Honestly it was more a resort than a retreat, to my eye. Maybe it was just the sheer wealth of the clientele, but the services were a lot fancier than Khiral’s. The moneychanger provided little capsules of Source dust in exchange for one of Shayma’s gems, the mana-impregnated stone serving as both a currency and crafting resource for the locals. It seemed to me to be rather less convenient than gold, but I guess gold had fewer uses. Source stuff made magical equipment, and if I could still use equipment I would have been all about that.
But, fancy facilities. The sheer level of ambient magic and a ready supply of Source materials meant that they had all sorts of amenities, starting from when Shayma walked through the door of the Flowering Branch Inn.
“Oh wow, it feels nice in here!” She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.
“What do you mean?” Genius Loci didn’t quite get me the feel of the air. Touch and temperature had always been a little difficult, all the way from the beginning. Even now at best I could mostly only guess at how comfortable things were. Shayma had needed to tell me how hot was too hot or how cold was too cold for the farming areas.
“It’s cooler and easier to breathe,” she explained, then her mouth curled into a smile. “If you used the sense-sharing you’d be able to tell yourself,” she added archly.
“I’m not sure either of us would pay much attention to things if I did that.”
“I can take it if you can,” she challenged, looking around the interior of the inn. It was more like a hotel, all rich wood and polished stone, the kitchen and dining room separate from reception.
Annit gave her a look. She didn’t know what we were talking about but she was clearly happy to flee from any Power-touched discussion. “I’m going to go find Keri,” she said. “I’ll meet you back here in a while?”
“Works for me,” Shayma said, and I waited until Annit walked out the door before activating the Purifier Breeding Station on my mischievous fox spirit.
The skintight clothing that it manifested wasn’t even my doing. It was what I wanted, but it wasn’t something I consciously shaped, which implied to me that as things evolved they moved from some sort of system template to more me. Not that I had any objections. Not when it meant I could feel every inch of her skin, smooth and warm and soft, from the swell of her breasts to the ticklish spot just above her tail.
With it too, came her sensations, how I wrapped her softer and smoother than even the fine clothing she was wearing, stroking softly along her arms and legs without any conscious input from me. So too did I understand what she was talking about when it came to the inn’s atmosphere. They had air conditioning! A faint breeze of cool air, not too dry or too humid, blew across her face, smelling of flowers and green things. I definitely hadn’t tried to scent my air but I did have the resources...
“Mm, that’s nice,” Shayma said, walking further into the lobby, such as it was, leaving it ambiguous whether she meant the climate control or the soft caresses now running down her back. Like I’d warned her I wasn’t too much interested in the surroundings, more in how she was planning to negotiate a room while I squeezed her rear, stroking at the base of her tail and running slow rings around her breasts.
The breeding station still made it nearly impossible to hold back once I touched Shayma, but it was softer now, and teasing was almost as satisfying as anything more direct, so I kept things light as she stepped up to the counter. Just some minor nibbling on the nape of her neck, a long slow caress down her sides to her hips. Her voice was steady as she portioned out two capsules of Source powder for a room for a few days, but I knew she was enjoying it both through the link and by the wetness I licked away between her legs. Honestly I hadn’t realized Shayma had this side to her, but then, there were certain benefits to having a lover closer than your own skin.
She finished up at the desk by choosing a key type, and she selected a wooden pin inscribed with a flowering branch. When she attached it to the front of her tunic, her fingers trembled oh-so-faintly from the feel of me rubbing at the base of her tail, slowly stroking up her thighs as I watched her try to suppress any reaction. It was a fun little game, and out of curiosity I pinched her rear as she walked away from the counter. Her hips had rather more sway than usual, and the clerk couldn’t help but stare as she twitched slightly. “None of that!” She whispered at me.
“I thought you could take it if I could?” I emphasized the question with another pinch, but softer, before tightening over her buttocks, letting her feel tiny tongues and teeth all over, sliding down toward the lips of her sex and up toward the base of her tail.
“Ye-ees…” She said breathily. “But the pinching is still cheating!” She sauntered out of the lobby, past a door that looked out on a spatially-expanded pool room populated with various nude Classers, and toward a set of alcoves labeled with floor numbers. With each step I squeezed her breasts, teasing her nipples with tiny frills until they were hard and perked against me. Then I switched to the tiny teeth that were nibbling at her tailbase.
“Mph!” She commented while I chuckled in her ear, leaning against the wall for a moment before firmly stepping into the alcove marked for the third floor. Wind Affinity magic whirled, lifting her into the air, and I took the moment of flight where gravity went away to spread the lips of her pussy, running textured tongues hard against her wet flesh.
“Oh gods!” She stumbled as she got off, muffling herself even as she swore. Her body twitched with pleasure, sparks of arousal shooting through her from the teasing, making it hard for her to focus properly as they burned. “What if I’d fallen back down?” She muttered at me. “Be more careful!”
