Shayma took things better than I expected. After her discussion with Iniri, and getting me to assign a name, she didn’t even twitch when I told her about the Dungeon Seed growing in her womb. Actually, it was to the point where I was worried the species change was affecting her mind. Not that anyone could do anything about that.
I restrained myself from nattering in her ear, despite the fact that I probably could have talked for hours. Instead I let Shayma discuss her new Skills with her companions and test them out. The fighter types for [Physical Superiority], the caster types for [Illusion] and the like. Nobody there knew what to do about the shapeshifting stuff, but I did know someone who could shapeshift...though I’d let that wait until later. For the moment, I just watched, chatting with her when she or Iniri had questions. It was so nice to have someone respond to me, and it did a world of good just having other people around. Talking and laughing and swearing at each other.
The process of making sure their living arrangements worked gave me a few skills as well. First, my attempts at making a septic tank or a grey-water system, hazy as they were, netted me [Composting Chamber], with the accompanying resource of [Fertilizer] and a [Growth] field that consumed it. Second, trying to give them light switches to control the illumination I had made for them, and to keep them from setting extraneous fires, got me [Mana Logic]. This was a skill with some potential to it, though I wasn’t sure what I would use it for right now other than light switches and maybe a few traps.
Of course, that wasn’t my main focus. After testing the ideas I had in the small scale, I was reworking almost all my internal space. Now that I knew what I’d been doing wrong with Dungeon Ecology, I was ready to turn myself into a mana dynamo, as well as maybe level up the category. Sure it was maxed at level ten, but I hadn’t learned a single new item for that category. Maybe now I would.
Below the living space I’d cleared out for Shayma, Iniri, and the rest, I converted my boxes into one huge circular chamber, putting another one above the refugee camp. That gave me three cylinders, each some three hundred meters wide and fifty tall, which was enough to start. If I was right, it’d be considerably more soon.
The bottom layer I filled with magma and red chrystheniums, and the top layer I filled with ice and white chrystheniums. Between the two layers I put vents, first from magma to ice, then from ice down into the living area and from there down toward the magma. I wasn’t sure they were strictly necessary, since I could just run mana through my own dungeon stone, but I liked the idea of a water cycle more.
Once the enormous spaces were ready, I reworked the lake drains, letting the water flow radially outward, eight symmetrical streams that vanished through grates in the walls to cascade onto the lava. It hissed into steam, and I dragged the mana from the red chrystheniums through it, hauling it up through a similar eightfold set of passages toward the ice. It actually took a couple tries, getting the mana to stretch that far, but eventually I got the flow to anchor itself to the white chrystheniums. Steam followed, pulled by the mana, and started condensing into icicles, the excess dripping onto the ice floor and eventually making its way out as near-freezing water.
This time I dragged the mana down through the ice, pulling it through each of the passages of flowing water and toward the lake, where I spun it into a spiral that went through all the tayantan trees and the surrounding grasses. The snap as it connected was weaker this time, and I could tell it wouldn’t stay long, incomplete as the cycle was, so I hurried onward. The last segment was to pull the mana back outward, down into the lava chamber and into the bottom of the red chrystheniums.
The movement this time was slow, with so many connections over so large an area, but as I ran through the loop several times, reinforcing it each time, adding more connections and spreading it further, the engine started. Mana began to flow, and with a lot more force than my test area or Ansae’s lair.
The red chrystheniums scintillated red and orange, roots driving deep into the magma, pulling heat into them as thin obsidian stalks grew from the center of the broad petals. Some of them opened to puff tiny red seeds into the rising air, while others formed an iron cage around a ruby-like gem that glowed at the tip of the stalks. The red seeds spread out, sprouting more chrystheniums where they touched down in magma, but others anchored themselves on the walls and ceiling, sprouting into new variations. The magma at the center began to change, the surface solidifying and the liquid underneath getting hotter, shaping itself into a cracked and red-glowing promontory over the surrounding liquid.
The white flowers glowed with an almost prismatic light, tiny and delicate petals tinkling in the breeze as their roots branched and branched again, connecting to each other to form a softly glowing lattice, followed by ice rapidly forming and melting. Some of those lattices grew to enclose white gems, cousin to the red ones far below. Silvery-white seeds floated away from the roots, creating new flowers where they rooted in the ice, and some lodged themselves in the passages, while a few followed the water down, washing into the lake.
