, and I curved the seat up slightly so I could pay special attention to her clit.
She involuntarily tugged at her bonds as my frills found her sensitive nub, now swollen with arousal, and caressed and stroked it mercilessly, each touch sending a jolt of sensation through her. Nor did I stop playing with her breasts and ears, rubbing slowly with the manipulators while frills took care of finer sensations, keeping her body bowed tight from the feel of being caressed all over. With my eyes and the station’s sensation ghosting, it was extremely easy to find what set her off. For example, she really liked having her breasts squeezed, inasmuch as I could do it with the manipulators, and when I ran the frills in circles around her clit, twisting it slightly, she orgasmed instantly, panting hard in the chair.
Now it was my turn. The first breeding tendril I grew directly from the chair’s surface, and with it came the feeling of sinking my cock right into her tight, hot depths. Both from me and from her. “Mmmn!” She made a pleased noise as she felt me inside her, gripping eagerly around my length, a length that was just as textured as the rest of the station, teasing every inch of her inner depths as I slid into her. And the other one I grew from the chair back above her head, curving and sliding down into her open mouth.
She didn’t need any inducement to start sucking and licking, and for a moment I just paused to enjoy the sensations, of her tight sex and eager mouth around my pair of cocks, and of her feeling of being stretched by one shaft inside her and another one in her mouth, tasting, strangely, of vanilla.
I left the one in her mouth smooth, though it throbbed against her tongue, hot and aroused, while the one I had buried inside her rippled against her inner heat, sparking soft points of pleasure. And since I could adjust them, I tried expanding the cock that was spreading her pussy, just to see how it would feel to her. She almost choked on my shaft in surprise, but bucked her hips as I spread her wider until it was almost uncomfortable, stretching her sex around me.
Then I started to fuck her, the cock she was so eagerly suckling muffled her cries as my massive, textured shaft stretched and filled her, driving deep with each thrust. The bonds kept her clamped against the seat, and the frills continuing to toy with her clit even as I plunged into her eager body. She squeezed helplessly around me, sucking at one cock while the other drew hot, pleasured trails within her, and all I could think of was how incredibly good this was.
That time I came first, and with two cocks it was twice as intense, leaving me faltering for a moment in the dual feel of pumping hot, sticky seed into her from both ends, and her sensation of being filled, one shaft forcing warmth into her sex and the other one filling her mouth, making her swallow again and again, the essence tasting ever so faintly of vanilla.
Fortunately, the Blue Core version of the breeding station was as robust as the first, and after the wave of euphoria passed I could keep filling her as hard as I wanted. And as hard as she wanted, because I could feel how much she was loving being used like this, even as sore as it made her. Her eyes were closed, her tongue dancing over the tip of my cock even as she pushed back against the shaft plunging deep into her pussy, squeezing it and milking it with desperately intense spasms of her sex, the constant stimulation of her clit by my frills driving her into another orgasm, this time made even stronger by forcing her to squeeze around me.
And then another, as I came in her once again. As before, the black, sticky seed started leaking out from her sex as I filled her past capacity, and she swallowed down even more with wet moaning noises. But she seemed semi-conscious at this point, hazy through the mirrored sensations, so I pulled away the cock in her mouth so I didn’t accidentally choke her. Her head actually followed it, but then fell back as I drove into her extra hard, making her cry out and arch against her bonds.
She panted and squirmed, then, as I used her hard, feeling the last one coming, whined softly. I was buried in the sensations, the frills teasing every inch inside her, playing with her clit and her outer folds, squeezing her breasts and pinning her back against the chair as I filled her one last time, the lust and hunger subsiding as the overlay pinged for my attention. This time she wasn’t totally out, just exhausted, breathing heavily but happily.
Demon Fox: 100 Biomass
Boring Beetle (4): 50 Biomass
Purify: 3000 mana
Okay, that was all my mana, more or less. I thought the amount I had initially was pretty large, and after leveling up it was even bigger, leaving me sitting at 3200 total. Which was currently full, due to the farms. So what did it do?
Purify: Removes all forms of depletion by replacing all of target’s energy with dungeon core mana reserve.
Ooh. That was what I wanted. I still didn’t know what depletion did but I was sure it was bad, and hey, I had [Wisdom] so it had to be true. And I didn’t need the other things, even if I was down to three beetles, so I selected that option.