“I am being careful! That was definitely the best time to do that. Besides, it was your idea.” So saying, I slid a breeder into her tight heat. She clenched around me instinctively, so very wet, and took a long, slow breath as I sank in fully, feeling her grip me invitingly.
She clamped her mouth shut on a moan. “Good thing my room is on this floor…” It took her a moment to regain composure, setting off down the hall. Every step rubbed my breeder against her outer lips and sent prickles teasing along her nipples. The hall itself wasn’t entirely empty, and while nobody really noticed her, every time someone passed her I could feel her pussy squeeze on me hard. I savored the sensation of her hovering on the edge, whole body tingling.
I kept up the slow burn as she hunted for her room, amusingly taking the wrong turn because she was so preoccupied with my attentions. Since I was already filling her, I kept it to light strokes down her back and along her rear, with the occasional squeeze at her erect nipples. Just to keep her on her toes. Finally she did find the door, fumbling with the knob as the wooden pin flashed and the lock clicked, letting her inside.
The moment she crossed the threshold I let my breeder swell, sliding it out slightly and then slamming it home, letting the frills on it rake against her inner heat, drawing smouldering trails inside her. She groaned and came instantly, stumbling and leaning on the door before kicking it shut. “I think you win,” she moaned softly, panting.
“Then I’ll take my victory prize!” We both knew that there wasn’t any way she could have “resisted” this game for very long, but maybe she thought she could get more reaction from me by holding out so long.. Or maybe she was just having fun. Either way, now I no longer had any reason to hold back and Shayma sank to the floor as I began to fuck her in earnest.
The whole time I hadn’t touched her clit, so now I began to tease it with a slightly rough tongue as my breeder plunged into her with hard, deep thrusts, swelling to stretch her limits. Her muscles quivered as she milked helplessly at my cock, hands moving to pull at her clothes. “Gods, Blue, you’re in ah! A mood today.”
“Well, I can’t resist you when you’re playful.” I pinned her arms back, since she could very well rip the very expensive new cloth, or at least stretch it out of shape, wrapping tendrils around her palms to give her something to grip. Black dungeon-flesh covered her mouth and another breeder slid between her lips, filling her mouth with the taste of vanilla while the first impaled her hot, dripping sex.
She sucked eagerly at it, licking the tip while I raked my frills inside her pussy, the tongues on her clit making her cum again, arching on the floor as she shuddered around me. My own pleasure grew as I savored the feel of her mouth and her pussy around me at the same time, the pressure slowly building up until it erupted into jets of hot seed. She groaned around the breeder in her mouth as she sucked at my cum, her pussy clamping down on me to keep my sticky seed inside her.
But I kept going, actually driving into her harder, the frills on my breeder spreading out to tease her most sensitive spots, reigniting her arousal. She whimpered around the cock in her mouth, moaning against it as she sucked, feeling me start to stroke and nibble at her clit, ramping the stimulation up until it was just short of making her beg for mercy. Her hips bucked as she tried to push back against me, against the hot, thick length plunging into her as deep as she could take, keeping her precisely as full as she could stand.
With every thrust I wiggled, twisted, and flexed my breeder, making her moan louder around me as the tension rose higher, blooming into a slow, deep orgasm. She shook and shuddered as I rode her through it, timing my thrusts with each squeeze of her sex, her pussy clamping down on me as I filled her until I, too, came again. The hot sticky seed spurted from the lips of her sex as I filled her beyond capacity, and some dripped from her lips as she swallowed quickly, but not quick enough.
With that the breeding station vanished and she swallowed again, painting. “Hooo…” She managed, and that was all for a bit while she recovered.
“That was...pretty different,” Shayma admitted, slowly getting herself to her feet. “I hope you realize I’m going to need to launder...everything. And take a shower.”
“Well, the sign did say they offered those services at the desk. Otherwise I might have been more careful.”
“Why do I doubt that?”
“...because you know me?”
“Yup, that’s why.” She giggled, meandering over to the washroom where there was a large alcove marked for laundry and a set of robes in the closet next to it. She examined them, feeling the fabric between her fingers and remarking on its softness, but I was interested in the mana weave on it. It was some form of illusion, but fortunately I didn’t have to try and puzzle it out myself. A little plaque on the side of the closet explained that the weave, in order to maintain the privacy of the inn’s guests, anonymized the wearer so long as they had a room key.
That was a lot more intricate than anything I’d seen yet, though maybe it was to be expected of a place that served high-level Classers. Shayma selected one of the robes, a dark blue, and hung it up next to the shower before shucking her outfit and piling it into the laundry alcove. After a brief pause wind Affinity magic activated and pulled it all away, off to wherever the laundry room was, I supposed. Genius Loci didn’t extend far enough for me to see the destination.