At the bottom of the lakebed, blue flowers unfurled themselves, glowing in the darkness. The mana churned in and out of the lake itself, flowing through all the grass and trees surrounding it. The grass grew more vibrant, a few stalks of it opening tiny blue flowers and even tinier puffs of seed, while the trees stood straighter and grew thicker, over the course of just a few minutes. The trees grew flowers, which dropped away as crystalline-looking spherical fruits swelled from the branches. The grass seeds found their way to the outlet drains, turning into moss as they coated the exteriors of the pipes.
My mana intake increased by almost two orders of magnitude.
[Mana Manipulation] advances to 3.
[Mana Manipulation] advances to 4.
[Mana Manipulation] advances to 5.
[Steam Chrysthenium] discovered. Generates Steam.
[Heat Chrysthenium] discovered. Generates Heat. Absorbs Water.
[Carbonized Chrysthenium] discovered. Absorbs Heat. Generates Coal.
[Fire Gem] discovered. Source for Fire-attuned Mana.
[Crystalline Chrysthenium] discovered. Crystallizes Local Resources. Light-Sensitive.
[Latticework Chrysthenium] discovered. Generates Mana Latticework. Light-Sensitive.
[Deepwater Chrysthenium] discovered. Increases Local Pressure. Enriches Local Resources.
[Ice Gem] discovered. Source for Ice-attuned Mana.
[Tayan moss] discovered. Mild Healing Properties.
[Blue Tayan Fruit] discovered. Moderate Restorative Properties.
“Uhh, Blue?” Shayma called as, tugged by the mana, a cool breeze blew across the lake. She, along with all the other people outside, were staring at the suddenly-happy plants. “What’s going on?”
“Just doing some redecorating. Not done yet, though. This next bit should be great!”
With all the extra mana flow, it was no trouble at all to put full Expansion on all three chambers and effectively double my volume.
Size requirements for level increase met.
Dungeon Level increases by 1.
Skill base levels increase by 1.
The mana threads stretched, and I was glad that I had additional ranks in [Mana Manipulation] because it was all I could do to keep the engine I’d made from breaking under the strain. Even considering that, I hadn’t considered the resource costs properly and I ran out of stone. For the first time in practically forever, I ran out of stone, even after converting my reserves of Hardened and Stonesteel.
Massive cracks appeared in the outer periphery of each of the chambers, along with sharp, aching stabs of pain, but I had ways to deal with that. Mana-empowered boring tendrils and the so-far-ignored grey chrystheniums. There were eight five-hundred-meter waterfalls, and I seeded the stone surrounding each one with the flowers, along with, after a moment of thought, some moss. Once I linked them into the mana flow, the stone income stabilized. Cracks began to heal, and the stone flowers bloomed.
[Earth Gem] discovered. Source for Earth-attuned Mana.
[Green Chrysthenium] discovered. Improves growth of nearby flora. Improves environmental tolerance of nearby flora.
[Mossy Chrysthenium] discovered. Emits mildly regenerative pollen. Generates small amounts of water.
Shayma stood there, staring at the now-distant walls and ceiling, and I had a sudden idea. I wasn’t sure if it would work, but…
I pulled one of each of the flowers into a spare room and, working quickly, used [Mana Manipulation] to sever one piece of mana from the other, cutting off their roots and then, before the mana faded, twined the stems together. Oddly, the mana didn’t fade completely, but rather...sort of crystallized into a more solid form, settling into the plants.
“Hey, Shayma? Hold out your hand.”
She did so, looking a little confused. I took advantage the fact that she was part dungeon to pull the bouquet out of the room and push it into her hand, the flowers appearing in a little black whirl. The expression she had while staring at the colorful assortment of magic flowers made my day.
Unfortunately, Shayma wasn’t the only one watching my work. From her lair, Ansae stirred. “Well, that is interesting,” she said aloud, a wide grin on her toothy muzzle. Then she shifted down into her amazon form, heading for the doorway. [Tempered Wisdom] told me it was probably a good idea to keep her from wandering in among the refugees, but it wasn’t like a wall would stop her. I needed words.
“Shayma? I’m going to need your help…”