“What? Mmm…” Shayma murmured as she started to glow blue from the inside. Since she was still held in the embrace of the breeding station I could tell what it was like for her, and it was rather like a warm shower. It also had a one-hour countdown, so I literally couldn’t let her go, but from what I could tell the glow was coming from the seed I’d spent within her. No wonder it was a breeding option.
About halfway through she had recovered enough to look down at the glow, licking her lips. “Um. What is going on here? Dammit, I know you can’t answer me but, I don’t trust this at all.”
Unfortunately for her, I wasn’t able to stop this possibly unique opportunity on her say-so. So far as I could tell, I couldn’t actually release her while the timer was going. But I did understand that seeing yourself glow was not the most soothing thing. Nor was the fact that I could feel her slowly kindling panic.
I really felt sorry as she started tugging at the bonds, and while I would bet a higher-skill individual could have broken them, she had no chance. She struggled for maybe ten minutes and then fell limp again, closing her eyes. “...I hope…” she said, but didn’t specify what for.
And as the timer ended, the light faded, the breeding station vanished into the floor, and Shayma grunted in surprise as she was unceremoniously deposited on the wood.
Shayma Ell Purified
50,000 Experience gained.
[Purifier] Title available. Obtain?
Severely restricts breeding options.
Unlocks breeding options.
Unlocks Companion advancement path.
Companion advancement path: The dungeon may induct Purified individuals as representatives of the core.
Oh, yes, and also yes. Maybe with this I could actually communicate.
If most dungeons were held by the mage-kings or were just classically murderous and monster-filled, it was a good bet they got most of their experience from rape and murder, to judge from the idea of feeding them slaves. And it was an equally a good bet that, given how I’d nearly lost my mind by building one of the breeding station, whatever minds controlled them quickly degraded into gibberish.
But I had gone a different route. Mostly by luck and happenstance, true, but it looked like the path I was heading for did something different. Purification and companions seemed much more my speed than rapine and death. And to judge from the experience gain from one purification, I’d match my growth against anything consuming hapless low-level sacrifices.
[Wisdom] advances to level 3.
I didn’t think that chain of logic was particularly obscure, but maybe it was just a cumulative thing. I just wished I knew what depletion actually meant. The overlay still stubbornly refused to fill me in, as did [Wisdom].
Shayma stared at her hands. “How did...I didn’t…” She took a breath and ran her hands over her naked skin, as if checking all of her was still there. “I didn’t know you could get these things back.”
I had no idea what she was talking about, but if depletion did something prior to being capped out then I could guess whatever was depleted had been returned to her. She didn’t look different, but…
Level 9 [Purified] Seeker
Skills: [Seeker] (Greater) (Reclaimed), [Endurance] 4 (2 levels reclaimed), [Longstrider] 2 (1 level reclaimed), [Agility] 7 (4 levels reclaimed), [Suppress Presence] 4 (2 levels reclaimed), [Luck] (Reclaimed)
A massive improvement. I didn’t know what it felt like subjectively, since that link was gone, but it had to be pretty great. But I wasn’t done yet. I had a new tab on my overlay, for Companions.
Induct Shayma Ell as a Companion?
Shayma Ell gains [Core Touched].
Suddenly I had another set of eyes and ears. Shayma’s. But nothing else - no sense of smell or taste, so the only time I actually had access to those senses was when we were intimate. No internal emotions or thoughts, which was probably for the best, actually. And sadly, she couldn’t hear mine.
I tried all the ways I could think of, in the Overlay and in my mind and what passed for muscle and nerve, but nothing yet. And in fact, according to my Overlay, [Core Touched] only included [Sight Link] and [Sound Link], and there wasn’t anything I could think to easily create or unlock a new skill to go along with it.
Not that it gave me much since Shayma simply cried into her hands for a while. The good kind of cry, I thought, though there were probably better places for it than on a bare wooden floor. I thought about giving her a chair or a bed or something, but at the same time didn’t know that disturbing her would be a good idea.
“Okay,” she said, before I finished dithering on my choices. “It’s settled. We’re moving in. This is ridiculous.”
I was encouraged, but she didn’t elaborate on that or explain. Instead she stood on wobbly legs and traipsed back to the tub. Throughout the whole bath she didn’t speak, just had a set, thoughtful expression, and then she curled up on a brand-new bed that I’d regrown and slept until morning.