Then she turned on the shower and I was even more impressed.
“Oh, this is amazing!” Shayma said, then made a face. “I sound like such country girl, being amazed at all this stuff.”
“But it is pretty amazing.” It wasn’t just water through a spout. Instead, when she waved her hand over the activation glyph, a combination of wind, water, and fire magic turned into a vortex of heated water in the center of the room. Little bubbles of soap were racked on the wall, easily within reach once Shayma stepped into the water.
“Feels good too,” Shayma said, swishing her hands through the vortex. With some experimentation she found she could push the vortex up or down, just a little, and she brought it up to her chin so most of her was inside the hot water. Then she stretched out her arms until the tips of her fingers broke the surface of the swirling water. “Do you think you could do this?”
“I’m trying to figure it out right now!” I was studying not only how the Affinity mana was twisted together and shaped, but where the mana came from in the first place. The fact that Shayma was surprised meant that it wasn’t common to see this sort of thing in cities, which sort of made sense given the mana expenditure. It wasn’t a lot of mana compared to my dynamo, but it was an awful lot more than I saw floating around in Sources or the like.
The answer to that wast it was gathered from the mana spring itself. [Genius Loci] let me spot small arrays embedded in floors and walls, each siphoning powerfrom the massive river of mana that poured through the river valley. These were what fueled all the bits of magic trickery that I could sense, and neatly explained why capital cities didn’t have such things. The excess mana meant monsters and danger, not suitable to the seat of government and all the non-combat Classes needed to support a city.
On the other hand, I had excess mana, and unlike the methods the inn used, I could direct my mana flows to pour into enchantments of their own volition. If I could figure out how to make them. My mana manipulation skills didn’t seem nearly up to the work that I was seeing. Either I was vastly underskilled, which was entirely likely, or I was vastly under-Skilled, and lacking something critical to comprehend and reproduce what had been done.
Clearly I had been lax.
Shayma popped one bubble in the water, setting it foaming with the soap’s colors, then a second one as she scrubbed at her fur and hair. Once the water cleared, rinsing everything away, she waved her dripping hand at the sigil marked as dry. The water dissipated as the Affinity mana was removed, leaving warm, dry air to fluff her tail and dry her skin. “Okay, you definitely have to get one of these,” she said, twirling around and shaking the last droplets from her hands. “It’s incredible.”
“It is pretty snazzy. Clearly I have a lot to learn about mana-related luxuries.” Actually Wildwood itself showed me I had only glimpsed a tiny fraction of what the world was about. Someday I’d have to see if Shayma wanted to go to a Great Dungeon, or head into the Wildwood Tree. It would be pretty neat to see an actual dungeon run and what adventurers could really do. “Maybe you can wander around the rest of the place and see if there’s more things I can copy?”
“Lazing about in a luxurious inn...truly, my master sets me difficult tasks.” Shayma grinned, brushing out her hair and fur before shrugging on the robe. The anonymizing enchantment was really weird. It didn’t actually alter any of Shayma’s features like [Illusory Presence] did, it just made it so when I looked at her, I just didn’t find her interesting enough to note. What was doubly strange was that Genius Loci could punch right through it, but I could also choose not to, and do both from different points in my range of perception.
If I was capable of getting headaches, that probably would have given me one. I wasn’t sure I could really use the technique myself, but Shayma might be able to, so I shared what it looked like from my perspective.
“Oh wow, that’s...huh!” She squinted, and I dropped the image before it got too much for her. It was weirding me out and I was used to seeing thousands of things at once. “Yeah, I bet I could do that. I’d never thought of using Illusion that way…”
“Me either. Makes me realize I’m pretty woefully ignorant for a Power. I haven’t even read any books!” At least I knew I could read. Actually, given that the Status sigil was words and letters, I imagined everyone could read a little, at least in the Status language.
“Maybe you could trade for some? You are missing a library…”
“Clearly I am a failure as a dungeon. No special showers, no libraries…”
“No monsters or traps.” She reminded me. “But you’re better that way.”
“No normal traps.” At least, not anymore. I hadn’t built any for ages. “But I’m glad you think so!”
She smiled and adjusted the pin on her robe before heading back out the door. This time we were both more in a mood to take in the opulence of the place. Or at least, she was. I had maybe five minutes to marvel at it before trouble arrived at my doorstep. Inside my doorstep? “Uhh, looks like something is going on back here. I’ll get back to you on the tour in a little bit.”
Some of the mid-level adventurers from Khiral had gotten, well, adventurous. I’d never actually blocked off the corridors that went places other than the habitat, and now there was a small group all kitted up and prowling downward and inward. More worryingly, they had a familiar-looking compass crystal that was pointed directly at my core. [Genius Loci] told me it was a [Dungeon Compass] which was probably for Great Dungeons but I guessed it worked on me too.
Now, I could guess at what they were doing just by that alone, but I didn’t really know what they thought they were up to. There were four of them, each one around level thirty. I hadn’t actually seen anyone in action other than a sort of half-baked assault by Vok Nal’s group and Annit’s casual destruction of lower-level beasts. While Vok Nal’s group had been higher level, they’d also been stupid and careless, so I didn’t really know how capable these four were.
They looked serious. There was a [Blade Bulwark] holding two enormous swords, an [Ice Assassin] with blue-glinting daggers, an [Earth Invoker] with no implement but a dull ring on every finger, and a [Heartfire Protector], who had a small, blue flame orbiting his head. All in all, very impressive, if a little silly as they crept down a perfectly harmless corridor as if they were expecting to be assaulted at any moment.
The [Ice Assassin] drifted back toward the group from the intersection he’d been scouting and shook his head. “Nothing,” he reported. “Completely deserted.”
“Where the hell are all the monsters?” The [Blade Bulwark] grumped.
The [Ice Assassin] shrugged. “Maybe there aren’t any?”
“No such thing.” The [Earth Invoker] dismissed it. “Besides, if there weren’t any, Iniri would have control of the core and wouldn’t be stuck assigning people to farm.”
“I still say we just go for some of the Source stuff I’m sensing,” the [Heartfire Protector] put in. “There’s a bunch of it below us and I’m sure it’d be easier to get to than the core.”
“Yeah but if we control the core, we get all the Source stuff. We’ve been over this before!”
Clearly I hadn’t been paying enough attention. If they’d had the conversation while they were here, I would have heard it, but since I ignored most of the goings-on with the population, it wasn’t something I could recall. What I really needed was some sort of perfect recall and search-and-index set of Skills, so I could remember without needing to remember, but I had no idea how to make those. Or if this Skill system even had concepts like searching and indexing. So far everything had seemed pretty analogue.
Anyway, this was clearly unacceptable. I could understand adventurers wanting to raid my rooms for treasures. I was a dungeon, so it was probably instinctive once they got inside. They should know better, but I could understand it. These people though, they wanted to control me. Not that I knew how they intended to make that stick, but the only person I’d ever let near my core was Shayma. There might be something people who weren’t of the dungeon could do.
I wasn’t really mad. No, that wasn’t true. It wasn’t the searing anger I’d felt when that idiot had tried to attack Shayma, but more disgust. Contempt? It was a cold emotion, not a hot one, a sense that these things didn’t belong in my reality. Which was a weird way to put it, something I had to mark down to dungeon-ness. Or maybe being a Power? Which wasn’t just a title of convenience, since the overlay recognized Ansae as one.
As if summoned by my consideration of her, Ansae chose that moment to emerge from her lair. Maybe she was summoned by that. Considering the perk I’d gained for hearing my name invoked, apparently without any other limitations, she could have the same. Or something more potent. I still didn’t know anything about her other than her stats and those told me enough of a story that I knew she definitely deserved that title.
She was in her amazon form again, the silver-white armor gleaming while her curved horns nearly touched the ceiling. I couldn’t be sure, but she looked more ornate than last time, dressed in a full cloak with a weapon at her side. Sort of a weapon, anyway. It was a small knife (for Ansae, anyway) with a signet on the hilt, of a circle with a single vertical line running through it, but the blade shone like a tiny sun to my mana sense. It was actually painful to look at, and given the huge amount of power I had running through me already, that was saying something.
It looked like she was dressed for war, or...well, something official. On the other hand, her presence didn’t make me ache just from proximity like it had before. Either she was shielding it, or between then and now I’d gotten more robust. Given that I’d leveled up, I was hoping it was the latter, but since she still had question marks for a level it didn’t seem I’d gained much ground on her.
While the adventurers crept down one passage, she strode up another, and for a moment I was tempted to rearrange things so they’d meet. It was short-lived, though. Both of them were my problem, but different problems, and putting them together wasn’t likely to make them any less troublesome. I could just imagine Ansae thinking they were somehow my representatives, and that would be less than ideal.
Ansae strolled along the corridor, past the old and still unused lair I’d made for her, and into the meeting room we’d used last time. I’d actually forgotten about it and hastily recreated the furniture she’d destroyed but, after some consideration, I left the rest of the room in the same state. There was no point in pretending that she hadn’t flipped out last time.
She glanced around, taking in the furniture and mess both, standing by the chair. “I request a meeting,” she said, then took a seat.
That was a problem.
Mostly because Shayma was still in Wildwood, still had people to teleport over, and wasn’t anywhere near ready to come back. Plus I still had those idiots wandering around trying to...well, attack me implied more than they were actually doing, but they did intend to enslave me. One problem at a time.
“Shayma, could you write me a note?”